Two Decades of 'No Letting Go': Wayne Wonder Reflects on a Career Shaped by Passion, Collaboration, and a Two-Door Honda Civic

Dancehall artist Wayne Wonder shares the story of his rise to international fame, the crossover between genres, and the enduring love for his music.

In 2003, the United States experienced a significant wave of Dancehall, largely due to the profound influence of the Diwali Riddim. The infectious beats and pulsating bass crafted by Jamaican producer Steven “Lenky” Marsden laid the groundwork for several chart-toppers that year, including Sean Paul’s “Get Busy,” Lumidee’s “Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh),” and notably, Wayne Wonder's hit “No Letting Go.”

As the 20th anniversary of the gold-certified single approached, Wayne Wonder reminisced about receiving the instrumental during his time in New York. He penned the lyrics in mere days and jetted off to Jamaica for recording. Rather than an up-front cash payment, Marsden's compensation was unique: Wonder’s first car, a two-door Honda Civic.

“I just signed over the title, gave him the car and everything was good,” explained Wonder. “Then I end up doing a big mega song with this producer. Look how life goes.”

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Fascinatingly, the same Honda Civic became part of Dancehall history when Wonder used it to drive Buju Banton to the studio. They collaborated on the pre-”No Letting Go” hit “Bonafide Love,” a remix of Delroy Wilson’s “Movie Star,” previously known as “I Don’t Know Why.”

“I just love that old journey or that old process of making music,” Wonder said. “It was just fun having fun in the studio with the good energy. We push good vibes and got good outcomes.”

Even before his rise to fame in the US, Wonder had already carved a niche in Jamaican music, having collaborated with legends like King Tubby, Dave Kelly, and Buju Banton since the late '80s.

“I basically built that foundation in my community, my diaspora, the Caribbean community,” said Wonder. “In the early days, the sound systems, live performances or collaborating with other artists. I had a catalog well before ‘No Letting Go.’ It was actually Wendy Williams who was the first one to play the song on a commercial radio station. Then it caught on with all the DJs and the momentum never turned back since.”

Furthermore, Wonder's artistry extends beyond originals; he's covered American classics like Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” and En Vogue’s “Hold On.” He has even graced mainstream Hip Hop albums, proving the symbiotic relationship between genres.

“We know DJ Kool Herc is a Jamaican who brought sound system vibes to the Bronx,” said Wonder. “Meanwhile, reggae music was originated and created through R&B. It was just one mix of musical energy combining and just spreading out.”

The Diwali Riddim was a crucial component, but Wonder’s heartfelt lyrics about a beloved woman also resonated deeply. The song’s iconic verse, “Got somebody she is a beauty…” was born from genuine emotion, which has always been Wonder's songwriting compass.

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“That’s what one of my mentors told me years ago,” Wonder said. “I do it from a happy place which allows me to break all boundaries. Babies keep dancing to it, grandma is still dancing to ‘No Letting Go.’ It has no age limit. That’s a blessing when a song can just transcend a generation.”

The timeless appeal of "No Letting Go" is evident. This year, Wonder showcased the hit at the Harlem Festival of Culture and the Lovers & Friends Festival in Las Vegas. His maiden performance at Brooklyn's Biltmore Ballroom remains a cherished memory due to the overwhelming audience appreciation.

Continuing his musical journey post "No Letting Go," Wonder has released numerous tracks, including recent hits “Find A Way,” “I Don’t Know Why,” and “One More Chance” with Pickout All-Star Band.

“I’m always in the studio because music is my passion and my life,” said Wonder. “Just make great music, make sweet music. Maybe not might get that buzz at that instant, but just make good music. And it's like a treasure. Someone is going to find it, someone is going to say, oh my God, this is amazing. This time it's all about content. You might drop my song that I did years ago to a content and it just blows up, go viral. So it's a different time now.”

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