Playlist: December 30, 2023 – best of 2023 review

106.7 PBS-FM > Melbourne, Australia
Saturday 30th December 2022

Over 20 years ago I first started doing an annual “best of” special, where I would count down my favourite 7” singles of the last year. In those days the countdown rankings were based on a combination of my personal taste and the response that songs got at More Fire and other reggae dances in Melbourne, as well as record sales at Higher Level Records. In recent years I have moved away from a countdown format, as record sales are no longer relevant (most of this music is not released on vinyl at all) and I no longer DJ out as much as I used to, making my yearly review far more subjective. As such, here are my favourite songs of 2023, listed as played on Babylon Burning on 30 December 2023.


I don’t feel like there was any one real standout artist this year, though Samory I would have to be a top contender. His album “Strength” was one of the year’s best, with excellent production from Overstand Entertainment’s Winta James. Kabaka Pyramid makes a few appearances based on combinations with other artists, including Australian singjay Jah Tung (whose album Digital Degeneration was one of the best releases to ever come out of this country). The Protoje songs included here are originally from my favourite album of 2020, “In Search Of Lost Time”, but roots reggae remixes from Zion I Kings gave them a new lease on life this year. Zion I Kings were also behind the brilliant posthumous Akae Beka EP “Glory”, which felt like a real gift. Marcus Gad’s album “Ready For Battle” also deserves mention, though I only included one song from it on my “best of” program.

Marcus Gad & Tribe – Blessed Be The Love (Baco Records & Sudar Publishing)
Dezarie – Breathe In Strength (Dezarie & Mr Prez)
Derajah & The 18th Parallel – Babylon A Quake (Fruits Records)
Stephen Marley & Damian Jr Gong Marley – Cast The First Stone (Ghetto Youths International, Tuff Gong Intl)
Iba Mahr – General (Notis)
Collie Buddz – Take It Easy (Harper Digital)
Sean Paul & Beres Hammond – Rebel Time (Dutty Rock)
Prince Levy – Roots and Banner (King I-Vier & Loud City Music)
Eesah, Garnet Alkhem, T’Jean – Jah No Dead (King I-Vier & Loud City Music)
Micah Shemaiah – Run Things (Evidence Music)
Alborosie – Rastazeneka (VP Records & Greensleeves)
Alborosie & Kabaka Pyramid – Nah Sell Out (VP Records & Greensleeves)
Samory I & Lila Ike – Outside (Overstand Entertainment & Easy Star)
Samory I – Crown (Overstand Entertainment & Easy Star)
Samory I & Mortimer – History of Violence (Overstand Entertainment & Easy Star)
Samory I, Capleton, Kabaka Pyramid – Wrath (Overstand Entertainment & Easy Star)
Jah Tung & Kabaka Pyramid – Behave Your Mouth (Jah Tung & Evidence Music)
Akae Beka & Kabaka Pyramid – Glory (Zion I Kings)
Akae Beka & Reemah – Still Small Voice (Zion I Kings)
Protoje & Popcaan – In Life (Zion I Kings, In.Digg.Nation, Six Course Music)
Protoje & Koffee – Switch Up (Zion I Kings, In.Digg.Nation, Six Course Music)
Lila Ike – Good and Great (In.Digg.Nation)


