Wednesday, March 30, 2005

they call it murder

happy to be here

That spine-tingling thrill… when something bobs to the surface and breaks through the flotsam and jetsam… floating out of the muck… for a moment you can picture it’s trajectory… launching over the churning sea of Whogivesashit. There are all sorts of lovely creatures below the surface… but dem waters run deep… ankles wet in hip-hop brackish. But there it is… some perfect whale song echoing dub-like just past the breakers… beckoning wave from deep dark seas… damn if it ain’t saying “Welcome to Jamrock!”

This Damien Marley tune has been causing waves since W was re-upped in ’04. The reggaerati and apparantly some in Sucka Free territory have been riding it for a while…. but it’s just about to hit my shore…

Speaking from outside of the culture it can be quite refreshing to hear a reggae or dancehall joint on pop radio but when was the last time I heard a ‘roots’ sound and when did that sound seem to be perfectly crafted to cut through it all, stand tall and point a finger and declare it’s imminent crossover. ‘Jamrock’ did it somehow and, unexpectedly, on the deservedly maligned hip-pop station Hot 97. It sounds revolutionary in that context. And yet nothing is particularly new about it. The track and vocal sample (“Out in the streets, they call it murder!”) are from Ini Kamoze and the title is sampled from Bounty Killa (extra special credit to Forward Ever for schooling my fresh ears). The content seems to parallel the hip-hop reportage I’m more familiar with but with a more critical and definitely heavy-lidded eye. The video also uses the familiar hip-hop structure of showing ‘REAL folk’ in the ‘REAL hood’ going on about their ‘business’ or staring directly into the camera only to join in on the ironic greeting of the title. The slow slide camera pans of ‘Jamrock’ residents and reverse dolly shots of the reporter Marley are clichés for a reason. Effective for every hood we have been (re)introduced to by young representatives… from Compton to Marcy, Brixton to the ‘Nolia… it’s imagery that we’ve seen countless times but it’s ‘authenticity’ (yes… I said it) never gets old. The ambitions of crossover are apparent in a video that shows a street gambling beef settled with a shank and young bwoys with bright green plastic TOY guns. But the words make it very clear what is concerning Mr. Marley…

Come on let’s face it, a ghetto education’s basic,
Most a di yutes, dem waste it
And when dem waste it, dat’s when they tek di guns replace it
Then dem don’t stand a chance at all
And dat’s why enough likkle yute have up some fat ‘matic

Damien has shown up on my radar in the past via the Dead Prez ‘Turn Off the Radio’ mixtape which led me to the source but THIS… the straight from the plastic-radio samples sent into the outer space dub echo chamber over a dusty but bubbly bounce sliced by the declarative unrelenting steady jabs of Marley’s multi-line rhymes…these familiar pieces recombined… at the right time… right NOW… this sounds like something new. Ya heard?

Damien “Jr. Gong" Marley - Welcome to Jamrock
Damien “Jr. Gong" Marley, Capleton – It was Written