Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Reggae Nuggets

By Dave Chamberlain

JULY 10, 2000: 

Various Artists Reggae Gold 2000 (VP Records)

Kingston-based VP Records, a 20-year-old progenitor of reggae, has been releasing records for its "Reggae Gold" series since 1994. To compile the most up-to-date reggae sound, VP mines the dancehall hits, drawing on everything from hard ragga-dancehall to sickly sweet rocksteady love. The past seven "Reggae Gold"s have succeeded despite an often uneven sound thanks to such divergent styles, and "Reggae Gold 2000" follows suit. Dancehall's newest stars are all represented (Sean Paul, Lexxus) alongside the genre's trailblazers (Bounty Killer, Professor Nuts) and artists who disdain the BOOM-BOOM hip-hoppish beats of modern dancehall (Glen Washington, Morgan Heritage, Sanchez). Reggae fans into the simplistic, harder, masculine ragga style will quickly get addicted to Beenie Man's "Ganja Farm" and Madd Anju's "Nuh Play Chess"; on the more traditional reggae side, Heritage's "Down by the River" and Beres Hammond's "They Gonna Talk" feature smooth, soulful vocals that would shame R. Kelly. "Reggae Gold 2000" also includes a second CD remixing all the songs, plus a couple more, in the true ghetto dancehall style, complete with reverb dubs and overlaid vocals from the DJ. A great CD to set the record straight: Modern reggae is a blissfully far cry from Bob Marley.

Capleton More Fire (VP Records)

Hardcore conscious dancehall reggae. Capleton includes himself in the ranks of the Bobo Rastafari, an ultra-religious, more Africanized sect of Haile Selassie worshippers most easily recognized by their manner of dress: dreads in turbans, long robes of all black or white, and little else. The music made by Bobos (the other primary Bobo Rastafarian is the prolific Sizzla) is much more aggressive than the stereotypical reggae (Marley, Culture), a cross of dancehall's big beat and the nyabinghi chant (so named for an African drumming ritual, which in turn takes its name from Kenyan freedom fighters during British colonialism; it literally means "death to whites"). For his seventh full-length record, Capleton brings the anti-Babylon fire he first ignited on "I Testament," chanting rhythmic protest tracks like "Final Assassin (on a mission)" and "Boost No War" while also showing himself not invulnerable to the lure of a dancehall hit, with the tale of a woman who won't give blowjobs ("Good in Her Clothes"). Capleton's voice is itself a violent weapon, rough and sermonizing, oddly similar to Busta Rhymes. Combined with sometimes simple and sometimes complex rhythmic patterns, Capleton's harsh style creates an energy of uneasy tension, more hardcore than any bald band on the East Coast could ever hope to be.

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