The Voice of Pliers: Reggae/Dancehall Meets 70s Soul InfluencesThe Voice of Pliers: Reggae/Dancehall Meets 70s Soul Influences


The Voice of Pliers: Reggae/Dancehall Meets 70s Soul Influences

With hits like “Murder She Wrote,” “Tease Me,” and “Bam Bam,” Jamaican singer Pliers is one of the most celebrated reggae/dancehall singers of the mid-80s to early 90s. His smooth, high voice was sampled for music by Kanye West, Beyoncé, and 50 Cent, who all loved his infectious dancehall.




May 3, 2023

Born in 1963, Pliers got in touch with reggae and dancehall music at an early age through his brothers, who were singers under the monikers of Spanner Banner, Snatcher Lion, and Richie Spice. At the age of 24, Pliers officially began recording for the Black Scorpio label, a record label that was, besides reggae, also heavily influenced by 70s soul.

Pliers ended up working with a who’s who of reggae producers, including dub pioneer King Tubby, King Jammy, Black Scorpio, and legendary producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, who established the pioneering Studio One record label and studios in Kingston. The place where legendary riddims were born, which were also used by the likes of Dennis Brown and artists on the roster of reggae label Pickout Records. Pliers himself released the albums Barbara (1989) and Heartical Don Man (1990)and a sling of 45s on the label by producer Lloyd "Pickout" Dennis.

Pliers’ songs "Snake In The Grass" and the Sly & Robbie produced "Bam Bam" caught the attention of Jamaican deejay Chaka Demus, who was so impressed that he started working closely together with Pliers from 1992 onwards. The duo embodied a clash of vocal styles, of sorts: the deep, rough toasting was quite the opposite of Pliers' sweet vocal touch, in part inspired by American soul singers like Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder.

Pliers' cover of Toots & the Maytals' "Bam Bam" later evolved into "Murder She Wrote" by Chaka Demus & Pliers with legendary rhythm section Sly & Robbie on production duties. The hit song was interpolated by Kanye West on "Drop Dead Gorgeous" off his Akademiks (Jeanius Level Musik) mixtape in 2002. Fun fact: Pliers almost didn’t record his breakthrough hit "Bam Bam," because he "didn’t know the lyrics" of the 1966 festival anthem by Toots & The Maytals.

"Leave it to this savvy duo to find a different route for its pop-drenched reggae attitude. Hip-shaking staccato beats are prominent in an arrangement of loopy horns and playful vocals."

—Larry Flick, Billboard

Chaka Demus & Pliers turned into a crossover sensation, with a string of Jamaican hits and the first non-UK act to have three consecutive singles in the Top 5 of the Britsh music charts with "Murder She Wrote," "Tease Me," and lovers rock song "Bam Bam." The latter of which was reportedly sampled over fifty times by artists including Beyoncé & Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G.’s hip-hop group Junior M.A.F.I.A., and an early interpolation in 1992 on Heavy D & The Boyz’ "Talk Is Cheap" produced by the Native Tongues best-kept secret, Skeff Anselm.

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