With a well-deserved title as the “Queen of Dancehall” to her name, Lady Saw has proven herself as the gold standard amongst female deejays. Un-intimidated by a male-dominated Dancehall industry where females struggle to earn major opportunities, Lady Saw blazed the trail for aspiring deejays looking to make waves on the local and international music industry.
However, Lady Saw offers an alter-ego contrary to her personal life; particularly at a younger age. Born Marion Hall in 1971, the St. Mary native endured various hardships within a family struggling to make ends meet. To assist her parents in achieving income, Hall picked fruits and vegetables to sell at the nearest market whilst also playing her trade as a domestic worker.
During her younger days, Hall sang in a church choir; earning recognition for her vocal abilities. However, Hall’s break came when she started to record Reggae singles for various sound systems; testing her styles in an effort to realize her potential as an artiste. Recording for sound systems since the age of 15, Hall gained knowledge pertaining to the professional process of music and decided to move to Kingston to pursue her career.
While in Kingston, Hall noticed that males within the Dancehall fraternity were earning much more praise and accolades compared to their female counterparts; not gaining acclaim for the positive music they preached. That prompted Hall to transform her lyrical from conscious and clean to raunchy and rebellious; attempting to rival her male counterparts within the industry.
Inspired by popular veteran deejay, Tenor Saw, Hall dubbed herself with the stage name, Lady Saw. In 1994, Saw unveiled her debut album, Bare As You Dare; leaving an indelible image on Dancehall music that fans and observers had to take seriously. The album featured the classic hits such as, Stab Out The Meat; earning her clout amongst her Dancehall compatriots. Lady Saw’s sophomore album, Give Me The Reason gained her notoriety as a Dancehall star whose lyrics tested several boundaries. That was never more evident than the single, What Is Slackness that questioned critics who found her lyrics offensive; claiming that political corruption was a more serious issue that her songs.
Her risqué performance style also drew controversy from Dancehall observers; earning a ban from several parishes, including Montego Bay following a stage show. Lady Saw challenged that she was being singled out for practicing behaviours that her male counterparts constantly got away with.
Nevertherless, Lady Saw continued to rack up the hits in 1997 with singles such as Sycamore Tree, Healing alongside internationally acclaimed deejay, Beenie Man and Love Is Strange featuring Shaggy. She also released the female empowering single, Woman Mi Name which, along with the aforementioned singles featured on her third album, Passion. She also released the hit song, Daddy during that year and started to establish herself as one of the must see acts in Dancehall music.
1998 saw the release of two albums from Lady Saw, including 99 Ways, featuring Woman Sneaking alongside Red Rat and Hardcore Lover alongside T.O.K. Her other album, Raw: The Best Of Lady Saw featured all of her hits dating back to 1994 as well as the highly-acclaimed single, Fling It Up.
Lady Saw continued to flourish as the calendar turned towards the new millennium; expanding her horizons by featuring on the single, Since I MET You Lady alongside long-time British pop band, UB40 in 2001. The following year saw Lady Saw’s greatest international achievement to date; collaborating with American rock band, No Doubt for the smash hit, Underneath It All which went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the U.S. The single led to Lady Saw earning her first Grammy award in 2003 for Best Performance by a Duo or Group.
The achievement elevated Lady Saw to greater heights and by 2004, she unveiled her sixth studio album, Striptease. The album, released via VP Records, earned international acclaim; featuring songs such as I’ve Got Your Man, Man A Di Least and Loser featuring Dancehall/Reggae singjay, Ce’Cile. The album also featured appearances from Voicemail and Sizzla as well as a Reggae-influenced tribute to her mother entitled, Dedicated To Mama.
Lady Saw’s countless establishments saw a high number of female acts enter the Jamaican music industry; with several drawing comparisons to the “Queen of Dancehall”. Deejays such as D’Angel, Spice and Stacious all have been labeled as the “Next Lady Saw” by many observers due to the no holds-barred content of their lyrics and remains an idol in the minds of many other Dancehall stars, both female and male.
In 2007, Lady Saw released her seventh album, Walk Out, where she showed off more of her conscious side. The album featured the influential hit song, No Less Than A Woman (Infertility), motivating women who couldn’t have children never to give up hope. The single and accompanying video earned rave reviews; proving that her conscious side dating back to her early days as a singer never left.
The album also featured singles such as Baby Dry Your Eyes, Not The World’s Prettiest and Me and My Crew. However, the album’s more raved about song was another female empowering anthem, Chat To Mi Back that charted well locally and internationally.
In 2009, Lady Saw continued to release well-received material, including the singles, Goldfinger, Inna De Dark and the Gospel-based hit, Praise Him.
2010 saw the release of Lady Saw’s most recent compilation, My Way; highlighted by a collaboration with American hip-hop superstar and Ruff Ryders’ first lady, Eve, entitled He Is At My House. The album also featured the internationally acclaimed hit single, Party Till December and was the debut single on her new label, Diva Records. Lady Saw also released a counteraction to Gyptian’s award-winning single, Hold Yuh, entitled Me Hold Yuh.
In 2011, Lady Saw continues to prove her veteran savvy with the highly-rated songs, Wife A Wife on the Star A Star Riddim and Matrimoney on the internationally acclaimed Matrimoney Riddim. Her most recent hit was on the highly-regarded Overproof Riddim entitled, Lovesick.
Lady Saw has proven an inspiration for many generations of female artistes; allowing the availability bigger opportunities locally and overseas for them. A legend within Dancehall music, Lady Saw continues to go after her critics with a style that raises eyebrows and expectations simultaneous. Her place within the Dancehall fraternity will forever be established and can be labeled as the matriarch of the popular genre.