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Highlighting Black Excellence: A Look Behind the 2020 Reggae Gold Cover

Highlighting Black Excellence: A Look Behind the 2020 Reggae Gold Cover

Music is a Jamaican national treasure. It’s the pulse of the island, driving harmony into the people, the rhythm setting a pace to life unmatched anywhere else in the world, and with every song release you [can] feel the soul. The cities are loud, and the rural areas are louder; when it’s time for the sound system to play, the more space there is, the bigger the speaker boxes. Reggae and Dancehall are an integral part of the society, and the music culture that comes with it. In Dancehall, there is the trend where the artists would sing their own song on the same riddim (rhythm), and the constant need to be hot in the streets, to keep the buzz around their name by releasing singles often. Many reggae artists would release full bodies of work periodically, or EP’s and mixtapes, giving their fans some time to digest. Regardless of the differences between the two, they’re both loved globally, and Reggae Gold 2020 by VP Records is serving you this year’s best.

Originating from a mom and pop shop in Downtown Kingston, VP Records was established in New York when the owners Vincent and Patricia Chin migrated in the 1970’s. Operating for over 40 years, this independent reggae label is one of the largest in the world. While playing their role in recording dancehall and reggae stars, they established the Reggae Gold compilation series in the 1990’s. According to the label, Reggae Gold is an annual compilation album containing Reggae and Dancehall hits of the year. This album provides added recognition from a global audience to the featured artists. Last year, Reggae Gold debuted at number one on the Billboard Reggae Charts, after racking up streams on various digital streaming platforms. If you want a snapshot of the Reggae and Dancehall scene for the year, this is a great starting point.

“I’m in love with this melanin feeling, the skin I’m in.

What you get is what you see.

 A natural survivor, black excellence that’s me.”

The cover of the Reggae Gold album has been artistically directed by VP, and every year is something different, refreshing but true to the culture. The 2020 theme for Reggae Gold is Black Excellence. The artistic direction was led by Stephanie Chin and Rebecca Lovinsquy, with creative direction by Sameel ‘Samo’ Johnson. The cover features models Romar Peart and Suzanna Missenbeger, photographed by Wade Rhoden.

POTENT had a recent chat with Samo to find out more about his creative vision and how this mesmerizing cover photo was produced.

Sameel ‘Samo’ Johnson, Creative Director of 2020 Reggae Gold Album Cover. Photo by Christoff Johnson.

POTENT Magazine: What does “Black Excellence” feel like to you?

Sameel ‘Samo’ Johnson: “I would have to say confidence, Black Excellence is confidence and any excellence as a matter of fact, black, white, purple. [It] is standing confidently within yourself, accepting yourself for who you are, standing within that firmly and moving through the earth with that confidence to do whatever you want to do, still respecting the laws of nature of course.”

Potent:  Did you help with deciding on the theme?

SJ: “The general theme was led by the art director of VP, which is Stephanie Chin, very talented [lady]. She sent me a photo, a reference image, which was basically a man and woman standing within nature, she knew that was the direction she wanted to go but it was open to wherever I was willing to take it. So as soon as I saw that, I thought of something along the lines of representing the black man and woman in strength, and showing some sort of support. So the theme was led by Stephanie and then taken further by myself.”

Behind the Scenes of 2020 Reggae Gold Cover Photoshoot. Photos by Djuvane Armstrong.

Potent: What was the creative process like?

SJ: It started with a reference image and from there I went and found more things that I thought could be fitting, such as the poses, and location. I hired Wade Rhoden as the photographer, we’ve worked together [before], that was another thing that Stephanie from VP had wanted. And I chose Koji Dem as the stylist. We shot near one of the rivers up by Gordon Town in St. Andrew. We used one outfit and did multiple poses, some closer to the reference images that we had, and some which we kind of freestyle in the moment. The one that ended up being the cover was one of the freestyles.

Potent: How long have you been doing creative direction?

SJ: “I’ve been doing it on different levels since probably about 2012 – 2013. For Jesse Royal, and then for Jah9 and then more in terms of creative direction and production for say album covers. So I went from different levels of creative direction, figuring it out for myself and then moving forward from there to where, where hiring full teams in order to create the visuals for a full album, including album artwork to the videos to the whole look and feel on social media.”

Potent: Do you have a favorite song from the compilation?

SJ: “I really like the Jah9 featuring Chronixx and the Richie Spice, I shot the videos for those two, so them have a special likkle place in my heart, although I also love Koffee – Toast, of course, and Jahvillani – First Class [Flight] ‘cause it bad too.”

Reggae Gold 2020 features 19 tracks, five of which were exclusively recorded for this album. This 27th copy also highlights two dancehall veterans, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, who start off the well curated album. The exclusive tracks are Inches by Spice, Nah Leave U by Konshens, Different Rankin by Squash, Mi Love Yuh by Queen Ifrica, and All Woman by Ikaya.

Track Listing:

Lodge – Bounty Killer

Blackboard – Beenie Man

Toast – Koffee

Big Big – Christopher Martin

First Class Flight – Jahvillani feat. Prince Swanny

Dumpling (Remix) – Stylo G feat. Sean Paul & Spice

Spend ‘Nuff’ Money – Noah Powa

Different Rankin – Squash

Pretty Pon Snap – Daddy 1

Inches – Spice

Jump Pan Mi – Potential Kidd

Young – Stalk Ashley

Nah Leave U – Konshens

Mi Love Yuh – Queen Ifrica

Only You – Jah Cure feat. Mya

Best Of Me – Romain Virgo

All Woman – Ikaya

Note To Self – Jah9 feat. Chronixx

Valley Of Jehoshaphat (Red Hot) – Richie Spice

What are your thoughts on the 2020 cover photo? Do you have a favorite track? Let us know.

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