Jamaica Way

When sampling began to appear on American rap hits in the late Seventies, it was just plain weird, a novelty in which big swatches of a familiar hook were thrust in your face as a dare not to buy the record. Over time, sampling evolved from a joke to an art form to just another way lawyers do business under the cover of music.

 

But where North America’s music industry was huge and impersonal, Jamaica’s was small and, despite fierce rivalries, intimate. There was constant overlap and interplay between reggae producers, DJs, sound system operators, singers, and session musicians. So when dancehall DJ U-Roy burst on the scene in 1970 with three consecutive number-one records in the brand new style of toasting over rhythm tracks from somebody else’s records, it didn’t provoke the great philosophical and legal debates that sampling did in the U.S. Indeed, it was the original producers who were the source of those rhythm tracks, which they often remixed specifically for new recordings.

 

A host of DJs-on-wax followed U-Roy. One of the best was Roy Reid, the mighty bantamweight toaster better known as I-Roy. On Don’t Check Me With No Lightweight Stuff, I-Roy’s voice is a combination of subtle earth tones and piercing power, always seeming to find an element in the backing track to dance with; it’s the horns on “Sidewalk Killer,” the wah-wah guitar on “Hot Stuff,” the slinky bass on “Ken Boothe Special.” On the magnificent “Holy Satta,” based on the Abyssinians classic devotional “Satta Matta Gana,” he seems to be in a duet with the Holy Spirit itself. I-Roy is also a movie critic (“Buck and the Preacher”), a sports fan (“Don’t Get Weary Joe Frazier”), and a bit of a folksinger (Bob Marley’s “Talking Blues”). All of this is presented with great sound and packaging, as we’ve come to expect from Blood & Fire, the pioneering reggae reissue label.

 

 

Miami New Times /1997