Face it: reggae is nerdy. Sure, it shakes its booty and gets plenty blunted, but what it really wants is to play in its laboratory.
As evidence, check out Westbury Music’s Attack Gold and Observer Gold series of 10-inches, which compile tracks by seminal producers Bunny Lee and Niney respectively. Their ’70s rocksteady anthems are matched with dubbed-out remixes that are classics in their own right. Ronnie Davis‘ soulful observance that “Every Rasta Is a Star” gets King Tubby‘s cubist reworking; Dennis Brown‘s “Take a Trip,” spaced out enough for I Roy to toast over on “Fresh and Clean,” fragments further on an even later dub version.
The geeks own the dancefloor as well. Three double-vinyl, single-riddim comps keep ragga’s robo-bleeps alive. VP‘s “Diggy Diggy” is a cool midtempo three-beat with synth accents and a keyboard bass, on which crooners like Mr. Easy and Ce’Cile outperform the deejays (MCs). VP’s synthetic Earth Wind ‘N’ Flames, however, sounds like an electric storm gone haywire. Hide from it.
On Greensleeves’ Clappas riddim, with its peppy boomba-chacka beat and ray-gun flourishes, Mr. Vegas, Alozade, and Hollow Point rework Barrington Levy‘s “Under Me Sensi” — making it twice that the classic has been nerdified. In 1985, of course, producer Prince Jammy‘s Casio keyboard-built “Under Me Sleng Teng” first summoned the computer generation into Jamaica’s studios.
Now everyone wants to remix. Promowax’s second Massive Joints EP combines knocking reggae reworkings of R&B claptrap like Nivea‘s “Don’t Mess with My Man” with vinylly scarce essentials such as “Action” by Terror Fabulous. All have extended intros and outros for easier blending.
Shoot, even rootsy Junior Kelly, with the wicked Bless, and Natural Black, with the even better Spiritual Food, ride uptempo electronic tracks (dorks!) between melodic roots versions, proving that the term “new roots” is no oxymoron. Ghost, meanwhile, has been studying up on sultriness and soul covers, as evidenced by her exquisite Under the Moonlight.
So what does all this teach you? Just what you should have learned in school — that nerds demma cool. Now hit ya books.