15 White Reggae Artists You Thought Were Black
Reggae originated from Jamacia in the 60s, born from Ska and Rocksteady. However, it was more than just a sound; reggae was a feeling and a lifestyle that evoked change. It was inspired by American Jazz and classical Blues.
It was predominantly known to be part of the black culture, but as Bob Marley claimed, reggae was “king” and inspiring to all. Here are the top white reggae artists you thought were Black showing off their approach to this ever-inspiring genre.
Matthew Paul Miller, who initially reigns from Pennsylvania, is better known as Matisyahu; The translation means Gift from God. Matisyahu blends spiritual storylines with reggae sound. He is praised highly for his beatbox abilities.
As a teen, he rebelled, following the band Phish. He was sent to a 60-day program in Israel. After that, he had a few more impactful moments that would help him develop into the artist he is known today. In 2005, he was invited to do a set with Phish at Bonnaroo before becoming the opening act for Dave Matthews Band.
Based out of San Diego, CA, Slightly Stoopid is a fusion of reggae, punk, metal, hip-hop, and rock. While still in high school, the group was signed by Skunk Records, which was run by Bradley Nowell of Sublime. Over the years, the band has frequented the festival circuit, including Coachella and Lollapalooza.
They have played with next-level artists, like The Roots, Snoop Dogg, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, and Dave Matthews Band. Their eighth album, Everyday Life, Everyday People, features appearances from Alborosie, Don Carlos, and many more reggae artists.
Initially from Hawaii, this group from Santa Barbra, CA, is one of the best-known bands that fall into the genre of Sunshine Reggae. The album Automatic, which was released in 2013, was the first to hit the Billboard charts.
Lincoln Parish from Caged the Elephant was featured in several songs. Unfortunately, their latest album, Coastin’ dropped right before the Covid-19 Pandemic, resulting in the cancelation of their tour. However, in 2021 Iration announced their song Time Bomb from 2010 was certified Gold by RIAA.
Known as the Italian Reggae Ambassador, Alberto D’Ascola, is an Italian reggae artist who could be a one-man band, playing guitar, bass, drums, and keys. In 2001, Alborosie moved to Jamaica to study the way of the Rastafari.
When he first arrived in Jamaica, he was given the negative nickname Borosie, meaning rude or jerk. After becoming mailable to the culture, he added Al to the front of the nickname with the mindset of turning a negative into a positive. In 2006, he released his well-respected debut album.
Tribal Seeds is a family affair started by the Jacobo brothers from San Diego, CA. Currently, the band has six members. It was their third album in 2009 that made it to number five on the Billboard Reggae Albums charts.
The following album shot straight up to the number one spot in no time. In 2020, Tribal Seeds released their first live album, which was filled with big names. The list of performers they have performed with is long and impressive. For example, they have opened for Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Skrillex, Cee Lo Green, O.A.R., Jack White, and more.
Santa Cruz natives, The Expendables, were elementary school friends who started a party band in high school. The band recorded their debut album in 2001, but it was their fourth album that was under Slightly Stoopid’s label, Stoopid Records.
The self-titled album made the most noise as it featured other influential artists, like G-Love on vocals and production by Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta and Paul Leary. The most recent album was released during the pandemic in 2020. The Expendables issued the single You’re Right Here by dedicating it to bands, fans, and crew members affected by the pandemic.
Canadian Darrin Kenneth O’Brien, who is better known as Snow, is a reggae rapper. In 1987, Snow was convicted and served eight months in jail at the Metro Toronto East Detention Center for attempted murder before being acquitted. However, while in prison, Snow wrote music and performed for inmates. One song, in particular, was a crowd favorite.
After his release, he befriended Jamaican-born DJ Marvin Prince. Prince helped Snow perfect his reggae sound. Prince introduced Snow to rapper M.C. Shan, who helped get Snow signed with Motorjam/Elektra. Informer, which was popular among inmates, became the hit single off of Snow’s debut album, 12 Inches of Snow. Snow and Prince broke racial barriers in the reggae realm.
Unfortunately, greed was the cause that disbanded these two friends. However, Informer spent seven weeks at number one on Billboard Hot 100, and the song can still be heard every now and again. In 2019, Snow was featured with Daddy Yankee for the song Con Calma. They won several awards in 2020 for Song of the Year.
Three-Eleven or better known as 311, hails from Omaha, NE. They are known as Rock-Reggae, named after the police code 311, which means indecent exposure. The band had a rough start with their first album, including the tour where their van caught fire and all the gear was lost. However, after getting signed with Capricorn Records, their luck turned around.
When they released their self-titled album, they charted at number 12. Two hits came off the record, including Down and All Mixed Up. In 2019, the band released Voyager, but thanks again to the pandemic, the tour was canceled.
In 2022, band member P-Nut announced he was taking a hiatus from the band. 311 isn’t everyone’s favorite expression of reggae, but on the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the reggae inspiration in their sound.