Agent Sasco & Qyor – Victory (Penthouse)
Akea Beka & Micah Shemaiah – Aqueduct (Zion I Kings)
Akea Beka & Michael Rose – Son (Zion I Kings)
Alborosie – Viral (VP Records & Greensleeves)
Aleighcia Scott – Pretty Little Brown Thing (Rorystonelove)
Annette Brissette & Marcia Griffiths – Gungo Walk (Penthouse)
Anthony B – Inna De Revolution (Blacker Dread)
Anthony B & Irie Souljah – Helping Hand (Ineffable Records)
Anthony B, Zamunda, Bramma, Lina Mulin – Revolution (Ineffable Records)
Belly – Still Trodding (Miss Mac Records)
Benjaminz – Grades and Reggae (Astro Melody Records)
Beres Hammond & Buju Banton – We Need Your Love (Penthouse)
Blaiz Fayah – Mad Ting Medley (Manudigital)
Calibration Alert – Torpedo (Dubophonic)
Calibration Alert – White Yam (Dubophonic)
Chezidek – Dem No Worry (Irie Ites)
Christopher Ellis – Stick Together (Ghetto Youths International)
Claye – Clarity (Rocket Life Records)
Claye – Disappointment (Rocket Life Records)
Claye – Fear (Rocket Life Records)
Claye – I Got Your Back (Rocket Life Records)
Collie Buddz – High Grade (International Herb) (Harper Digital)
Collie Buddz – Mr Wicked (Harper Digital)
D’Yani – Live A Little (XTM.Nation & DubShot Records)
Damian Marley – My Sweet Lord (Ghetto Youths International)
Demarco – Once Bitten (Warrior Musick)
Derajah & The 18th Parallel – I Man Beam (Fruits Records)
Derajah & The 18th Parallel – Old John Crow (Fruits Records)
Derajah & The 18th Parallel – Row Fisherman (Fruits Records)
Dub Terminator, Shottaz, Jah Tung – Dream Team (Lurking)
Eesah & Randy Valentine – Tired Of The System (Derrick Sound & Evidence Music)
Frightnrs – I’d Rather Go Blind (Daptone Records)
Hempress Sativa – Freedom (Conquering Lion Records)
Hempress Sativa – Strickly Roots (Conquering Lion Records)
Hempress Sativa – Time Has Come (Conquering Lion Records)
I-Taweh – The Capital (Tap Nat Muzik)
Imeru Tafari – Black Heart Man (Koastal Kings)
Jah Lil – Can A Man Cry (Out Deh Records)
Jah Tung – Ital Generation (Jah Tung & Evidence Music)
Jah Tung – Mr Officer (Evidence Music)
Jah Tung & Kabaka Pyramid – Behave Your Mouth (Jah Tung & Evidence Music)
Jah Tung & Micah Shemaiah – Guidance (Jah Tung & Evidence Music)
Jah Tung, Yeza, Sasquatch Sound – Fire Blazing (Sasquatch Sound)
Joe York – Life and Debt (Waggle Dance Records)
Joe York – Mr Officer (Waggle Dance Records)
Joe York – Riding For A Fall (Waggle Dance Records)
Joe York – What Kind Of World (Waggle Dance Records)
Joe Yorke & The 18th Parallel – End Of The Day (Fruits Record & Evidence Music)
JonFX – Rudeboy (FX Music Group)
Kenny Smyth – Feel It (JahSolidRock Music)
Kenny Smyth – Pagan Land (JahSolidRock Music)
Khalia – Every Man (Skyscraper Stereo)
Khalia & Tanya Stephens – No Answer (K-Licious)
Linval Thompson – Gimme Marijuana (Rick Records)
