When Craig, Oneil andKevin, collectively known as dancehall group Voicemail, became popular in 2003/2004 for a series of ‘dancing’ songs like ‘Weddy Time’, ‘Ready To Party’ and ‘Wacky Dip’, they had no idea that a dance stigma would be so difficult to shake.
Now, after having to deal with that stigma for more than five years, they have established themselves as more than just artistes who can do ‘dancing songs’.
Oneil says, “The first song we got a buzz with was She Want It Harder,which was a combination with us and Delly Ranx on the Grinding rhythm, and we had a song by ourselves on the rhythm.
“The whole dancing thing was the furthest thing from our mind and a Danny Champagne brought the idea (of Weddy Time) to us, but we didn’t take it serious, a laugh wi did a laugh, not even Bogle did tek it serious,” he said.
At the time, Oneil said they had been writing rude boy tune and girl tune with a mix of soul.
But Oneil said that, “it work and wi couldn’t be a one-hit wonder, suh wi did haffi do a follow-up. When the group recorded, Ready To Party, the song wasn’t supposed to be a dancing song, but a party song.
“Because it never even have the part wey sey ‘part di crowd’ inna it, but a one day after we done voice long time, Ding Dong come up deh and Danny wanted to give the song a different hype, suh him mek Ding Dong sey a line an him a sey, but yuh a nuh deejay, an a Craig end up a sey dah part deh. And if yuh notice, all a di dance dem wey mention a Ding Dong dance dem,” Onile said.
Kevin, another group member, says the stigma came about simply because that’s how Jamaicans are.
“Hear how Jamaica set up. Yuh notice Mavado break as a gangsta singer and it hard fi him break out a that, or like a Tarrus Riley guh sing a bad man tune ’bout gun, because the people just see you in a certain light and Jamaicans like to put a stigma on things,” Kevin said.
“Sometimes the songs are not even things you would want to do, but just because of the fans and the type of songs that the selectors feel like the fans will want to hear, they are not willing to give the other songs we do a chance. So if you are not wise enough to move away from that stigma, you will get caught and will have to subject yourself to it,” Kevin continued.
However, Kevin says, “you have real fans out there who will accept your songs once it’s a good song, so it’s up to you to be consistent in what you are doing in terms of quality. And you can’t just stick to one thing, being an artiste is to be creative, if you’re in a happy mood you’re going to sing something happy. If you’re in a sad mood, you’re going to sing something sad.”
Most recently, the group has been showing off their musical versatility with songs like Best Days Of My Life and according to Craig, it was not always about doing dance songs. Voicemail originally started out singing R&B.
“Now we are doing other songs that complement our other talents. We have been doing party songs, one-drop reggae songs, R&B one drop and girl tune, so the versatility of the group is there,” Craig said.
“We are strong in the dance side already, but we just need to be recognised in other areas. The talent of the group is there, is not like Jamaica don’t know that,” he continued.
According to Craig, the group has recorded songs that are not dance songs that have been doing well.
“We’ve done a song called Modeling A Gwaan which was produced by Stephen McGregor. We have a next song called I Need You, produced by Don Corleon and the video for that is now in heavy rotation and we also have reggae songs like Best Days of my Life produced by Arif Cooper,” Craig said.