Damian Marley – Welcome to Jamrock (Ghetto Youths United 2005)
As I said at the time:
“It’s fair to say that Bob Marley had a load of kids. It’s probably only slightly contentious to point out that, whilst many of them have entered the record industry, not many of them have produced anything of much cop. Chalk one up for nurture in the great reggae genetics debate…
However, I was somewhat chuffed to come across Maestro’s “I’m a Dad” single a while back, on the Ghetto Youths United label, which apparently has some kind of Marley connection. A nice bouncy do-over riddim (yeah yeah I’ll get back to you on which one, it’s late!) with a gruff voice on the pleasures of fatherhood – without sounding too trite about it. Nice!
Anyway, if that was a pleasant surprise, my jaw totally dropped to the floor when I first heard Rodigan play “Welcome to Jamrock”. Easily my favourite for 2005 so far, this is going to be MASSIVE!
Great reality ranty lyris: “come on let’s face it, a ghetto education’s basic, and most of the youth dem waste it…”. HUGE HUGE riddim based around and old Ini Kamoze tune with Ini in the mix: “out in the streets, they call it MURDER”
You need this. Unbelievably there is also a Ray Keith drum ‘n’ bass mix in the offing (allegedly).
Aaaaaand it looks like someone is really getting behind this one for a change. Reggae on the up, hey there’s even a great video. Check it aaaaaaht.”
And yeah all that investment paid off. I guess this is probably the reggae tune of the decade in many ways. If you discount the dancehall flava of Sean Paul and Shaggy, this has been heard by most people…
Grime, garage and jungle mixes followed swiftly afterwards. Damian’s brother Stephen followed suit with the excellent “Traffic Jam” and for a minute it looked like the Marley dynasty was going to prove itself useful again…
Cham – Ghetto Story (Madhouse 2005)
“This a survival story, True ghetto story
This is my story, Real ghetto story
I remember those days when Hell was my home
When Me and Mama bed was a big piece a foam
An mi never like bathe and my hair never comb”
You can’t argue with Cham over a Dave Kelly riddim – Vitamin S (Fiesta, 2003), Rude Boy Pledge (Stageshow, 2006) – much fun to be had. The Eighty-Five riddim crowned them all though. Was it called that because it was at 85 bpm or because it recalled 1985, the dawn of the minimal digi ragga riddim?
Suddenly this was everywhere – the slightly wonky synth intro announcing many a version excursion. Pinchers’ “Desperate Scenario” donated some balance to the procedings with his higher pitched vocal whilst Assassin’s “Everywhere we go” retaind the gruffness but wasn’t anywhere near Cham’s standard. Yellowman’s cut showed the grandmaster slightly worse for wear but was alright.
Then YT got in the game with his “England Story” – altering Cham’s lyrics of a hard childhood in Kingston to a history of UK soundsystem. Unfortunately YT then re-recorded the backing track for his LP, which isn’t surprising given Dave Kelly’s litigious habits, but made a less powerful track. Me and Paul used the original YT cut as an intro to our “Fast Chat Special” mix for Dave Stelfox’s Resonance FM show.
Then (argh!) Akon and (mmm!) Alicia Keys got in on the act and Cham signed a major label record deal…
Gyptian – Serious Times (Fenz 2005)
OK, comments about “Drop Leaf”-mania aside, I liked this one. I liked it a lot – something about the simplicity of the lyrics and delivery makes it very emotional. I can completely understand why people who got into reggae via industrial or On-U Sound would hate this, or just find its sincerity a bit grating.
A very very young vocalist called QQ had a good cut called “Poverty” on the same riddim. QQ also produced one of the few amazing dancehall cuts towards the end of the decade “Tek It To Dem” which would probably make a Top 40 list if I was doing one.
Jammer did a grime re-rub in his Neckle Camp guise. Paul Meme still rejected this for the Grime in the Dancehall mix, though!
Fantan Mojah – Hungry (Down Sound 2005)
Fantan’s delivery is fantastic, and at the risk of repeating myself, this was just a great upbeat reworking of an old formula.
Twilight Circus featuring Michael Rose & Brother Culture – No Burial (M Records 2005)
Ryan Moore really went out on a limb with his productions in the noughties – the full story his trip to Jamaica to work with legends like Sly and Robbie is told in issue 3 of Woofah.
This tune was recorded in a few locations and combines the JA and UK roots styles perfectly. You can tell he’s been as inspired by Shaka as Xterminator, and it all has a brightness to it which only comes with hours of studio time and dedication.
The TC back catalogue can be a bit bewildering at first glance, but basically anything featuring vocalists is a “must have” if you like this. Also some wicked remixes on the singles.
Obviously taking the time to produce tunes like this costs wonga, which in the olden days you might recoup through sales, but now…
Chuck Fender – Gash Dem (Jukeboxxx 2006)
More anti-badman chatting, which apparently irked the autorities in JA so much that they banned it from radio. Presumably because they didn’t want to put off the tourists? Or because of all the attention paid to “murder music” from some quarters (which would be bleakly ironic as the song only calls for the metaphysical destruction of gangsters etc). Chuck’s next single was called “Freedom of Speech”.
The Confessions riddim included some other beauties, some of which are included on RSI Radio vol 1, which also features me mumbling away.
Sizzla – Chant Dem Down (Kalonji 2006)
A “one away” from one of the crossest men in reggae. Tip of the hat again to Rodigan, blink and you missed this release. Headnodding beats under a loop from Errol Dunkley’s “Little Way Different”. I guess this must have been an experiment that paid off? More of This Sort of Thing, please!
Collie Budz – Come Around (Massive B 2006)
Guaranteed dancefloor mayhem, especially when backed up with Alborosie’s “Rastafari Anthem” on the same riddim – a do-over (or sample?) from an old Zap Pow track.
Everyone loved this, except it seems for smug white Guardian journalists. It certainly went down a treat when I played it about six o’clock in the morning at that House Party rave.
Manasseh/Ava Leigh – Over The Bridge (Roots Garden 2007)
Now Nick Manasseh is a UK roots legend, but I was a little concerned cos as far as I knew the last female vocalist he’d worked with was Dido. Ava Leigh was promoted as being a mixture of Dido and er… Lily Allen, maybe. So I avoided her when she was playing the beer tent at the Big Chill one year. Stupid preconceptions got blasted again when I heard this, and her “La La La” single. She’s got a great voice as well as being (ahem) picturesque.
So this is one tune on Manasseh’s Levi Riddim, which also features cuts from Luciano & Ras Zacharri (River Jordan) and Jah Mali (Jah Works).
What makes it great is that sparse digital stuff happening in the mix, and the lush stuff over the top of it. Roots Garden haven’t really put a foot wrong, so check them out. Their twelve inch “Showcase” EPs are especially recommended.
Alborosie track – Kingston Town (Forward 2007)
Or the “biddly bong” song, as it came to be known. Alborosie first came to my attention in 2006 with his tune Herbalist which was very top stuff and further distinguished itself by having a half decent dub version on the b-side.
Then it emerged that he was a white, dreadlocked Italian who had rocked up in Kingston and spoke better patois than English. Dave Stelfox got the low down once again.
A whole bunch of great seven inches were released on his Forward label (often in distinctive yellow sleeves, for some reason) and he collaborated with everyone from Sizzla to Michael Rose. His production was bang on too.
And yes, there aren’t any tracks from 2008 or 2009 in this chart. Make of that what you will. I’m sure I have missed some tracks, so eel free to do your own versions or leave a comment…