Run The Track: September 2010

Buju Banton

BUJU BANTON INNOCENT [GARGA MEL]

“I’ve been accused, wrongly convicted. Jah knows I’m innocent. I’ve been badly singled by beloved friends and brethrens who sold me out,” chants Buju over a classic Studio One rhythm.

Innocent is not only a reminder of what we’ve been missing, but is also the first we’ve heard from the Garga Mel since his incarceration. Taken from the new album Before The Dawn, it’s a passionate declaration that has betrayal at its heart, but is remarkably free of self-pity. The Rastaman is standing firm, even as his trial date keeps on being postponed due to legal procedures. This means he still awaits sentencing in a Florida jail, months after being arrested for cocaine trafficking.

MAVADO WHEN U FEEL LONELY [DASECA]

Mavado has been unfairly categorised as a gunman dee-jay but is far more versatile than many people realise. Produced by the same team who helped Serani to international fame, When U Feel Lonely is surprisingly tender, and voiced over a rhythm that’s better suited to urban radio than the hype and bluster of a typical dancehall session.

GAPPY RANKS LONG TIME [SPECIAL DELIVERY]

Gappy’s recent spate of singles and long-awaited debut album has transformed his fortunes and established him as a major new talent on the dancehall scene. Heads and tongues are wagging in the US and Jamaica only Gappy isn’t the kind to forget where he comes from in a hurry. Long Time tells of days spent chilling on the street corner, smoking a big head and playing football. It’s a track to cherish for dee-jay connoisseurs, and a welcome boost for British reggae as the BBC prepare to celebrate Reggae Britannia.

YT FORWARD 2 LIFE [SATIVA]

After a period spent searching for identity, as well as sales and media coverage, UK reggae/dancehall may well be on the rise again. YT has already provided the genre with one of its most abiding anthems – England Story – and now repeats the feat with this revolutionary reality tune, dedicated to those garrison youths bereft of opportunity and left to face Babylon’s “shoot to kill policy.”

I-OCTANE NO MORE [DJ FRASS]

I-Octane flings away his black shirt as he’s determined not to attend any more funerals. He’s tired of the senseless killing that has sent so many young people six feet under, and losing friends just because some gunman wanted their watch or such like.

This is a powerful and moving lament, delivered from the heart and written in the blood of innocents. Whilst I-Octane is understandably focussed on the loss involved, you get the sense that the real criminals are those who sanction the manufacture of all these weapons, which then find their way onto the streets and into the hands of juvenile hotheads.

BEENIE MAN WINE & GUH DOWN [ADIDJAHEIM / NOT NICE]

Beenie Man voices for Vybz Kartel’s Gaza crew and then proceeds to tear up this slamming dancehall rhythm with such style and assurance, you’d never believe he was supposed to making way for a new generation of MCs. No chance of that whilst the Doctor is still in such blistering form and don’t miss Beat Dem Bad either, on the mad Jim Screechie rhythm from Equiknoxx.

RIHANNA & ASSASSIN RUDE GAL REMIX [BOARD HOUSE]

NIKKI BURT HOT LIKE THAT [BOARD HOUSE]

D’ ANGEL RUDE GAL [BOARD HOUSE]

Talking of Beenie, here’s his wife D’ Angel, dispensing advice to would-be rude gals over a dancehall mix of Rihanna’s Rude Boy. Most of the cuts we’ve heard so far are by female artists and yet still none come close to the original siren from Barbados [or the Jon FX remix.] Praise is due to Nikki Burt though and the Timberlee version is full of character too.

JAH CURE DON’T LET THEM CRY [SANKOFA]

ETANA NEVER FAIL [SANKOFA]

SIZZLA FREE UP DI HERBS [SANKOFA]

Sankofa’s Good Ova Evil rhythm is a charming one-drop, and guaranteed to wind up your waistline. Whereas Etana is concerned with righteous forbearance, Jah Cure has his thoughts on tomorrow’s leaders. “Don’t let them die in vain,” he pleads on behalf of ghetto youths. Echoes’ readers should know by now just how talented and distinctive this singer really is. Sizzla’s reputation is a little more complicated [!] except he’s especially compelling when calling for the legalisation of herb.

SPRAGGA BENZ SHOTTA CULTURE [BOOM TUNES]

This Salaam Remi remix of the lead track from Spragga’s latest album forms a bridge between the seventies’ roots sound pioneered by the likes of Bunny Lee in Jamaica, and the edgy production techniques we’re more accustomed to hearing on hip hop releases. It’s tough but then so is the language, and also the message.

Spragga lost a son to gun violence and so knows all about the heavy price that accompanies “shotta culture.” His lyrics therefore have authority except he’s not appealing for an end to hostilities, but warning street people to watch their backs and maintain “security like ultra…”

MAKEIDA JAMAICAN BOY [KEEP LEFT RECORDS]

Makeida is a female sing-jay who balances an old school flow with a delectable, fresh approach. She has another, more progressive tune called Hot It Up for the same label but it’s her take on this Craig “Left Side” Parks’ cut to Ansel Collins’ Stalag rhythm that’ll generate most attention among selectors.

NAFFI I GIDEON BOOTS [SUPATECH]

KINGSLEY WRAY FEATURING NAFFI I THE WORLD IS IN DANGER [SUPATECH]

SARAH TOBIAS VESTRY INSPIRATION INSTRUMENTAL / DUB [SUPATECH]

Supatech’s roots productions have the feel and energy of classic Jamaican releases. This latest set of tunes is delivered at brisk pace, and they’re lyrically conscious too. Naffi I has a soulful voice, and blends a little spoken word with his singing on the pilgrim tale that is Gideon Boots. The Vestry Dub is already rocking roots dances whilst Sarah Tobias’ sax instrumental is simply executed, yet wonderfully evocative.

BABY HEAD JUNGLE LAW / JUNGLE LORE [ROCKERS REVOLT]

BABY HEAD THINK MONEY / THINK MONEY DUB [ROCKERS REVOLT]

Two tracks taken from Baby Head’s Heavy Weather album and boasting a sound that’s been described as “ born out of a love for Jamaican sound clash, forged through a do-it-yourself punk ethic and delivered with a raw hip hop swagger.”

I’d agree with the “DIY punk ethic” but would suggest these sides have far more to do with recapturing the spirit of 2 Tone than anything to do with Kingston or New York, mixed with that quirky, English indie/pop sound you can trace back all the way to groups like Blur and the Kinks. I’ve heard they’re great fun live, as you’d expect from stable-mates of Pama International.

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About johnmasouri
John Masouri is a long-time author and music journalist specialising in reggae and its many off-shoots including dub, ska, roots and dancehall. The author of Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley's Wailers, published by Omnibus Press in 2008, he is currently working on a biography of reggae singer Peter Tosh, due to appear next year. In addition to book projects, he continues to write articles and reviews for Reggae Vibes (France), Riddim (Germany) and Echoes - formerly Black Echoes - which is renowned as Britain's No. 1 black music monthly. His work has also appeared in Mojo, Music Week, the Guardian, the Observer and the NME, as well as magazines in the US, Caribbean and Japan.

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