Two weeks ago, Busy Signal's superb Step Out LP hit stores stateside. Obviously, we think you should own it - that should go without saying BUT WE WILL SAY IT NONETHELESS. Check out Eddie "Stats" Houghton's Gen F on Busy from F39 after the jump.
Busy Signal minces words
By Edwin “Stats” Houghton
In reggae business, false promotion is often the sincerest form of flattery. On that score, the name Busy Signal deserves high praise indeed, as it appears everywhere from misprinted labels on other artist’s 45s to vanloads of flyers for stage-shows at which he’s guaranteed to not perform. “They don’t care!” Busy says. “Promoter falsely put my name an’ picture on a flyer, knowin that I don’t know nuttin about that show.”
In February, even cabinet minister Portia Simpson Miller caught the vapors, appropriating the Busy tune “Where I’m From” at ghetto campaign rallies for her successful bid to become Jamaica’s first female PM. It’s a crowded bandwagon for an artist who was still rhyming ‘under tree’ in the notorious West Kingston garrison of Tivoli Gardens two years ago, but all the hype is because Busy (aka Reanno Gordon) is the architect of a tough, staccato flow. It sits flawlessly atop the speed-demon beats of current dancehall—what he himself describes as, “Those real fas’ you gotta wonder if it’s soca or that UK type a disco or somethin else kinda riddim.”
In a style that can only be described as post-Vybz Kartel, lyrics are not so much spit as chopped up—on his signature 45 “Step Out,” they’re clevered into 2-word riffs expertly placed to reveal the menace living between them: Afta mi… step out/ Inna mi… black hat/ Have glock/ Under mi… throw back/ …Badman nuh take backchat!
The unique interlock of words and riddim may have something to do with the fact that “Step Out” is self-produced, a pattern that’s distinguished Busy ever since he brought Renaissance Disco’s DJ Karim the beat, concept and lyrics for a tune called “Born & Raised.” Linking with Renaissance proved fruitful, as key 45s like “Step Out” and “Brighter Day” have dropped on affiliated labels, and a mushrooming partnership with the sound’s top selector Delano has given him first crack at the choice bashment riddims. “I was like the in-home artist,” Busy says. “Whenever he build a riddim I would be the one that he send around there to test it, like… just to hear how something sound on it before he got the Sean Paul, the TOK an’ the Bounty Killer.”
Still, considering the overtime his name has put in on other people’s behalf, it’s understandable that Busy’s debut LP will drop on his own Network Records—the only way to make sure it conveys the real him. “I’m from the trenches,” he says. “Not the nice, goody-goody brought-up part of life but the real barefoot thing, yunno. Plus my flow is really different.”