The sheer bombast and spectacle of mainstream dancehall nearly eclipses a smaller but equally vibrant scene overseas: Conscious dancehall, a less-chest-thumping branch more focused on ganja than on gats, combines dancehall’s verbal gymnastics with roots reggae-style rhythms.
The conscious scene in Birmingham, England, has gotten a boost of late from an array of skilled vocal talent coalescing around highly regarded producers Brian Nordhoff and Rob Cimarosti, otherwise known as the Groove Corporation. The combination of the MCs’ lyrical dexterity and the deep, dance-friendly dub enveloping them has been a hit with crowds all over Europe, where the collective has toured as Overproof Soundsystem.
Now the group has an outstanding debut CD, Nothing to Proove. Reflecting the sound-system vibe of the live show, OS jumps around in style with a mixture of melodic chants, rapid-fire odes, and dancehall party anthems. MC Jugglah bobs and weaves his lyrics around bouncy jump-up rhythms, while Ras Tweed’s soft melodies ride a rolling dub in “The Plea” and the chatty Cheshire Cat delivers a joyous ode to “The Herb.” The lone instrumental here, a tribute remix of Jah Shaka’s famous dubplate “Kunta Kinte,” is the only element that feels out of place. On the other hand, it’s a statement by Nordoff and Cimarosti of their commitment to music that speaks to something a little deeper while still rockin’ the house.