Tonight, dancehall production titans Leftside & Esco make their way to Club Tobago in Queens to perform at the Carib Music Fest. You might know L&E from their massive Galore riddim and its single, "More Punanny" (recorded under their jokey and awesome Dr Evil alias and became a pretty sizeable mixshow hit in NYC this past summer), or a billion other great 45s. If not, get familiar via Eddie Stats's Gen F on the team from F34, reprinted after the jump.
New New Wave
Leftside & Esco get ahead at mid-tempo
By Edwin “Stats” Houghton
Never underestimate a ghetto proverb. As a young’un playing 4-square on Detroit sidewalks, I certainly could not have predicted the future relevance of playground gems like, “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt” or “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
For current dancehall darlings Leftside & Esco “You must be in it to win it” is the operative hood axiom. The duo have been handing in respectable boom tunes for Lexxus (“Good Hole”) and Sizzla (“Give it it to Them”) since 2001, with riddims like Famine and Chiney Gal—solid, atmospherically raw tracks of the species that run Jamaica for a season but don’t necessarily attain the chart position and international burn of a true monster like Diwali. So one could be forgiven for failing to smell greatness with the 2005 release of the Throwback Giggy riddim on their Young Legends label. But what allowed Lefty & Esco to achieve their musical alter-destiny (and validate my 5th grade philosophy) is the fact that they voiced the riddim themselves as a first-time singer/deejay combination …and shot to number one with a bullet on “Tuck In Yuh Belly”.
The dancehall anthem is a variation on the ancient ‘all the ugly people be quiet’ formula, but more in the spirit of Kanye’s exercise program: “From you knoowww ya belly nah bang/ And you know say you look good inna ya thong/ Gal, bruk out! Ya belly look clean/ And you know say fit in inna magazine, zeen?” The tone of the hook is almost as sweet as the flab-tucking image is nasty—it’s quite possibly the best marriage of trifling lyrics and melodious delivery since Nate Dogg watched the West Coast roll along.
“Tuck In Yuh Belly”’s riddim is a re-rinse of Steely & Clevie’s classic Gigi riddim, most recognizable as the backbone of Sasha’s 1992 “Kill the Bitch”. The ’05 version is licked back over with tons of echo and spacey keyboard chords that channel pukimina church bands and Ghanaian hi-life guitar, making a powerful case for a ’90s revival and foreshadowing a new new wave of riddims to follow the current lurch from super-fast bashment tracks to one drop slow jams.
Word’s already out that the next 45s on Young Legends have a similar “throwback vibe” and since it’s against dancehall religion to not repeat a successful formula, a “Tuck In Yuh Belly” follow-up is pretty much a given. Lefty & Es themselves ain’t saying much, even as their management hints at a full-length LP project. All the mystery suggests a tantalizing possibility—with their hit-making power proven, they could pursue a Neptunes-like approach to collaborations with Vybz Kartel, Beenie Man, Tammy Chin and others. Their super-producer prospects look luminous…just ’long as they remember the law of the playground: “If you sweat yourself, you might find yourself by yourself.”