Dancehall is a type of Jamaican popular music which developed in the late 1970s, initially as a more sparse and less political and religious variant of reggae than the roots style that had dominated much of the 1970s.
In the mid-1980s, digital instrumentation became more prevalent, changing the sound considerably, with digital dancehall (or "ragga") becoming increasingly characterized by faster rhythms with little connection to earlier reggae rhythms. Modern dancehall is also known as bashment.
"Dancehall" now refers to the digitised version of raggamuffin reggae, which is itself an ancestor of hip-hop music, and has since been influenced and re-combined with that style.
Dancehall reggae traditionally features a vocalist (referred to as a "Deejay") reciting lyrics in thick Jamaican English over a "riddim". "Riddims" ("rhythm" in standard English) are themselves quite famous, and a common practice in the style is to release an album featuring the same riddim being voiced by a number of performers.
While most dancehall performers are male, a small number of female vocalists have appeared in recent years, often performing their lyrics from an expressly feminist point of view in counterpoint to the notoriously male-chauvinist style.
There are essentially two types of dancehall deejay. The more common is the rough-voiced male vocalist, often describing his sexual prowess and lyrical abilities. Vocalists of this type often engage in verbal warfare with their enemies, as can be seen in the feud between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer.
A second type is the smooth-voiced "singjay" (as they are sometimes known). Still performing over the traditional riddims, this male performer is more inspired by RnB music and in fact sings, rather than chants, his lyrics, such as Mr Vegas. Occasionally, as in the duo of Chaka Demus & Pliers, the two performer types combine. .