Lumidee — “I’ll Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh)”

Released: 8.4.03

Peak: #3

So, yeah, dancehall again. I suspect that one reason Jamaican music made broader inroads into U.S. R&B about now is because dancehall itself was enjoying one of its periodic creative spurts back home. (Then again may be the circular reasoning of a U.S. R&B fan–“creative spurt” = “sounds like music I already like.”)  Regardless, the irony is that one factor that aided dancehall’s success was that it sounded less “Jamaican” than usual. Dancehall 2003 owed much of its quality and its rhythmic oddity of owed to the season’s prevailing riddim, “Lenky” Marsden’s Diwali.

We’ve already heard those Bollywoody hand claps surface as the template for Sean Paul’s “Get Busy.” And that riddim added a choppy undertow to Wayne Wonder’s smooth pledge of devotion “No Letting Go” as well. But my favorite U.S. Diwali usage was this summery love fantasy. Lumidee was a one member girl-group, her pleasantly off-key yearning bringing out the casual, front-stoop quality. As with so much R&B, I prefer the rapper-free versions, though I’ll take Busta (who had his own go at Diwali with “Clap To This”) over Fabolous latest rhyme about how lucky women are to have him.

Lumidee did leave us soon enough–her tuneless take on “She’s Like the Wind” made Patrick Swayze sound like Eric Carmen. But Diwali abideth. Since its acceptance was due in no small part to Timbaland’s global influences, which softened the market to this sort of exotica, it only seemed fair that the riddim became the go-to sound for dancehall imitations such “Pass the Dutch,” and can even be heard at the root of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Maybe Lenky’s greatest achievement is that the hand-clap — as basic a rhythmic element as you could name — now sounds distinctively “Jamaican.”

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