A deejay is a person who "raps" or chants over a rhythm. The style originated on Sound Systems where the deejays used to chat between tracks or insert catch phrases over the track. The whole style got its influence from the American R&B radio discjockeys who used to have highly entertaining chatting in between the songs they played. This also where the name deejay comes from. Deejaying was created before reggae as the music of the times was Ska. Amongst the first DJ's to have records released include Sir Lord Comic, Count Machuki, Jeff Barnes and King Stitt. At this point the deejays where still primarily a dancehall phenomenon, on which they mainly promoted their sounds and coming dances. It was the Coxsone-affiliated deejay King Stitt who was first to be recorded on more regular basis.


U-Roy, though he wasn't the first, is often referred to as the »originator«, mainly due to how influential his deejaying style has been on the next generation of deejays. In 1969 he released a series of both chart topping and groundbreaking singles for Duke Reid toasting over old Treasure Isle Rocksteady rhythms - the most known perhaps being the stellar »Wake the Town« (...and tell the people!). As a result he propelled the art of deejaying to the centre of the Reggae industry.


Top of the bill in 1970 - U Roy and Scotty


Those days only one deejay was of comparable success and it was Dennis Alcapone. Big Youth also released his debut record in 1972 (produced by Gussie Clarke) and was to regarded as the most important and innovative deejay since U-Roy first had started.


With the advent of the Dancehall style in the late 70's the position of the deejay became even more central to Reggae music. One of the most prominent deejays of the late 70's was General Echo who had a very unique and influential style he was also partially responsible for the renaissance of slackness in reggae.


During the 80's more styles followed and the whole deejay phenomenon expanded and evolved tremendously. A deejay such as Yellowman was at this time so big that his popularity only could be matched by Bob Marley in his prime. In 1982 on of the more popular topics among deejays in the dance hall were the Connection Lyrics. One of the more important changes happened in 1982 when Peter King originated the fast chat style, which was the first main contribution the UK deejays made to the Jamaican music climate. The fast chat style broke big in Jamaica with Papa Levi's song »Mi God, Mi King« that was the first non-Jamaican reggae song to top the Jamaican charts (when released on Sly & Robbie's Taxi-imprint in 1984).


The birth of Ragga had the deejaying going from strength to strength even becoming more dominant than it was already with the dance hall style.


Deejay duos

The first deejays to record together - either collaboratory or clashing - started to come to the fore in the early 70's. They were often two deejays that joined forces on a release or sometimes even multiple releases. Notable artists were Dennis Alcapone & Lizzy, Carey Johnson & Lloyd Young (perhaps most known for their deejay version of the Maytals »Pomps & Pride«), Big Youth & U-Roy and Lone Ranger & Welton Irie. It was however a first that two deejays always performed as a duo when Michigan & Smiley arrived in the late 70's. Their first release being »Rub A Dub Style« in '78. They immediately were a major success and set the deejay duo style to a major trend. Soon enough a slew deejay duos appeared such as Peter Ranking & General Lucky Papa Finnigan and Junior Ranking, Roy Rankin and Raymond Naptali, Joe Tex & U-Black, Nigger Kojak & Mama Lisa. At Studio One there was also the joined effort of Rappa Robert & Jim Brown. Greensleeves found major success with the pairing of Clint Eastwood and General Saint. They debuted with the single »Tribute to General Echo« that was produced by Junjo and topped the UK Reggae Charts, the follop-up; »Another One Bites the Dust« made national pop listings.


Even though the trend of two deejays chatting together was coming to a halt in the late 80's there was still excellent releases by artists such as Tippa Lee & Rappa Robert and also Superman & Spiderman. The new trend in the dancehall was to be a deejay paired with a singer reaching international success with such artists such as Chaka Demus and Pliers.