Football finally came home. The world cup was being staged on African soil for the first time in history. It was so surreal. It didn’t matter what nation was hosting it, the time zones were so close you’d think the sporting event was being held at your next door neighbor’s place. If you stood still and listened keenly from wherever you were in the continent, I swear, you could hear the vuvuzelas all the way from Bloemfontein!
We were ushered into the largest sporting event with musical trophies from Shakira, K’naan, R. Kelly and Akon. The independent artistic quartet did a bang up job of succinctly encapsulating the spirit of African football. I doubt there’ll ever be better world cup anthems unless, of course, it comes back home again.
The 2010 World Cup is by far the most emotional football competition to date. Never mind the recent shoot-outs at the UEFA Super Cup or the Euro final, or the Europa Final. The 2010 quarter-final between Ghana and Uruguay. Final minute of extra time, last kick of the ball…
In Kenya, a non-participating nation, we wept silently. Across the 238,535 km² of Ghana, people wailed and mourned. They threw themselves to the ground and rolled around. They wore sack clothes, shaved their heads and replaced the hair with dirt.
I back up my assertion with the decade-on sentiments of legendary Ghanian winger, Rev. Osei Kofi: “I do not know if Asamoah had scored, what would have happened in Ghana here. If you go back, people would have been walking naked, that day, so whatever happens let God be glorified.”
I recently watched the highlights for the first time since that fateful night but could only manage to do so once. On the second attempt, I was unable to get past Gyan’s extra time’s penalty miss. The wound is still fresh.
Trust me, you don’t need to love football to grasp the gravity of that moment. There is simply no greater tear-jerking film of the past decade you’re ever ghana watch than that beautiful game.
Two thousand and ten.
What a time to be alive.
Dancehall music went mainstream. A shy Windel Beneto Edwards, better known by his stage name, Gyptian, was responsible for taking the genre to new heights.
Just shy of 27 years old, the reggae artist first heard the Hold You instrumental two years before, in the studio of producer, Ricky Blaze (AKA 21-year-old New Yorker Ricardo Johnson). Blaze, who had the Hold Yuh (as it was titled in the US) rhythm but couldn’t quite figure out what to do with it, played it for Gyptian who’d popped in to see him while he was in town to popularize his recent projects.
According to NYC’s Village Voice, the song instantly grabbed the Rastafarian’s attention: “Go back to that, what a ping-ping ting!” he’s rumored to have said of the song’s distinctive plinky-plonky piano melody.
Gyptian got in the booth and laid a melismatic vocal on the stunningly simple rhythm – a six-chord piano loop accented by a bass line that drops in and out – that sounds utterly unfinished. At the time, not much was thought of the barely there production. The singer, who’d earned his nickname from his habit of tying a shirt around his head and twisting his chin hair like an Egyptian pharaoh, didn’t even ask for a copy when he left the studio and nobody told his label it existed.
Blaze, feeling it had that special something but wasn’t sure exactly what, asked a club-promo friend to email it out to his dancehall DJs contact list as a favor. By somewhere around the top of 2009, it begun hitting selectors’ inboxes. Starting out in the reggae clubs of the Caribbean and NYC, it quickly caught on with disc jocks and clubbers.
Within no time, it became a word-of-month phenomenon that graduated on to the daytime playlist of New York’s Hot 97 in February 2010, after becoming one of the station’s most requested tracks. “Hold You” became a sleeper hit during – the time of year that’s friendliest to Caribbean crossover – spring, before seeing an official release that summer. It would later go on to be deemed a “2010 summer anthem”.
Gyptian grew up singing in church with his Adventist mom by day, and at dancehall sessions organized by his Rastafarian father by night. He gained his entry into the Jamaican music business after meeting up with talent scout and promoter Ravin Wong and Earl “Chinna” Smith, the legendary reggae guitarist known for his work with Lee “Scratch” Perry and Bob Marley.
Under their guidance, Gyptian honed his sound, winning the 2004 Star Search talent competition at Kens Wild Flower Lounge in Portmore. This earned him a spot at Sting 2004, the longest, running stage show in Jamaica, dubbed the ‘greatest one night reggae show on earth’.
A deal with reputable reggae label, VP, would soon follow. Records followed, and two full length albums later, nothing had hit quite as big as “Hold You.”
In many ways, the most unlikely slow-burn hit of the summer marked Gyptian’s musical evolution coming full-circle. Gyptian’s early experiences with singing both in the church by day, and the clubs at night influenced his preference, and mastery of simple instrumentals, soft constant pitches and seductive lyrics to arouse listeners and thus to create an environment filled with passion, and perfect for intimate bonding.
“Hold Yuh” wasn’t even mixed when it was first released. But that’s also its genius. A pared-down, slightly off-key rhythm not only stands out on hyper-slick mainstream radio, but it also allowed Gyptian’s distinctive vocals – lying between a baritone and a tenor – to stand front and center.
Speaking in early 2010 after the song’s official release, Christy Barber, Vice President for Marketing and Promotions at VP Records, described Hold You as a simple reggae song with a crossover vibe to it. And seeing that its radio story had just begun, they were getting the video done to capitalize on the potential of the song.
The video was shot at Comfitanya Lounge (Kingston, Jamaica), and the whole production was overseen by Christy, who’d been working throughout with Gyptian since she’d come back to VP Records. Two years.
Rick El Good was chosen as the director. Christy had worked with Rick together before – in 1997 on a movie called Dancehall Queen – but this was their first time doing a music video together as a team. Gyptian had also met and worked together with Rick the previous week on his music video for Mama Bawl.
For the video concept, Rick drew inspiration from Robert Palmer’s music videos – where the only cast was the British pop/rock artist and a lot of beautiful girls behind him. Rick’s version, Gyptian’s music video, would be a styled raw Jamaican take on that one.