Pepper is from San Diego by way of Hawaii. The trio band is a group of white reggae musicians with eight studio and two live albums under their belt. Their named was inspired by a skit on Saturday Night Live called the Pepper Boys.
When they made it to Cali, they began opening for major reggae artists, including Burning Spear. Success moved quickly, and by 2006, Pepper had a hit on the charts, album number three, and had been on tours with Slightly Stoopid, Snoop Dog, The Wailers, and 311.
In 2020, Pepper participated in The House That Bradley Built to benefit artists with substance abuse by covering a few complications of Sublime songs.
The Dirty Heads
Dirty Heads is from Huntington Beach, CA. The ever-growing reggae band currently has eight members. It originally started as a three-piece in Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell’s garage. Bushnell’s older brother didn’t stay with the band but is credited for the nickname that became the band’s official name.
In 2010, these white reggae singers released Lay Me Down, featuring Sublime With Rome. The song hit number one on the Alternative charts and remained there for ten weeks. It is still considered one of The Dirty Heads’ greatest songs.
Their latest album, The Best of Dirty Heads, features appearances from Travis Barker and Amiee Allen.
Stick Figure is a hot reggae dub band from SoCa with five human members. There is also one Aussie shepherd as an official touring member of the group known as Cocoa the Touring Dog. The band started as the Best Reggae Band on iTunes in 2008 and moved onto the Billboard Reggae Album charts the following year with their Smoke Stack Album. Stick Figure has seven studio albums and one instrumental album.
In 2019, the group released the World on Fire album. It hit the Reggae Album charts at number one and stayed there for four weeks. The album did so well that in 2021, the instrumental version of World of Fire was released.
The reggae rock band Rebelution stems from Isla Vista, CA. Initially, a five-piece (currently a four-piece) all attending the University of California, Santa Barbara. Their first album, Courage to Grow, made it to number four on the Billboard Reggae charts.
The following Bright Side to Life album hit number one out the gate. Rebelution continued the streak with each album thereafter until 2020, when the Dub Collection album, which is a collection of all their hits, only reached number eight. However, that didn’t stop the band from releasing a total of three albums over a two-year period.
In the Moment debuted at number two on the charts, and they released their second live album, Live in St. Augustine. In 2021, Surf Roots TV & Radio nominated the band for the 2021 Album of the Year.
In 1988, the Ska Punk Reggae Rock sound would never be the same when Sublime hit the scene. Bradley Nowell was on vocals and guitar, Eric Wilson on bass, and Bud Gaugh on drums. And who could forget their dalmatian mascot, Lou Dog? Sublime had released a collection of thirteen albums, compilations, EPs, and a box set throughout their career.
However, the band didn’t receive mainstream success until after Nowell’s death. Nowell overdosed on heroin in 1996. However, tragedy sparked a positive twist, bringing strong awareness to drug struggles within the industry. Nowell’s widow collaborated with artists and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America to bring forth public service announcements on the dangers of drug use.
The self-titled album contained several hits with heavy airplay. The band officially broke up after Nowell’s death. The remaining members reunited with Rome Ramirez under the name Sublime With Rome. In 2021, Sublime released Sublime Meets Scientist & Mad Professor Inna L.B.C as a limited edition for Record Store Day.
In 1978 a group of guys in Birmingham, England, formed a diverse reggae pop band. They have had over 50 singles that have charted over the years and have been nominated for four Grammys for Best Reggae Album.
They have sold over 70,000 million copies of their records worldwide. In 2008, frontman Ali Campbell left the band. Other members left following Campbell and tried to create a new UB40. This action caused legal disputes for several years. Finally, in 2021, Matt Doyle was announced as the new frontman for the original UB40. Unfortunately, that same year took two members due to illness.
UB40’s most well-known song, Red Red Wine, was originally done by Neil Diamond in 1967, yet, it had better success when UB40 turned it into a reggae-pop hit. UB40’s version reached number one on the charts in 1988.
The reggae sound was rising in the 70s in the UK, and one of the most well-known names worldwide was the frontman of the band. Sting, along with Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, started a new wave reggae rock sound that blew the minds of the music industry.
By the time this white reggae band released their second album, Reggatta de Blanc, which contained Walking on the Moon, Message in a Bottle, and Don’t Stand So Close To Me, it was no surprise, the next albums would reach number one as well. With over 75 million records sold worldwide, The Police are one of the Best-Selling Bands of All-Time. In 2003, The Police were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2008, The Police put together a reunion tour that grossed over $358 million, making it the third highest grossing tour of all time.
Top White Reggae Artists You Thought Were Black, Final Thoughts
There you have it! The top white reggae artists you thought were Black throughout the decades. From The Police to the ever-so-popular one-hit wonder, Snow, reggae sound has given birth to many other sounds over the years, including Dub and Sunshine Reggae. It can be mixed with any other genre, like Rock or Pop, and still bring the respected Jamaican island vibe. If reggae has taught us anything, it’s that reggae is not a color; it’s a way of life, growth, and love.