If you live in New York City and listen to any urban radio stations, there are two songs that are always on -- in fact, they are often played together, because they share the same beat, or riddim. The two songs are "No Games" and "So Special" by dancehall artists Serani and [artist id="2476408"]Mavado[/artist], respectively.
"No Games" is a love song in which Serani passionately questions whether or not the woman he loves feels the same. Listeners can't help but sing along and wonder woefully as well.
Mavado takes that same riddim, but transforms it with his gravelly voice, making "So Special" a celebration of overcoming adversity.
"I sing about my whole life," Mavado said. "I've been through so many things and I'm still here today, so I try to put message in my song within my life, because it's a reality."
He thinks that people relate to "So Special" because everyone experiences some kind of struggle.
"I'm not the only one that's been through struggle," he explained. "I know you must have been through some kind of struggle in your life. Everyone [has] struggled."
Mavado has been releasing music in the dancehall scene since 2004, reaching near-iconic status in Jamaica while his music also spread to cities like Toronto, London and Tokyo. He has collaborated with G-Unit on "Let It Go" and [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist] for the "On the Rock" remix -- he also plans to work with Jigga on The Blueprint 3.
However, only a few dancehall artists have been able to achieve mainstream success. Most of the performers in the genre are criticized for their often homophobic and violent lyrics. In fact, the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica recently banned the transmission of any songs with "daggering" lyrics, meaning those that incite violence, sexual activity or glorify guns.
Mavado insists his music only reflects the world around him.
"We're from a different culture, so we only speak of what we know about or we only speak of what we see," he explained. "If you have people that lash out against it, then that's just it -- but we only speak of what we see, because I can't speak of something I can't see and something I don't know."