Once upon a time, the early 1970’s to be precise, a Jamaican immigrant moved to The Bronx and single handedly invented hip-hop. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but if you’re a fan of hip-hop, you know who I’m talking about. In 1969, Clive Campbell, his parents and 6 younger siblings emigrated to New York City. He grew up around sound systems, dancehall, graffiti and an atmosphere where both his native and new cultures would both blend beautifully and shape him into a musical pioneer. On August 11, 1973, the now famous DJ Kool Herc set up to DJ and emcee a party where he would introduce the world to his new style of scratching called “the breaks” which created and inspired a movement that would change music and influence a culture for years to come.
Over the past several decades, almost one million immigrants left Jamaica with sights on the US, UK and Canada and about thirty-one per cent reside in New York City, so it isn't a surprise that a large percentage of the most prominent hip-hop artists are children of the diaspora. Legends like the Slick Rick, Heavy D, Busta Rhymes and The Notorious B.I.G are notable Jamaican-Americans. For some their lineages are widely known, but there are still so many others flying under the radar! One of my favorite hobbies is finding out some of my favorite artists share the same cultural background as me.
Check out this collection of hip hops artists with Jamaican heritage and be sure to follow us and listen to our Apple Music and Spotify playlists to get familiar with di chunes.
Slick Rick was born and raised in London to an English-Jamaican family. In 1976, he and his family emigrated to the U.S. where they’d eventually call The Bronx home. He attended Laguardia High School of Music And Art where he would later meet Dana Dane and form The Kangol Crew. They performed at school shows and numerous clubs where he eventually met Doug E. Fresh who was so impressed by his talent that he would make Rick a member of his Get Fresh Crew. The relationship between Doug and Rick led to the classic “La Di Da Di”.
Busta Rhymes was born Trevor Smith in Brooklyn, New York to Jamaican parents in the early 1970’s. The family later moved to Long Island where he met friends who he would eventually join to form the group The Leaders of the New School. The group was offered an opportunity to open a show for Public Enemy where they met Chuck D who gave him his respective stage name. The crew was featured on A Tribe Called Quest’s posse cut “Scenario” where Busta’s talent shined bright. His undeniable starpower led to the fall of Leaders of the New School but the rise of Busta Rhymes’ solo career. In just the early 90’s alone, Busta worked with top names from Big Daddy Kane, The Notorious B.I.G, Mary J Blige, TLC and more. Busta has five platinum albums to date and also has an active acting career.
Swizz Beatz was born Kasseem Dean in The Bronx, New York to a Jamaican and Puerto Rican family. He relocated to Atlanta as a teenager, where he started to DJ parties. He was born into a family of music lovers which led him to producing tracks for the Ruff Ryder’s at the age of 16. Before sampling music rose to prominence, Swizz opted for the use of live instruments whenever possible while keeping in mind that this would take the artists live performances to the next level. He produced countless hip-hop tracks, toggling between rap and R&B, from DMX to Beyonce. Swizz took the game by storm when he released his first studio album, 2007's, One Man Band Man, which followed the success of Busta Rhymes’ “New York Shit”. “New York Shit” was one of 2006’s most influential songs and inspired a whopping 23 hometown hero remixes ranging from L.A., Houston and even Tokyo.
Tyga was born Micheal Ray Stevenson in Compton, California into a mixed Vietnamese and Jamaican family. He grew up listening to Fabulous, Eminem, Cam’ron and Lil Wayne who later signed him to Young Money Entertainment in 2011. Tyga’s first claim to fame was his song “Coconut Juice” which features his cousin Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes. Years later, after signing with Young Money, Tyga changed his sound and started to release club tracks like “Faded” & “Rack City”, which are his biggest commercial releases. Since then Tyga has worked closely with Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross and has also stayed in celebrity drama following his public relationships with Blac Chyna and Kylie Jenner.
Bobby Shmurda was born Ackquille Jean Pollard in Miami to a Trinidadian mother and a Jamaican father. Shortly after his birth, his father was incarcerated and his mom moved the family up to East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Bobby began rapping at the age of ten but gained notoriety in 2014 with the release of the song, “Hot Nigga”. The video went viral months after its initial release through Vine covers where users would add music over the video as he did his Shmoney Dance. The Shmoney Dance became a nationwide trend during that Summer with acknowledgment from people like Beyonce, Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Drake, Chris Brown and Rihanna. Numerous remixes were released, one including Dancehall heavyweights like Mavado, Popcaan and Junior Reid.
