British pop superstar Ed Sheeran, his cousin Jethro Sheeran (a.k.a. rapper/producer Alonestar), Wyclef Jean, Sean Kingston and several marquee names in Jamaican music including Sean Paul, Chronixx and Damian and Stephen Marley are all featured on the new compilation Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica. The 15-track album, digitally released by Contractor Music Group (based in Ocho Rios, Jamaica) and distributed by Atlanta-based Amada Records under the EAE Management Group, drops on Dec. 22 and debuts here.
The tag ‘tropical house’ has been used in recent years to identify pop hits influenced by Jamaican reggae/dancehall and Trinidadian soca, including several Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers: Omi’s “Cheerleader,” Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Billboard’s 2017 Artist of the Year Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” also the Hot 100 Song of the Year. Executive Producer Sean “Contractor” Edwards, managing director of Contractor Music Group, named the compilation Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica based on his observations of recent developments within the reggae industry. “The biggest things that have impacted reggae music in the last five years are the emergence of the tropical house genre and Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, which became so successful that competitors created The Love and Harmony Cruise. So we wanted to incorporate a cruising feel in our title along with the label tropical house because we are targeting younger fans who know the island-influenced hits of these various pop artists.”
Ed Sheeran, featured on two tracks with Alonestar, “Raise ‘Em Up” and “Real Life,” has a longstanding familiarity with reggae and Caribbean music, as he explained in a brief statement sent to Billboard through his cousin Jethro. “I’ve always been influenced by Caribbean music. The first set I ever did was a medley of reggae and hip-hop, Jethro wrote the raps and a reggae band from Bristol (England) called Laid Blak had a song called ‘My Eyes Are Red,’ which I incorporated in the medley.” Regarding the “Real Life” collaboration with his cousin Ed, Alonestar — who co-wrote and produced the track — says, “Recording ‘Real Life’ was a very creative process; I was impressed with how quick Ed wrote the chorus in the studio as soon as I put the beat up and laid my verse down. It was a very memorable, incredible day and I am very proud of the song, it came from our hearts.”
The compilation’s other tracks include Sean Paul’s signature rapid fire rhymes on the dancehall fueled “Regular Thing,” produced by Gary Green; VH1 Love and Hip Hop star Safaree (Samuels) featuring Sean Kingston on their co-production “Paradise”; Swiss reggae artist Cookie The Herbalist and the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry on the easy-skanking reggae tune “Eaze” produced by A. Ruettger and P. Barro; Rollie Fresh and Chronixx longing for a “Good Life,” produced by Paul Gordon; and veteran Rastafarian chanter Sizzla and Tony D on the empowering “Rise Up,” produced by Swiss Ivory and Gino XXL Entertainment.
Mojo Morgan — keyboard player, percussionist and vocalist/rapper with the Grammy winning (and 2018 Grammy nominated) sibling reggae band Morgan Heritage — takes lead on the hip-hop influenced “Million $ Check.” Mojo wrote and produced the track, which features Damian and Stephen Marley and Wyclef Jean, about a friend who was going through personal struggles. “I wanted artists that could deliver a message of hope,” Mojo explained, “and many people have found that in the Marleys’ music; Wyclef was the icing on the cake, coming from the slums of Brooklyn via Haiti, he knows struggle, so the concept was putting people together who could relate to that, even if they are living better now. We love how the track turned out, we are excited about this project that connects people from all over the world.”
Following a blockbuster year for Ed Sheeran steered by his dancehall-tinged “Shape of You,” his inclusion on Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica should bring far-reaching attention to the diverse talents onboard and the birthplace of one of the most frequently used enhancers in contemporary pop. “Having Ed Sheeran on a primarily Jamaican artist compilation brings a focus to the place where reggae and dancehall was created,” notes Contractor, “and reminds the world that we are still here and can put together compilations in Jamaica just like any U.S. label can.”