Here's the problem with reggae : its primary adherents in North America are hippies. Upper-class white kids with belabored dreadlocks. You know, morons. We don't much cotton to hippies here at Latewire, so therefore we don't really listen to reggae. Calypso, ska, rocksteady, dub, dancehall, jungle, yes. Reggae no. In case you hadn't noticed, it's not standard procedure here to 'lively up oneself.'
Recently, I've begin to reexamine this prejudice. In a car I rented recently, there was the newfangled satellite radio, so I tuned to the reggae station (called, of course, "the Joint" BAAAARF). I heard, in rapid succession, gritty, forboding tunes by Max Romeo, Culture, and Peter Tosh that I realized were not only non-hippie, but also objectively good. I began to think : why do I readily accept reggae as a part of a rap tune (cf. KRS-One, Ice Cube, Run-DMC) or neopsychedelia (Massive Attack, Tricky), but refuse to countenance it on its own? It's because hippies stink. But I realized that it's not th' fault of th' reggae artists themselves that their Stateside champions are these kinds of RABS poser slime :
So after coming to grips with this simple PR disaster, I gave a bunch of reggae tunes a listen and liked many of them. Toots, Max Romeo ("Lucifer!"), Dennis Brown, and th' standard output of Horace Andy all met with my approval. I've been a fan of Damian Marley since his breakout hit "Welcome to Jamrock," and I guess that while I've considered him dancehall because of his toasting style, th' music has more to do with traditional reggae than I was willing to admit to myself. One thing about Jamaican music (best typified in dub, which is always great) is that it nearly always includes crushingly heavy bass, which is something we could all use more of in our lives.
So, take some Thorazine, stay in yr house, and give some real dire Jamaican reggae a listen. Not any kind of bullcrap California pansy stoner rubbish, either. You might find as I did that reggae isn't just for $%&holes any more.
As a special treat, here's the original (rocksteady) version of one of everybody's favorite Massive Attack cover tune, "Man Next Door." This gem written by John Holt (also of "The Tide Is High" fame) is here performed by his group the Paragons. Nice wailing stuff.
For crying out loud though -- can anybody give me a reasonably sane explanation of what in blazes "Tu Sheng Peng" is?
BONUS! Here's the hard-to-find uncensored version of "Welcome to Jamrock." Funnyman a get dropped like a bad habit, apparently.
Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:11 am Like all other nouns in reggae lyrics, Tu Sheng Peng is likely a euphemism for "marijuana."
Another example is Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff." People think that's about some kind of murder, but in reality, the lyrics should be interpreted as "I shot the marijuana // but I did not shoot the marijuana." It's actually an attempt at wordplay and a reminder to Mr Marley's fans that he does indeed use marijuana.