Papa Levi chapter one

“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…


  1. What a tune. There is a pirate station, think it’s Mystic, that is playing this a lot at the moment. One of their DJs love it so much, he trots out all the above facts each time he spins it. Plus one other, which is that it was the first track on Taxi not produced by the rhythm twins. Not sure if that’s true or not, but it makes sense. Wasn’t it also the first UK tune by any kind of artist to make No.1 in JA, not just DJ tune? Again I am just parroting the man on Mystic, haven’t a clue myself.

  2. Yes indeed – first UK tune, regardless of singer/DJ/whatever to make it to number one in JA… it is a classic, but is fairly underexposed, despite appearing on the odd comp (I think Ian Brown’s “At home with…” had it on or whatever it’s called.)

  3. Back in 84-86 there was a college radio station (WFIT) on which two Jamaican students DJ’d every Sunday afternoon. I was obsessed with Jamaican and UK sounds so I recorded the broadcasts religiously. It was during one of these broadcasts that I first heard Mi God Mi King and I can still remember how excited I got as I listened in awe. When the song ended I remember thinking “God I hope this crappy little tape deck recorded that song!”. I still rock that song to this day!

  4. One of my all time favorites. Unfortunately, probably because I am Dutch, I only understand about half of the lyrics. Does anyone have the full lyrics?

  5. It wasn’t exactly the 1st bit of vinyl with fast-style, that was a lyric by Tippa Irie, his partner on Saxon with “it ah de time de lyric ah rhyme” on the UK 1st ever live DJ albums in 1983.
    Levi was on the albums too with Peter King the fast-style originator though neither of them chat their fast-style on the albums.
    Another Saxon DJ called Daddy Colonel had the fastest lyrics and with his roll-tongue technique of delivery he has the hardest lyrics to understand – even today!!

  6. I will never forget when this song came out, I was in B’ham at the time it had set the nite clubs, blues dance’s a fire wicked tune. This tune is one of the greatest tune’s ever out of England. Now whatever happen to the Levi mi no hear nutting from the brother in a while. Anyway brother wherever you are JAH bless. If your ever in New York area please perform at S.O.B.B’s,,,,Nuff Love Daddy Chris.

  7. Yes Daddy Chris Levi has done shows in New York Wid Jah Bud (hat happened to him) Shine Head Pretty boy Sister Sonny (saw her end of last year) Kiety Dread ,Treco. and others from uk..If New youk wants Levi Just shout..we got direct the mystic known as “Pappa Levi”. Its just great to get into a resoning with Levi..the man is deep as the river..and got so much to wonder he needed the fast style as i say hes still in need to press prompters to release the tunes looks like a stand off is going on . I know if ye get a chance to catch the Mad proffessor on tour youll get to hear up to date tracks from papa levi..Levi aint lost a thing if ye ask me hes even hotter now…dont take my wod for it check get proffessor to release them BIG tunes hes got with Papa Levi..


  9. I grew up in Montreal and remember picking up an album called Great British MCs. The album kicked off with Smiley Culture’s Slam Bam which blew me away. However, once I heard Papa Levi pon de version, I was down for the count. Some of the greatest lyrics I’ver heard. “You could be a woman or even a man, there’s too much MC inna Inglan. Think with me head, write with me hand, together ya call it origination”. DO IT JAH!


  11. What a tune. my mate was working in Brixton at the time and on his lunch break, popped into one of the local record shops.e came out with Mi God Mi King on the 12′ Level Vibes lable (which also included Maxi Priest “Sensi” and In a Mi Yard by Levi.,At the same time bought Gimme Gimme Lovin By Natural Touch. Still playing both to this day. Two very different tunes but both fantastic in thier own right.Typified the great things that were happening in British reggae at the time. What a time to be around. The 70s and 80s will always be the best time in reggae for me.

  12. The absolute “King ina de ring” what can you say about this MC. Had the pleasure of taking him in during the early 80’s even stood on the stage and watched him do his “ting” when he performed with Tippa (Bilston rising star, 1984) Awesome “me a tell yu”!. I still play this mans cassette tapes and cant think of any other tape that dealth such a blow to another as when he hurt Lesley lyrics “ouch”!. Levi was by far the best of all the Mc’s and everyone of them was good so that shows how good he was. I always felt that this great artist would go on and mash up the scene this didnt seem to happen and it would be interesting to find out why? Nevertheless, those of us who had the chance to hear the King dun no seh once a “King always a King”. Papa Levi entertained many of us during those early years and I,m not sure if it has really been acknowleged how instrumental this brothers lyrics inspired I an I. To be fair nuff respect to all MC’s as all had a message and gave good vibes to. I could write about this MC all day and night but you know what? I still would’nt do him justice. So finally, Just a big thank you Levi because I an I the people who you performed to really appreciated what you gave us!

    Blessed Love Rastafari Liveth. KC aka The King Original



  15. Check out, for a wicked clip of Papa levi and the Saxon Crew, live and Direct Circa around 1985 on a BBC documentary. It’s short but sweeet.

  16. Excellent history of the time, but one point needs correction. The couplet should read

    …Dracula turn in a vampire bat…


    …Jackal a turn in vampire bat.

    In Jamaican English, the consonants /dr/ before a vowel are frequently pronounced like a /j/. Dracula is therefore pronounced ‘Jacula’, hence your confusion.

  17. I have just recently purchased a white label 12” with Mi God Mi King on one side, and Love In The Ghetto on the other.
    both are then followed by a toaster version, and after that a dub version.
    but nothing about that is in the story above.
    does anybody know anything more about this disc?

  18. Silly me… After listening to the disc a little better, and re-reading the top bit, I must have a white label version of the Level Vibes 12″
    So I now have the tracklisting down to :

    A1 – Maxi Priest : Sensi
    A2 – Papa Levi : Mi God Mi King
    A3 – ???
    B1 – Maxi Priest : Love In The Ghetto
    B2 – Papa Levi : Mi Deh Ina Mi Yard
    B3 – ???

    can anybody help me out with performers and titles of the dub versions?



  21. I recorded this song off of a Baltimore, MD radio station about 20-30 years ago and the recording wasn’t top notch. I didn’t know thw artist or the song’s name- just that it was good. Thanks to this site I just downloaded a nice clear version of it all these years later. Thanks


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