Only a handful of days into 2021, and Spice is already on top of the world. A Grammy nomination under her belt, a nod from none other than forever-POTUS Barack Obama, and a groundbreaking new song on the way.
Amid a climate that finds most Love & Hip Hop alumni spending most of their days arguing amongst themselves on social media rather than making strides in the studio, Spice has broken beyond the stigma associated with spending a stint on reality television.
“I’ve been on top of my game before Love & Hip Hop,” she observed, adding that she was “just dabbling into it so that people could put a face to the name.”
A veteran in the dancehall scene, Spice used reality television as a tool to further her already flourishing music and public profile, not the other way around. “That’s really why I decided to be among the reality thing, but it’s always music for me. Everybody knows that’s my first heart,” she added. “I’m super happy to know that I’m able to show people that I’m not just a reality star. I’m the queen of dancehall and that’s what I’m known for.”
That queen status has earned her recognition from the Recording Academy this year, in the form of a high-honor nomination for her debut studio album, 10. Her album is nominated in the Best Reggae Album category at the 64th Grammy Awards, airing January 31.
The huge victory both excited and confused some fans, with many not has familiar with island sounds unsure if what Spice does falls into the reggae category.
“So, there’s not even a [Grammy] category for dancehall,” Spice clarified. “So yes, there is a difference between dancehall and reggae. Reggae is a more slow tempo beat, it’s more cultural, it’s just a slower version where dancehall is a more faster-paced rhythm. A lot of people don’t know that [a dancehall] is actually a place where people go to dance and have fun. Dancehall was birthed from reggae.”
But Spice sees the gap in understanding of the varying genres of cultural Jamaican music as an opportunity for herself and her peers to step up and make listeners understand without question.
“I personally believe that Bob Marley set such a high peak for reggae music that often that’s the only thing that people recognize when it comes on to Jamaica and the music,” she says. “My dancehall peers need to now realize that we need to step up our game so that people can know that there’s a difference between dancehall and reggae. Bob Marley did this big thing so we have big shoes to fill.”
Spice has been seeking to fill big dancehall shoes since a young age. Listening to her father’s favorite musicians as a young girl named Grace Hamilton from Portmore, Jamaica, she learned to take on the style, vocal inflections, and swagger associated with them.
“A lot of people would think it would be a female artist, but my first inspiration came from Professor Nuts, Bob Marley, and Peter Tosh because my father, he was a huge fan of their music,” She said. “He would even say to me, ‘if you can sing a Professor Nuts song, I’m going to give you extra dumplings in your paper. I love dumplings.”
Fast forward to today, and she’s had seven Top 10 singles and 10 music videos that have each streamed 3 million+, collaborations with artists like Vybz Kartel, Sean Paul, and Shaggy, has been recognized by mainstream publications like Billboard and Vogue, and even gets spins in the Obama household – an accolade that truly shocked the artist.
“When I saw it, I was calling everyone,” she says of finding her song “Go Down Deh” [ft. Shaggy and Sean Paul] on his 2021 list of favorite songs. “I was like, ‘not Barack Obama, the President listened to my song!’ I’m super happy, I’m just humbled and extremely grateful that my song is going to places that people just would never dream of because, at the end of the day, a lot of people still don’t know dancehall.”
But rather than rest on her laurels after reaching these high points of success, Spice is hitting the ground running in 2022. Her first focus in the new year? Tackling tough topics with her son right at her side.
“We still have a song, a fresh video with my son who’s a part of the album. He’s only 14 years old,” she said. The song, “Po-Po,” takes a hard look at the harsh realities facing young Black people during their interactions with law enforcement – a topic near and dear to the single mother of two.
“I’m super happy that I was able to do a topic like that with my son, knowing that he’s a black youth and always asking questions about these things,” she said. “ It’s really speaking out against racism and police brutality.”
But for now, Spice is focusing on her big night at the Grammys.
“I’m hype about it, so I’ve got to pick the perfect dress,” she says of the big event. “This is my first time, so I’m super excited. I’ve never been there before but I know that when I get there, I want everybody to know Spice is here.”