1990’s -Modern Day Caribbean-New York Hip Hop

During the late 1980’s- 1990’s, Hip Hop blew up into a national then international phenomenon. Cities across America, and the world, began to produce their own styles. As Hip Hop diversified and due to the fact some artists prefer to identify racially rather than ethnically, finding specifically New York artists of Caribbean descent becomes more difficult, but all the more relevant. Most these Caribbean- New York artists may be well known, but their heritage and cultural influence is not as widely recognized. However, these factors ultimately shaped their music, therefore, affecting Hip Hop culture and its influence globally. As music evolved in the Caribbean, it influenced development of Hip Hop in America, as seen later in the Biggie Smalls example. This shows that music influence between the Caribbean and New York was in flux, or that Hip Hop is transnational.

KRS-One is a rapper from the Bronx who is of Jamaican descent. In this song, he discusses police harassment and discrimination in his neighborhood. This reflects how Hip Hop acted as a form of protest within black communities. The mixing of American and Jamaican styled sound signifies racial linked fate, regardless of ethnicity, in  American society.

Biggie Smalls is a Brooklyn (Clinton Hill) rapper with Jamaican parents. His heritage did affect his music because early in his career he had collaborations with dancehall artist, Supercat, and several of his songs use Jamaican Patios. Look at the works cited to see more examples.

Lyric/Song: “Yes, it’s Bad Boy, hard to the core/Lawwwwwddddd! Me cyan tek it no more” “Dolly My Baby (Hip-Hop Remix)”

Reference: When Biggie closed out the hip-hop remix of dancehall don dada Supercat’s “Dolly My Baby” by howling the above line, it wasn’t just a way of getting extra attention on an early guest verse. He was directly quoting one of the funniest and most over-the-top dancehall tunes in history, Papa San’s “Maddy Maddy Cry.”

Works Cited:



Biggie Smalls quote this dancehall song. Papa San is a Jamaican dancehall/reggae artist. This song was released in 1992. Supercat/Biggie’s song was released in 1993.

A Tribe Called Quest is a Hip Hop group from St. Albans, Queens. 2 of the 4 members have Caribbean origin that influenced their music’s sound and language. They mixed Jamaican dub music and patios into their music, as well as refer to several Caribbean artists/songs. The works cited page lists specific examples.

Works Cited:


If you know your Jazz from your Rhime, you’re probably aware of Phife Dawg’s Caribbean roots. Sometimes thought to to be Jamaican due to his love for reggae and patois inflections, A Tribe Called Quest’s Five Foot Assassin is actually 100-percent Trinidadian. Lesser known is that Q-Tip, too, is of Caribbean heritage: his late father was from Montserrat.

This is the closest Tribe ever came to putting a straight-up reggae chune on one of their albums. For this short Love Movement track, Phife reinvented himself as deejay Mutty Ranks, quoting the “Live and Direct” version of Aswad’s “Not Guilty” (Live and direct/You know what live and direct mean? Cooooommmeeeeee) for the dubplate-style intro, and moving between patois and American English: Have you ever wonder what make a crowd rock?/Tribe Called Quest we ah go do it nonstop/Listen to the radio we never going pop/Cause yuh no ready for dis yet, bwoy/Say you nuh ready/Say you nuh ready for this yet, bwoy.

Busta Rhymes is of Caribbean descent and is a rapper/ DJ from Brooklyn. I thought this was a interesting deviation from traditional Hip Hop tracks because the beat is sampled from the movie Psycho, which sounds so classical and whimsical in comparison to typical Hip Hop’s “hard” sounds. This song also refers police harassment, drug use, capitalization of Hip Hop culture, and being “real” vs “fake.” All these themes refer to issues relevant to Hip Hop culture, affecting the Caribbean- New York community, as people struggle to balance newfound success with unsolved problems within the communities.

Busta Rhymes + Q-Tip (2013)

As mentioned before, both these artists are of Caribbean descent from New York. They collaborated on this album with other American rappers, such as Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West. I find this album interesting because it is a mix of many of elements from previous and new stages of  Hip Hop. For example, some instants sound like funk from Hip Hop in the 1970s, or have heavy free-flow sounding lyrics like rap music from the 1980’s-1990’s, or have the more electronic, sing song style of Hip Hop from the 2000’s. In 22:00 -25:00, the music sounds something closer to Jamaican dub music than American rap. It’s an interesting look at the evolution of Hip Hop music, and how it can change yet retain some of its core elements.

Wyclef Jean was born in Haiti, but grew up in New Jersey (its kinda New York).

This artist is a good example of Caribbean- New Yorker’s transnational nature. He gained success through Hip Hop in American, a product of American/ Caribbean relations in New York, and he brought Hip Hop back to its roots, like a second generation child, in order to provide aid to the Caribbean. This song was written in response to the earthquake in Haiti. He used Hip Hop’s power, influence, and message in order to help Haiti. He also tried to use his heritage and fame as a star to become President of Haiti, but his plan did not work because he did not fulfill the necessary stately requirements.

Popular in the 1990’s, Shaggy was born in Jamaica and moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn when he was 18 years old. His music has a heavy dancehall, Jamaican feeling, especially since he speaks with a heavy accent and way of speaking. The beat of mixing the little “cymbals” and background vocals is definitely a Hip Hop influence. But he also mixes some American R&B, sampling Marvin Gaye. Once again, this is an example of Caribbean and American culture mixing together to create new music. This song was an international hit and is still a stand-by for most parties, like Carnival.

Nicki Minaj + Busta Rhymes

Nicki Minaj was born in Trinidad, but grew up in Jamaica, Queens- a prominent Caribbean neighborhood. This song is rapped in Patois, and she does give a shout-out to her Trinidadian-Queens origin, as well as Brooklyn. These artists usually do more American styled rap, so it’s interesting to see them try to sound more Caribbean. It is basically just a club song.

Rihanna was born in Barbados, and she currently lives in NYC. She is more of a pop star, but she definitely has heavy Hip Hop influence, such as in this song she pretty much raps the lyrics. This 2015 song speaks to many issues within the Caribbean- American community. It talks about the American Dream and the generation of immigrants from “the other side of the ocean” working hard to achieve it.  These themes are presented over visuals of civil right protest, being compared to the Ferguson protests, police harassment, and mixed racial communities. She declares, “This is the New America, we are the New American.” She refers to issues directly relating them to the Caribbean American community, which have been previously stated by previous Caribbean Hip Hop artists. They represent the Caribbean community as they call to an end of political, socially, and economical discrimination. They desire to be as integrated into American society as Hip Hop music has become. Hip Hop culture has essentially changed American society, and since much of Hip Hop has been influenced by Caribbean people, they have essentially transformed America but still struggle to be accepted within it.


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