A song so unremarkable that its owner didn’t even finish it. How on earth has Jamaican dancehall artist Gyptian scored the slowburn hit of the summer, asks Imran Ahmed, writing for The Guardian.
Chances are you’ve already heard Gyptian’s disarming and infectious dancehall anthem Hold You blasting out of every other car at every other traffic jam; or, even more likely, courtesy of every other kid playing music from the tinny speakers of their mobile phone on public transport.
Opening with a melancholy piano line so simplistic it could be hopped out on one of those massive toyshop floor pianos that Tom Hanks noodles around on in Big, a shuffling snare drum that sounds like a drunk child learning to use a Rock Band drum kit, and sundry “vroom vroom” noises, it looks set to be inescapable at Notting Hill Carnival this weekend. As crossover reggae jams go, it’s already as essential to 2010 as Damian Marley’s Welcome To Jamrock was to 2005 or Wayne Wonder’s No Letting Go was to 2003. Not bad for a song that was very nearly left to languish in the outtakes bin.
Hold You’s unlikely rise to world domination begins two years ago, in the studio of producer Ricky Blaze (AKA 21-year-old New Yorker Ricardo Johnson). In town to promote the more typical Mr Lover-Lover shtick that made up the majority of his first two albums, Gyptian popped in to see 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. According to NYC’s Village Voice, the song instantly grabbed Gyptian’s attention: “Go back to that, what a ping-ping ting!” he’s rumoured to have said of the song’s distinctive plinky-plonky piano melody. Gyptian then laid down a vocal that was deemed so unremarkable and weird he didn’t even bother finishing it; no one told his label it existed, and Gyptian didn’t even ask for a copy when he left the studio.
Blaze felt it had something but wasn’t sure exactly what, so he asked a club-promo friend to email it out to his dancehall DJs contact list as a favour. The track’s momentum has been unstoppable ever since. Starting out in the reggae clubs of the Caribbean and NYC, it became a word-of-month phenomenon that graduated on to the daytime playlist of New York’s Hot 97 in February this year, after becoming one of the station’s most requested tracks.
By spring, even the hipsters had cottoned on. Fader magazine posted the track online, urban music maven Diplo retooled it for the dancefloor and used it on his Major Lazer & La Roux Present Lazerproof mixtape. Before long, even rap’s next big breakout star Nicki Minaj had jumped on a remix (“Ayo Gyptian tell dem fi gwan eviction,” she raps in her best patois).
Even Hold You’s is it?/isn’t it? filthy chorus – “the tightest hold I’ve had in my life” (clue: might be singing about someone’s “hole” not their “hold”) – has done little to dent the song’s ascent from Jamaica’s reggae dancehall underground. Hold You is already firmly holding on to the A-list on BBC Radio 1Xtra; now it’s only a few jamrocked west London soundsystems away from bringing dancehall mumbling firmly into the mainstream.
Hold You By Gyptian is out now, the Notting Hill Carnival takes place on Sunday and Monday.
For the original report go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/aug/28/gyptian-hold-you