Vado was born Teeyon Winfree in March 1985 and raised in Harlem to a family of Jamaican, St. Vincent, and African-American descent. He first started writing at 16 and was influenced by Ma$e, Cam’ron and Big L. In 2008, he released tracks with childhood friend, Jae Millz and in March 2009, a mutual friend linked Vado with one of his idols and Dipset member, Cam’ron, who invited him to record music with him. After their first session Cam made Vado the new keystone artist of his crew U.N.. Vado officially released his long-awaited debut mixtape Slime Flu in 2010 and in 2011 he and Cam released Gunz N Butta which held NYC classics like “Speaking in Tongues” and “Hey Muma”.
SYD (THE INTERNET)
Syd is a singer, songwriter, record producer, disc jockey, and audio engineer from Los Angeles. She is mostly known for being the only woman in Odd Future and is now the lead singer of the band, The Internet. Growing up in a musical family influenced Bennett's interest in music. Her mother once aspired to be a DJ and her uncle is a reggae producer from Jamaica. Though Syd has been active since 2009, her notoriety has grown with the birth of The Internet whose 2015 album, Ego Death, was nominated for the Grammy award for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
Flatbush Zombies is a hip hop group from Flatbush, Brooklyn. The group was formed in 2010 and is composed of rappers Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick Arc Elliot, who doubles as the in-house producer. The trio has been friends since grade school and are Jamaican by way of Flatbush. Flatbush Zombies are part of the east coast collective, Beast Coast, which also consists of Brooklyn Natives, The Underachievers and Pro Era, and are closely affiliated with A$AP Mob. Their popularity grew upon the release of their song “Thug Waffle” and their debut mixtape, D.R.U.G.S. was released soon after. On February 23, 2018, Flatbush Zombie released the first single off of their long awaited second studio album, Vacation in Hell, which is set to be released on April 6, under Glorious Dead Recordings.
PartyNextDoor is the first artist to be signed to Drake’s label, OVO Sound in 2013. He was born Jahron Anthony Brathwaite in 1993 to a Jamaican mother and Trinidadian father in Mississauga, Ontario. He began making electronic-infused R&B under the moniker, Jahron B. His first push was made by two R&B bloggers between 2007 and 2010 where he quickly gained popularity in his hometown. He eventually got his current stage name from an FL Studio audio filter while browsing the settings. At 18, PartyNextDoor signed a publishing deal as a songwriter & was later connected to OVO Sound co-founders Oliver El-Khatib and Drake where he would become one of the labels most sought after talent & selling out his first nationwide tour on his own.
Gunplay was born to a Puerto Rican father and Jamaican mother in the Bronx, New York. When he was 10, his parents got divorced and he and his mom relocated to Carol City, Florida. In ninth grade, he dropped out of high school and started using and selling cocaine. In 1997, he met Rick Ross. Their mutual passion for music led them to forming the group Triple C’s and in 2009 they released their debut album Customs, Cars & Cycles, which debuted at #44 of the Billboard charts. Gunplay made his solo debut when he appeared on Rick Ross' track "Gunplay" & started releasing mixtapes under MMG while appearing on tracks and making appearances on compilation albums. He released his first mixtape, 601 & Snort, in September 2012 which was named the 10th best album of that year by Spin magazine. in 2012 Gunplay would make his most important guest appearance alongside Kendrick Lamar on the track, “Cartoons & Cereal”. The song was named the #2 most important song of 2012 by Complex which is fitting seeing how five years later fans still rave about it.
- Slick Rick - Mona Lisa
- Busta Rhymes - Break ya Neck
- Swizz Beatz - Money In The Bank*
- Tyga - Rack City*
- Bobby Shmurda - Bobby Bitch
- Vado - Speaking in Tongues
- The Internet - Special Affair
- Flatbush Zombies - Headstone
- PARTYNEXTDOOR - Only You
- Gunplay - Bible On The Dash