Ever sit back and wonder who first introduced the sounds of Jamaica into Hip-Hop? Ever wonder which U.S. based "reggae" artists helped spread the vibes? Time to meet Carl Aiken a.k.a. Shinehead. This mature youthful man began his career in 1980 via the dancehall sound systems of New York. Maybe not the first making moves at that time, but definitely one of the most influential.
It was during the early days of BET that his tune and video "CHAIN GANG" captivated the young hip-hop audience across America. Elektra Records realized his marketability and quickly inked him a deal, where he remained from 1988 until 1995. This is an accomplishment of itself as it is almost unheard of a reggae artist being on the roaster with a major label for any lengthy duration.
Shinehead eludes as much charisma, intelligence and humility as he does creativity. An articulate man, his songs often focus on socio-economic commentaries. He is an advocate of self-esteem and empowerment among children. Many of his songs reap the joys and sorrows associated with matters of the heart. His performances are generously seasoned with high energy and a jovial sense of humor.
From his first big hit, the cover of "Billy Jean", Shinehead has demonstrated an incredible vocal range that that is not just limited to reggae music but that can sweep you away with any R&B track. One of the few artists that is equally talented as a singer, DJ (in hip-hop terms - an MC), a rapper and as a comedian he is an enigma of his own. This man is complex as one moment he can be speaking in patios (Jamaican slang) with an accent that reflects his heritage and the next he can sound like any other b-boy from the streets of New York. Unparalleled perhaps by a few in the business, he continuously strives to seek out new boundaries only to cross them with confidence and style.
As much as he is lighthearted, Shinehead is quite serious and spends his spare time reading, golfing and of course, recording in the studio. He often travels to obscured places like the Bahamas, Hawaii and Florida to focus on his lyrics.
The album, "Praises" is his first US based full album in years. Shinehead produced most of the recordings on his album. However, there are wonders at work here as well. Teaming up with ace Tony "CD" Kelly, Bobby Konders, SleepyWonder, Mad Lion and recording in NY, Miami and Jamaica has afforded a collaboration that gives reggae a face lift. Call it, Champagne Reggae!
One of his hottest tracks that has not yet faded "Promises" kicks off the album after an recorded message left by a vexed lover. Of course there's the track "Collie Weed" a product of the union between Shines and Sleepy. "Pay Me", a MAD LION production, has serious hip-hop inflections. The gruff sounds of sparing partner SleepyWonder and Mad Lion almost pale in comparison to the flow Shinehead lays down. "Road Block" is also strongly influenced by Hip-Hop as Shines dishes out his form of stylish lyrical punishment. With the tracks "Hot" and "NaNa" worked on with Tony "CD" Kelly - you know you have automatic hits!
"First Time" gives a lethal demonstration of the quiet maturity Shinehead has achieved that allows him to flow with romance and remembrance. "Mind Blowing Decisions" has a lovers rock quality that sooths and nurtures the love starved soul.
A shining star that will take more than 50 years to burn out, don't think he's already had his "five minutes" of fame. As Shinehead says, "this is all I care to do, this is all I know how to do, this is my life!" With the type of natural talent that he is continuously testing and cultivating, don't be surprised if the future hold more for him than just his musical career!
Written by RudeGal June 1999 for VP Records