Linval Thompson & Killah Keys – Dem A War (Killah Keys)
Lutan Fyah – Bla Bla Bla (Derrick Sound & Evidence Music)
Lutan Fyah – Rasta Reggae Music (B-Rich)
Marcus Gad & Tribe – Forward (Baco Records & Sudar Publishing)
Marcus Gad & Tribe – Jericho (Baco Records & Sudar Publishing)
Marcus Gad & Tribe – Sometimes (Baco Records & Sudar Publishing)
Marcus I & aDUBta – I-Carnation (Hornin’ Sounds)
Marcus I & The Breadwinners – Break The Wall (Breadwinners Records)
Marlon Asher, Tarrus Riley, Capleton – Diamonds and Gold (VAS Productions)
Marvin Priest – We Pray (Nusantara Records)
Micah Shemaiah – Stereo (Evidence Music)
Micah Shemaiah & Goldbarz – Real Way (Evidence Music)
Morgan Heritage, Alpha Blondy, Capleton – Remember (CTBC Music Group)
Mystic Marley – Energy (Ghetto Youths International, Gas Life District, Small Axe)
Naâman – Riot (Big Scoop Records)
Nga Han – Days Gone Past (Temple In Man: Majestic Vision, Roots Unity, Tetra Ark Records)
Nga Han – Jah Hold It Down (Grubby Mitts)
Nga Han – Until War (Temple In Man: Majestic Vision, Roots Unity, Tetra Ark Records)
Nga Han – When Jah Speak (Temple In Man: Majestic Vision, Roots Unity, Tetra Ark Records)
Nhatty Man & Killah Keys – Sweet Memories (Killah Keys)
Norris Man – Folly Deeds (E.Turn.A.T)
Norris Man & Lutan Fyah – Red in Babylon (E.Turn.A.T)
Perfect Giddimani – Never Give In (I Grade Records & Zion I Kings)
Phalkon – Miss Nelly Grand Son (Chad Riddim Bad & DubShot Records)
Protoje – Wait On The Law (Zion I Kings, In.Digg.Nation, Six Course Music)
Protoje – A Vibes (In Search Of Zion: Zion I Kings, In.Digg.Nation, Six Course Music)
Protoje – Jah Deliver Me (In Search Of Zion: Zion I Kings, In.Digg.Nation, Six Course Music)
Protoje – Wait On The Law (In Search Of Zion: Zion I Kings, In.Digg.Nation, Six Course Music)
Protoje – Weed and Tings (In Search Of Zion: Zion I Kings, In.Digg.Nation, Six Course Music)
Protoje & Lila Iké – Still Bloom (Zion I Kings, In.Digg.Nation, Six Course Music)
Queen Ifrica – Proud Of Me (Nuh Rush)
Queen Omega – Fittest (Lions Flow Productions)
Ras Roni – Rastafari Is (Astro Melody Records)
Royal Blu, Roe Summerz, The Autos – Artillery (Easy Star)
Runkus – In Addis Ababa (Global Beat Studios)
Samory I – Jah Love (Strength: Overstand Entertainment & Easy Star)
Samory I – Stormy Nights (Strength: Overstand Entertainment & Easy Star)
Sister Carol – Ganja Bonanza (Rick Records)
Sizzla – Dem No Shake Wi (Chad Riddim Bad & DubShot Records)
Tarrus Riley – Sissy Badness (Chad Riddim Bad & DubShot Records)
Vanzo – Officer (Baco Records/Street Machine Production)
XL Mad – High Grade (DJ Vadim)
Yeza – Star Of The East (RoryStoneLove & Black Dub Music)
Zamunda – Chill Pill (Notis)
Zamunda, Capleton, Jah Cure, Kumar – Time Is Now (Sweet Waters Spawn)


