Detroit's dancehall and reggae scene can be hard to find if you don't know where to look. With zero media attention and few venues - save Trenchtown and Tropical Hut, which play reggae consistently - a person could assume that Detroit lacks a dancehall community. To some, the absence of dependable reggae might not mean much, but to the growing West Indian community throughout metro Detroit, a shortage of ragga is almost criminal.
So it's no surprise that Jamaican promoters and sound systems have recently been trying to pump vitality into Detroit's dancehall (a genre of reggae that, among other things, incorporates a DJ) scene.
Such sound-system operators as Xtreme, King Harmony and Infinity Sound are beginning to play venues throughout Detroit, and promoters are hustling to bring international reggae artists to the city more regularly. These types understand that reggae presence in Detroit is well behind sister cities like Toronto and Chicago.
The respected DJ Buffalo, who heads Xtreme Promotions, says the dancehall scene in Detroit is "coming up and everybody is getting involved. With Beenie Man and Sean Paul crossin' over, once you say reggae, everybody used to say Shabba [Ranks], but t'ings gettin' better now. The ragga sound in Detroit is much tougher these days, and people are coming out to support it."
This week, old-school roots musician Half-Pint arrives in town from Kingston, Jamaica, with ."Flex") and reggae singer Nitty Kutchie from the Scare Dem Crew. They're armed with brand-new music and a fierce desire to kick up the dancehall.
Mad Cobra, probably the most recognizable name of the bunch, has a new single out, "Hot Gal," that's tearing up Jamaican charts. Cobra, you'll note, was also the first reggae artist to hit No. 1 (with "Flex") on the U.S. Billboard rap charts, though he's still a one-hit wonder to American audiences.
Cobra - who's responsible for the classic, if not cheesy, line, "girl flex, time to have sex" - enjoyed brief stateside stardom shortly after that 1992 smash, and has been cranking out hits throughout Kingston with Jamaican super-producer King Jammy. He brings a strong selection of old-school hits for early '90s dancehall fans as well.