The staple of Caribbean conscious music is without a doubt, Reggae and happens to be my favorite genre of music. I could fill this list with Bob Marley's works alone, but for the sake of variety I am going to stick to one song per artist.
1. Bob Marley - Exodus
Bob Marley is the undisputed King of Reggae, and apart from his powerful lyrics, I think that a part of his success is attributable to the fact that he didn't always stick to the usual reggae beat, but rather incorporated a range of musical genres into his songs. Exodus, a song about liberation, is a perfect example of this (in fact I was jamming to this moments before my last exam at law school). When you here this song, you can't help but have the urge to get up and start skanking.
2. John Holt - Strange Things
John Holt, was a wonderful singer who focused mainly on love songs. Strange Things has a rather strange beat for a reggae song, which is partly what makes the song so great. This song is essentially about a lonely person wanting to have some "fun" on a Friday night. Despite its lyrics, its beat is perfect for a couples' dance.
3. Gregory Isaacs - Night Nurse
In the best Jamaican patois I can muster - "Cool Ruler a di boss" and Night Nurse proves it. The melody makes me give way to a slow skank, or bop if you will. Some persons say that this lover's song was about drugs rather than a lady, but whatever, its great nonetheless.
4. Dennis Brown - Africa
Dennis Brown was dubbed the Crown Prince of Reggae by Bob Marley himself. Like Gregory Isaacs, he focuses mainly on love songs, but has some great conscious music too. While "Africa" has great vocals, what truly makes this song great is its hypnotizing dub. While I haven't exactly been high, given how much I love this song, I can only imagine how much more I would love it if I were.
5. Peter Tosh - Wanted Dread and Alive
Peter Tosh had some of the greatest songs in Reggae's history. This song is a strange mixture of an upbeat rhythm, yet the lyrics describe being endlessly harassed by the system for possession of marijuana, but some how it absolutely works.
6. Jacob "the Killer" Miller - Georgie Porgie
The late Jacob Miller was another Reggae great who died at a young age. He sang mostly conscious songs concerning liberation, marijuana (some of which were truly great e.g. Mixed Up Moods, Tenement Yard, Wanted). But I preferred his light tunes, such as Georgie Porgie which you can't help but singalong and dance to, and then rewind and play again.
7. Barrington Levy - Here I come
Having mentioned John Holt, Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown, it would be totally remiss of me not mention Barrington Levy and his legendary song, "Here I Come". The lyrics are neither here or there, but the rhythm and the vocals are what make this song Ab Fab (lol, I wanted to use that phrase for a while now).
8. Buju Banton - Not an easy road
Buju Banton, a rather controversial person with great music. Although I certainly don't agree with his LGBT views, that doesn't prevent me from enjoying his music. The interesting hing about Buju is that his voice isn't exactly what one would call a nice singing voice, but it is precisely that voice which makes his songs so powerful, so to speak. Not an Easy Road, which is about the struggle of the poor to become successful, showcases this perfectly.
9. Tanya Stephens - Pity
Tanya Stephens is one of the more recent reggae artists, and is as brilliant as any of her male counterparts. While most of her songs are Dancehall, "Pity" is more Reggae, than anything else. Apart from the fact that its a good dancing song, it would make a good intro song for Jerry Springer, Maury and Jeremy Kyle.
10. Quito and the Edge - Reggae Express
Okay, I am going to have to declare my bias here, Quito comes from the BVI and so his songs would naturally be among my favorites.