Dexter “3D” Pottinger, a well-renowned MUA, designer & stylist took care of the all the video casts’ face beats and outfits.
On 31st August, 2017, Mr. Pottinger, an openly gay man and activist, was found murdered in his home, with the remains beginning to decompose, in the Washington Gardens neighborhood of St Andrew, Kingston. It was widely reported the neighbors heard screams coming from the house of “the most known gay personality in Jamaica” the day prior to the discovery of the body, but did not report the disturbance to police.
A year earlier, the fashion icon had become the face of Pride Week in celebrations organized by the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).
At the time he said: “I hope that my participation will show members of J-FLAG that it is okay to come out in an atmosphere where there is no violence, realize that it’s your time to be part of the change – not just for the week but permanently as a part of the community.
It was hard for me as a youngster, but now my mother understands me more and my dad is cool. My siblings are also cool with me and my brother works with me.”
The lead girl, Debbie, had only featured in one other music video prior to the chart topping success. She was also tied to appear as the cover girl on the Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2010 compilation album where the song would also feature.
Asked at his video shoot about how the models were looking? Yeah, man. These girls looking fantastic… (checks them out again). Looking shaggadellic!
Behind the scenes intrigues notwithstanding, Hold You (audio and video) will forever remain a classical masterpiece. As crossover reggae jams go, it was essential to 2010 as Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock was to 2005 or Wayne Wonder’s No Letting Go was to 2003.
The singer’s album of the same title, also released by VP Records in 2010, failed to match the single’s success but that’s neither here nor there. The single on its own fulfilled Gyptian’s album promise to fans: “More versatility, growth and the progress Gyptian has made lyrically.”
The song peaked at number 77 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 16 on the UK Singles Chart and number 69 on the Canadian Hot 100. It was certified Gold in the United States by the RIAA after achieving sales of 500,000 and certified Platinum in the United Kingdom by the BPI after achieving sales of 600,000. Hold Yuh’s crossover appeal also got the attention of the Soul Train and Music Of Black Origin awards which named him their Best Reggae Act for 2010.
In 2017, the song was included on Billboard’s 12 Best Dancehall & Reggaeton Choruses of the 21st Century at number six. Two years later, its world domination status would equally be acknowledged by its inclusion in Pitchfork list of The 200 Best Songs of the 2010s.
Released at the tail end of the past decade, Pitchfork’s Best of the 2010s list was put together, after nearly six months of multiple rounds of voting, around the cultural significance of a piece of music, the complexity of craftsmanship, and the feeling it evokes. Hold You is ranked at No. 49 – the highest ranking for a song of its genre.
“It’s the most hoped on instrumental!”, a classmate in my fourth school proudly stood up to inform us as the song came on the school bus radio. We were all eyes and ears as he spoke en route to Nairobi from Nyahururu for the June 2010 mid-term break. He must have felt like a star.
I don’t know where he got this information from, since we were in a boarding school with no computers and where phones were prohibited, but he certainly was not wrong. The “Hold You” riddim (beat and melody) has been usurped by multiple artists. The most notable being the Billboard charted remix by American rap queen Nicki Minaj. (Honorable mentions include: Hold Me by Shani; Just You and I by Ricky Blaze; VI Hold Yuh Riddim Medley).
My classmate was not the only who was in awe of the sultry island pop smash. Personally, I listened to it on repeat throughout the midterm break. My HSS, my first love, seemed to love it more than I did as she made it her ring back tone for a while. Good times!
In Kenya, dancehall had always been part of the country’s music culture. But since 2009, a resurgence saw the island’s nation music industry become largely singles oriented, and their artists record them with near-manic frequency. We experienced a dancehall invasion which had our local music industry at a chokehold.
While Gyptian’s artistry was heavily appreciated here, its popularity was eclipsed by a riff raff duo and their half hazard song. Released in late 2009, Bend Over by RDX hit the Kenyan airwaves around the same time Gyptian’s song popped up in 2010.
Within no time, it became the most requested and most played chune locally. The meaningless, repetitive lyrics that comes across like sped up, perverted, nursery rhymes became the anthem of an unruly generation.
It was official: We were Jamaicans who spoke Swahili and Sheng was our Patois.
People would frequently text or call in to live TV music shows begging for it to be played regardless of the video’s nature and media ethics. Deejays knew it was a must play in club shows and a must feature in their mixes. A funkie or bash without it being played was a waste of congregation. Heck, you could even hold a complete party with this lone song!
Hold You articulates a desire for closeness while laid over the kind of sparse but infectious beat that practically demands bodies shifting together. Bend Over is a noisy chant commanding male dancers to ram their crotch area into the female dancer’s buttocks and other forms of frantic movement. The tinker-box piano intro signaled it was time for ladies to be held sensually; the triangle alerted ladies it was time to hold on for dear life.
Basically, RDX are the pioneers of daggering in the country; public simulation of various sexual acts and positions. Dry, rough, sex on the dancefloor. Wicked times!
A year later, with the song still as popular as ever, Fishbone Entertainment flew in the rowdy dyed haired brothers, alongside other dancehall acts, for two shows in the country. One at Mombasa’s Big Tree, the other at Nairobi’s KICC.
The KICC Swaggerific Concert was, for lack of a better word, historic. What was witnessed that night had never been witnessed in our country’s live events industry before. What’s more, it was uploaded on YouTube lest we forget.
“Remember when RDX came to Kenya and it was SO RACHET it made national news? girls jumped to the stage twerking pantyless and shit. RDX were even banned in Kenya after that lmao…“. @YouLoveLeona tweeted, almost a decade later, on September 5, 2019.
No matter how you look at it, by the end of 2010, one thing was for certain: Nobody can stop REGGAE!