“Yeah… In smoking sensimiella you gotta give thanks and praise unto the almighty Lord God Jehovia… do it Jah… MURDER!”
Maxi Priest and Paul “Barry Boom” Robinson produced Philip Levi’s “Mi God Mi King”; the first vinyl outing for a member of the troupe of Saxon MCs (more about them soon).
The tune originally came out on a Bad Breed 7″ in 1984 and stormed up the reggae charts, hitting the number one spot in February. The reason for its success was that it was the first bit of vinyl to capture the “fast chat” style which had dominated Saxon and other soundsystems for the previous year, if not longer.
“…Mi God, Mi King
Him name Jah-ov-yah
Him inspire me to be a mike chatter
Mi mass wid di mike, round the amplifier
Mi fling way di slackness, cause now a culture
The conscious lyrics yuh a go hear me utter…
So if you are an adult or a teenager,
Seh every day you wake up you’ve read a chapter…”
UK Soundsystems of the time looked to JA for inspiration and Ranking Joe’s rapid fire delivery on yard tapes had caught on big time. But the Saxon MCs twisted the style to suit local conditions, so Levi’s debut combines righteousness and ganja smoking with couplets such as:
“…Sweetest singer a Sugar Minott
Maddest comedian is Kenny Everett
Jackal a turn in a vampire bat
But when he see sun he can’t take that…”
It’s this localism, combined with skillful delivery and wicked reworkings of old riddims (“Heavenless” in this case) which set the pace for UK deejay records for the next few years, and indeed to this day.
When the Bad Breed pressing sold out, the tune was repressed on Level Vibes as a 12″. In fact this was a Maxi Priest/ Papa Levi double header, with Maxi taking the first cut on each side, Levi following with a deejay version and then the dub finishing up.
I can’t begin to describe how well all this works – Maxi’s “Sensi” is one of the best UK roots tunes I’ve heard with its proper raw production (cruelly polished up on his 1st LP) – following it with “Mi God Mi King” doubles the impact – Levi’s ability to cram more words into a line mean that it actually feels like the riddim is pitched up. It isn’t. His break-out into double speed vocals half way through the track provide the kind of intensity also seen in jungle with its beats going twice the speed of the bassline.
“…Living in babylon as a black man
Well all me face is racialism
When me weak they say that me strong
When me right they say that me wrong…”
The flipside of the 12″, with Maxi’s “Love in the Ghetto” coupled with Levi’s “Mi Deh Ina Mi Yard” is perhaps even better. Maxi haunting vocals making an appearance in the background of Levi’s ominous chat about the Brixton riots…
Veteran reggae journalist Penny Reel remembers the demand for the song at the time meaning that all the available record presses in London were running full pelt, 24 hours a day to satisfy demand.
Indeed “Mi God Mi King” was so successful that it was snapped up by Sly & Robbie in JA, who released it on their own Taxi label. Levi then made history once again when the tune became the first by a UK deejay to reach number one in the JA charts. Imagine the feelings of elation that must have unleashed in the reggae community in the UK and London, who had looked to Jamaica for inspiration since the very beginning…
“…True me no check for politician
No care who win the election
Pon the mike me please everyone
Flashing down style and fashion”
Chapter Two: Papa Levi – onwards and upwards…