Amada Records is a premier record label underneath the EAE Management Group umbrella and is distributed independently. Recently, the indie label has reported to us that they’ve charted numerous times, not just once. Their first album Tropical House Cruises To Jamaica, charted on Billboard’s Reggae Chart at #1, the Compilation Album Charts at #14, and #7 on Billboard’s Year End Chart gaining the most sales in the world, the year of 2018.
Whether despite or because of Ed Sheeran’s contributions, the project became surprisingly successful, especially considering it was the first release on a new indie label, Amada Records. The buzz led to its founder, an Atlanta marketer, and entrepreneur named AG The A&R, releasing a thematic companion piece, Hip Hop Cruises to Jamaica.
“We had a lot of negative feedback from hardcore reggae fans in regard to having Ed Sheeran on a reggae album,” label head Contractor tells me when we discuss some of these questions. “Most of the charts are dominated by American reggae bands; some Jamaicans worry about us losing reggae.”
But was seeing Sheeran in a Caribbean context really that big of a detour? The Jamaican national motto is “Out of Many, One People,” and though dominated by the African-derived drum—or its digital version—since Rasta’s 1970s rise, island music has always had a global strain. Since the late 15th century genocide of their indigenous people, the island’s inhabitants basically came there to work, whether forced or voluntarily. End result: Though essentially the product of African descendants, the house of reggae was also built by islanders of European, Lebanese, or Chinese extraction, and by the Indians who may well have worn the isle’s first locks—the traditional presentation of their ascetic holy men. The tribes that expat Jamaicans went on to create are even more outernational, all linked by the old Jamaican phrase that the Wailers once sang: “who feels it, knows it.” That group even cut a 1965 single, “Rude Boy,” with a soaring hook that named and reclaimed the 18th century European quadrille line dance, which was evidently still held in some affection despite dating from hellish plantation days.
But the problem arises when creators don’t reap the benefits financially, as has all too often been the case. Sixty-nine-year-old Jamaican DJ Big Youth, who appears with singer Dennis Brown on Step Forward Youth, forcefully exclaims, “Historically, Jamaican artists have been defrauded and disrespected from every angle and in every way. Since I began in the 1970s, people have claimed they own the rights to my music, when they never wrote a line, and I never signed anything with them.” In that knowledge, reclamation is foundational for the Cruises albums—a spirit that also motivated contributor Damian Marley, the founder of the real-life cruises that inspired Amada’s theme.
Spreading the wealth of music seems to be the direction of culture now, as downloading and now streaming have helped formerly niche genres boom and overthrow rock’s old commercial monolith. “The way they merge sounds today, genres are not going to exist 10 years from now,” says Hip Hop Cruises contributor Mojo Morgan. “No one wants to be boxed into one genre. Creatives today want their voices to be heard, freedom of expression, and I believe we are creating a new more eclectic type of music and music consumer.”
Are we solely our inherited DNA, or are we more than the sum of our plasma? Can we use culture as a tool to build a more constructive future? The combined energy and significance of these compilation releases suggests that we can.
To purchase the new Hip Hop Cruises To Jamaica album which includes bonus tracks from Chris Brown, Kali Ranks, Lauryn Hill, Quavo, C-Murder, Inno Combs & More, visit Amada Records’ official website here. You can stream the full album when it becomes available soon. Tropical House Cruises To Jamaica can only be streamed on Billboard’s website here.