Live: Reggae Star Serani Rocks S.O.B.'s, Eventually, But Here's Some Asher Roth In The Meantime
Last night's Jamrock Magazine party was more a celebration of island culture than a show. Hosted by publisher David "Squeeze" Annaki with help from BET's Jeanille Bonterre, the event featured performances by Serani, Jah Bami, and B-Wils; Ticketweb said DJ Gravy would be on the turntables, but we got resident S.O.B.'s DJs instead. We survived, despite a bout of Asher Roth, typical headliner lateness, and some late-breaking homophobia.
Kevin Crown's DJ set opened the night with Fatta Diamond on the mic, attempting to hype a crowd mostly content to lurk by the walls and sip on colorful cocktails. "This is a party for everyone," he announced. "We play music for everyone-- you'll find all kinds of music here." Crown took the hint and played crossover reggae/dancehall favorites like Rupee's "Tempted to Touch," Jamesy P's "Nookie," and Alison Hinds' "Roll It Gal," followed by some insane soca and Kelly Clarkson (what?), the MC frequently cutting off the music to egg the crowd on. Typical of live dancehall, but vaguely irritating nonetheless.
Around 10:30, the overly endearing Bonterre introduced B-Wils, a Trinidadian artist recently signed to Jive Records. His newness to the stage was visible as he attempted to engage the crowd, finally resorting to the sure-thing "If you're from Trinidad, make some noise! We repping Trinidad tonight!" Then a familiar beat kicked in -- Asher Roth's "I Love College" -- and the rapper proceeded to perform his own version, "College Is Overrated," to little enthusiasm. Overheard: "Yo, why this guy doing this white-boy ish?"
Up next was Jah Bami, a Caribbean TV personality (think Carson Daly in his TRL years) turned reggae artist. He won the crowd over with odes to love and life on the island, which apparently frequently involves sexy ladies dancing on him. The dance floor was a tight squeeze, the women wining against their men, the men yelling at the stage, an unbelievable gang of cameramen crammed up front.
Anticipation for Serani was high, but like every rap or reggae show, the headliner wasn't "ready to take the stage just yet." Luckily, Bonterre's quick save turned into one of the night's highlights: She brought a Jamaican lady from Queens, an NYC native from Harlem, and a Trinidadian to the stage for an impromptu dance-off. The Trini won, receiving 1,000 Jamaican dollars in return for her bhangra-infused wining. When asked what she would do with the prize, she jokingly responded, "I'll use it wipe my bottom."
Finally, and without introduction, the familiar intro to Serani's "No Games" blared over the speakers as the Kingston native climbed onstage. The unified voice of the audience almost drowned out the singer, his fans singing along word for word. The Deseca artist (best known for co-producing Sean Paul's "We Be Burnin'" and Tony Matterhorn's "Dutty Wine") plowed through a small set of new tracks, including a version of "She Loves Me" featuring a cameo from the girl in the video. His performance ended with some sort of motivational speech about "making dollar" that seemed to last longer than the music did.
The show closed with a hip-hop and dancehall set by DJ Paul Michael while several dancers challenged each other on the floor, and an over-amped MC shamelessly self- promoted and yelled over the music. Forgivable, as most of the audience was use to this, until he followed that up with a short, unprovoked homophobic rant that served as an immediate turn-off for the liberal ears in the building. An unfortunate end to what was otherwise a decent show. I guess that when they said this show was "for everyone," they meant "everyone but the gays."