Cham, also known as Baby Cham, is one of the more successful and critically acclaimed dancehall artists in the Caribbean -- a stunning feat given that he started his career in his teens. With a penchant for laying vocals over riddims of relatively lower bpms, he focuses on lyricism, but hasn't shied away from making crossover hits. Teamed up with dancehall virtuoso and hit producer Dave "The Stranger" Kelly, Cham became the premier artist on Kelly's Madhouse record label as he began penetrating the U.S. market in the early 2000s. Damian Beckett was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, growing up in the Marverly and Waterhouse communities. His interest in music was fostered by his uncle, who owned sound equipment in a studio where accomplished dancehall DJs like Super Cat recorded songs. His ambitions were coming to fruition around 1993 when he first met Kelly, but the producer refused to work with him on a serious, ongoing basis until he finished school. Spragga Benz, on the other hand, worked with the teenager and was key in lifting Cham's career off the ground. They recorded the duet "Cocomania" in 1994, prompting Benz to secure Cham's first radio airplay at the age of 16. After finishing up school, Cham proceeded to turn many heads in the dancehall scene from the mid- to late '90s with a slew of Kelly-produced hit singles including "Many Many," "Man & Man," and the controversial "Boom," a song about oral sex that the Jamaican government banned from being performed live. Kelly and Cham compiled the 2000 double-disc album Wow... The Story, which contained many of his successful singles plus some additional new material. With time and effort, Cham pushed into the U.S. arena, dropping the sexually tinged crossover hit "Vitamin S" in 2003. This led to his signing a distribution deal with Atlantic Records and the single's re-release in 2004. Nearing the threshold of achieving Sean Paul-like exposure, in mid-August 2006, Atlantic released his major debut, Ghetto Story, featuring popular guest vocalists such as Alicia Keys and Akon. Cham would not return to the mainstream eye until 2012 with the release of the singles "Wine" and "Tun Up," as well as the Team Cham EP. The next year, he released another non-album single, "Fighter," with Damian Marley. His third effort, Lawless, remained in production for years, and was finally issued in the summer of 2017.
© Cyril Cordor /TiVo
© Cyril Cordor /TiVo
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Reggae - Released August 14, 2006 | Atlantic Records
Reggae - Released August 15, 2006 | Madhouse - Atlantic
He used to be known as Baby Cham, but there's no way anyone who recorded such a heart-wrenching -- and yet incredibly infectious -- tale of a poverty-stricken childhood as "Ghetto Story" could be called "Baby." The title track of Cham's ("just Cham") debut is such a convincing combination of rage and regret that an Internet rumor claiming the Jamaican government had banned the track was picked up as fact by plenty of journalists, and while it proved untrue, it certainly didn't seem impossible. The Ghetto Story album presents the revolutionary track -- which is the worthy dancehall successor to Damien Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock" -- in its original mix and two remixes: a decent one with Alicia Keys and an even better one with the perfectly chosen Akon. "Rude Boy Pledge" and a few other moments sprinkled about the album echo the seriousness of the title cut, but most of the tracks favor the swaggering and slick side of the man, a side that gets the party started with hook after hook locking onto rock-solid riddims. The sexy "Vitamin S" utilizes the same "Fiesta" riddim as Beenie Man's great "Dude" and comes within inches of topping it. His anthem "Cham" is ace, "Bring It On" is as convincingly cool as anything by T.O.K., and there are no sleazy efforts or filler to water down Cham's aggressive dancehall stance for non-Jamaican ears. Ambitious, exciting, well built, and -- for anyone who cares about dancehall -- unmissable. © David Jeffries /TiVo