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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

ESSENTIAL DANCEHALL REGGAE: 16 BOOM SOUNDS FROM THE UK’S PREMIER ARTISTS

By Mamoun Diallo
Published September 8, 2005

Music Club

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, U.K. DJs came into their own, with a new bag of tricks— “fast chatting,” cockney slang, etc.—uniquely shaped by British pop culture. At the forefront was the Fashion Records label, whose progress this compilation charts diligently. Fashion was founded by Chris Lane and John MacGillivray, who cut their teeth using DJs from London’s massive Saxon Sound Studio International sound system. These DJs, like Papa Levi and Tippa Irie, had pioneered the “fast chat” style of hyperkinetic rhyming. Fashion recorded these DJs over the most minimalist of riddim tracks and racked up hit after hit. But it was Smiley Culture, whose classic “Police Officer” kicks off the collection, who turned it into both a signature and a defiant signifier of Black Britain. Other standout tracks include Macka B’s “Bible Reader” and Papa San’s “DJ Business.” While the album tracks the label’s releases all the way into the ’90s jungle excursions—most hilariously on Starkey Banton’s “Jungle Bungle”—the real gold here is the earliest material.