I honestly can’t clearly remember what my first experience was with Reggae Music. My parents were heavy into music, but Reggae was not something in their collection. I got a touch of it thru Motown and other Soul artists borrowing from the sounds, but didn’t always make the connection, except in the more blatant examples like Stevie Wonder. I have scattered memories of hearing Bob Marley songs in my youth, but I imagine that is a similar experience for anyone growing up at the time. I didn’t really grasp what Reggae Music was just yet.
Considering that, there’s no doubt that I really started to appreciate and fall in love with Reggae via Hip Hop. The movement of the Mid 80s was key, with artists such as Shinehead, Just-Ice, KRS One, Daddy Freddy & Asher D, Soul Dimension and a few more. They weren’t the first to use Reggae Music in Hip Hop, but definitely the ones that made it popular. The Reggae push got even stronger in the 90s, which included a influx of traditional Reggae artists releasing tracks over Hip Hop styled beats; Shabba Ranks, Supercat, Cutty Ranks, Mad Cobra, Ini Kamoze, etc… That trend caught on like wildfire and suddenly there were numerous Reggae Artists becoming a part of American Popular Music Culture. I thought that was amazing! You have Hip Hop music, which is clearly inspired by Reggae traditions, now being responsible for introducing a range of Reggae Artists to the US. It is a great way for Hip Hop to repay its debt to Reggae. I’m actually curious as to how much effect Hip Hop had on the popularity of Reggae in America. I’ll have to dig up some research…
In any event, in the Early 90s I started living with a friend of mine named BMZ a.k.a Black Man Zeke and his dad. It was a great experience for multiple reasons. They let me set up my home studio in a backroom and I could do sessions literally whenever I wanted. It was a completely laid back environment, except for the shenanigans perpetrated by Zeke and myself. Also, they had roots in Jamaica, so living there exposed me to a lot of that Culture. I found it fascinating and begun to explore it more often. What I quickly learned was I wasn’t that interested in the popular Reggae sound of the day, Dancehall, which suffered many of the same criticisms of Mainstream Hip Hop. I was initially drawn to it because of the beats, but that was a theory I rejected in Hip Hop for the most part. I always put equal, if not more consideration, in the lyrics. I started to apply that same line of thinking to Reggae.
Once I embarked on that musical journey I discovered I was far more moved, entertained and appreciative of the Reggae styles of Roots & Dub. I had a stronger connection to songs of struggle, love, survival, Culture and things that touched the Soul. Barrington Levy was an instant favorite, but also I was hooked on Horace Andy, Dawn Penn, Lee Scratch Perry, Sister Nancy, Tenor Saw, Yellowman, King Tubby, and similar artists. It’s actually funny that I didn’t discover that before since the Hip Hop artists who really introduced me to Reggae were primarily rhyming and chatting about those same things; KRS One, Just-Ice, Shinehead, etc…
I maintained that connection with Roots Reggae, but admittedly did not branch out too far from those basic artists I mentioned above, only picking up a couple “handful” of new songs and artists over the years. That’s why I was excited when Traffic Entertainment started offering more Reggae titles on Vinyl & CD. I started picking up a few things here and there, but finally decided to just go all out!
Fifth Element has created a new Reggae section in-store and online! Many of the titles are from the Clocktower Label, but there is a wide range of talent represented, as well as a nice combination of CD and Vinyl options. In doing this I have accomplished what I feared and what kept me from getting “too” intrigued by Reggae…a lot of money that I will spend…ha. At some point and time, I “need” to own all these albums, so I’m just going to slowly build the collection. I suggest you do the same…
Among our collection you will find the work of Barrington Levy, King Tubby, Scientist, Jackie Mittoo, Lee Scratch Perry, Augustus Pablo, Horace Andy, Jah Thomas, Jah Woosh, Linval Thompson, Roots Radics, Slim Smith, Tristan Palma, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Keith Rowe, Naggo Moris, Johnny Osbourne, Heptones, Bunny & Ricky, John Holt, Ranking Dillinger,The Ethiopians, Prince Jazz Bo, and more!!
You can peep the Reggae section online HERE or in the store the Reggae CD section is at the front of the store in the New Release Rack and there is a Reggae section clearly marked in the vinyl area.
This also reminds me I’ve been meaning to do a blog about the History of Reggae in Hip Hop, but haven’t gotten around to it. In 2006 I did a 6 Part special on the “History OF Reggae Hip Hop” on my Redefinition Radio Show (89.3 The Current).
-Here's just a small sampling of what you will find in our stacks of goodies:
The Upsetters-Blackboard Jungle Dub Version 1 (from "Blackboard Jungle" CD/LP)
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/01-Blackboard-Jungle-Dub-Version-1.mp3|titles=01 Blackboard Jungle Dub (Version 1)]
Augustus Pablo-Road Block (from "Ital Dub" CD/LP)
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/02-Road-Block.mp3|titles=02 Road Block]
Jackie Mittoo-Drum Song (from "Showcase Volume 3")
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/04-Drum-Song.mp3|titles=04 Drum Song]
Lee "Scratch" Perry-When Jah Come (from "Chapter 1" or "Eternal Dubs" CDs)
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-When-Jah-Come.mp3|titles=06 When Jah Come]
*Of course, you also have to give credit to many Punk Rock artists who were also early supporters of Reggae music and are also responsible for its popularity in the U.S. and Europe.