Again, this is a very subjective take on dancehall. My personal taste tends to skew towards the downbeat and slower side of dancehall, and as I have been playing fewer dancehall gigs in recent years, there aren’t many jump-up party tunes and dancer anthems listed here. Teejay’s “Drift” makes it in though, and when it comes to dancer anthems, it doesn’t get much bigger than that.

The biggest song for the year overall though had to be “Talibans” by Jamaican-born but St.Kitts-raised artist Byron Messia. He was a real artist of note for me last year (particularly with his songs “Far” and “12 AM Freestyle”) so I was happy to see him buss this year, even if a non-Jamaican artist having such big success in dancehall seemed to create a little controversy. If Talibans wasn’t already the biggest song of the year, a killer refix with Burna Boy helped it find even more new ears.

Proper dancehall juggling riddims have become less common in recent years, as so many artists now release true singles only, but we did get some huge riddims this year. The biggest was clearly “Big Bunx” from Zimi Entertainment, which boasted a number of huge hits (my personal favourite being Valiant’s “Mad Out”), while Romeich Records gave us the killer “Inna Dem Head” riddim.

In terms of individual artists, Valiant and Kraff both continued to deliver after breaking through in 2022, and were joined by new names in the trap dancehall sound like RajahWild, JQuan, Pablo YG, Malie Donn, and Najeeriii. As for the more established artists though, Masicka was everywhere, and he currently rules the charts as the year draws to a close. Chronic Law continued to be Jamaica’s most prolific artist, and Skeng’s popularity endured (though he didn’t hold my attention too much personally this year). Popcaan can always be relied on for some huge hits, and this year didn’t disappoint in that regard. The most notable absences from my list this year are Aidonia and Govana (they both had some popular songs, but none really connected with me) and Vybz Kartel (whose best is now behind him it seems).

Busy Signal – New Year (Gorilla Music Source)
Nadg – We A Run E Grung (remix) (Seanizzle & Genesis Productions)
Alkaline – Boss (Autobamb Records & SartOut Records)
Alkaline – C300 (Autobamb Records)
Masicka – Tyrant (Def Jam)
Masicka – LimeLight (Def Jam)
Teejay – Drift (Panda, DJ Mac, Top Braff)
Valiant – Rasta (Countree Hype Ent, Millaweek Ent, Big Money Popping Ent)
Stalk Ashley – Dutty Casamigos (Inna Dem Head riddim: Romeich)
Chronic Law – Choke (Inna Dem Head riddim: Romeich)
Ding Dong – Bup Bup Bup (Inna Dem Head riddim: Romeich)
Mavado – Stack It N Pack It (Inna Dem Head riddim: Romeich)
Valiant – Motorcade (Inna Dem Head riddim: Romeich)
Kraff Gad – Audi (Inna Dem Head riddim: Romeich)
Kraff Gad – Rum Behavior (Big Bunx riddim: Zimi Ent)
Roze Don – Bakshat (Big Bunx riddim: Zimi Ent)
Skeng – Shalalala (Big Bunx riddim: Zimi Ent)
RajahWild – Wild Out (Big Bunx riddim: Zimi Ent)
Valiant – Mad Out (Big Bunx riddim: Zimi Ent)
Byron Messia – Talibans (Ztekk Records)
Burna Boy & Byron Messia – Talibans II (Spaceship Records, Ztekk Records, Bad Habit)
Jada Kingdom & Gold Up – IDG1F (Gold Up)
Popcaan & Drake – We Caa Done (OVO Sound)
Popcaan & Chronic Law – St Thomas Native (OVO Sound)


Alkaline – If Dem Eva
Alkaline – Mek Tingz Happen
Byron Messia – 90z
Byron Messia – California
Byron Messia – Vent
Chronic Law – Daaawkness
Chronic Law – HK Bama
Chronic Law – Natural Talent
Deno Crazy – Summer Hot
IWaata – Chicken N Fries
IWaata – Tun Di Ada Way
King Imxge – Bam Bam Bidam Bam
Kraff Gad – Amiri
Mavado, Jay-A, Dexta Daps – Pain
Munga & Bounty Killer – 50 Caliber
Popcaan – Set It
Roze Don – Bududum
Roze Don & Konshens – Unchit Remix
Spice – Chat (Waka)
Spice – God A Bless Me
T’Jean – Last Days
T’Jean – Lion’s Den
T’Jean, Chronic Law, Sizzla – Worthy Cause
Tatik & Valiant – Leggo Mi Ears
Trapp Gad – Fraud
Valiant – Nah Go In
Vybz Kartel – Car Man

Songs that didn’t fit the traditional definition of reggae or dancehall, but deserve mention.

Alkaline – All Bout
Big 12welve – Darkest Days
Byron Messia – Dear Dancehall
Chronic Law – Revenge
Claye – Ego
Demarco – So Much Hate
Elevate Today – Reach Home Safe
Intence – Lesson
Intence – Round 10
Valiant – Muhammad
Valiant – Expensive
Valiant – Soliloquy
Valiant – Dweet
Yaksta – Cut and Clear

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