“Ghetto palms” is what we used to call those little bamboo-ish looking trees that sprout up in empty lots and the cracks between sidewalk blocks. Sometime last year my Mom sent me clipping from the papers in Detroit that broke down how they’re actually a species from China spread here by container ships. Fact: in China it’s called Tree of Heaven. Fact: city planners can accurately calculate the length of time a house or city block has been abandoned by the size of the ghetto palms. Ever since then, ailanthus altissima has been taking over the back-lot of my brain like an invasive tree in Brooklyn, too crazy not to be a metaphor for something deep. Some kind of underground ecology—a science of things that grow where they’re not supposed to—is about as good a mission statement as any for what I’m trying to do with this column, plus it just had a ring to it. I had a mess of funny but too-literal ones like “Things That Make You Say ‘Forward’” and “There Will Be Dubs,” but abstract and slightly pretentious just felt more, you know, me.
Appropriately the 1st time out is entirely dedicated to 45s from Kingston, which has its share of both ghetto and actual, factual palm trees. This column, like my DJ sets (hell, my life) will be heavily dancehall-influenced, but will dip into other international waters with UK bhangra, Angolan kuduro and whatever fits.
-Edwin "Stats" Houghton
Download: “Day Break” riddim blend
Jim Laden - “Gyal Coward”
Kari Jess - “Gyal Dem wi Waah”
Vybz Kartel - “Bedroom Tsunami”
Vybz Kartel - “Broad Daylight”
Mavado - “Nuh Bleach with Cream”
Chino & Marshall – “Danger”
Frisco Kid - “Dem Know”
Fambo – “OUT”
Brand new thing from Stephen “Genius” McGregor that makes me kinda glad we did a Beat Construction profile on him back in F48. I first heard it through my dudes at Federation Sound who seemed to have it before anybody, but I can sum up it’s future in two words: Get Familiar. McGregor’s basic attack seems to be to include every sound he can think of. The backbone is a Texas 2-step of grimy Spanish guitar and uprock beat. Military drumlines and warbley electronic voices pile on top and then in some versions it breaks down to what sounds like a north African saaidi rhythm. It feels like a potential classic along the lines of “Bookshelf” or “Showtime,” a riddim strong enough to a) run by itself and b) bring the best out of every deejay that touches it. Mavado achieves a new level of skin-crawl when the riddim evaporates into ghostly wind and he moans Nah bleach wit cream / Me bleeeach wit me m-16 (for non-patois speakers: ‘bleach’ is Kingstonian for ‘keeping watch til sunrise’. Useful verb.). That part’s in his same “Rise Crime” cadence but so ominously slo-mo it sounds altered by time-stretch or Robitussin. But then he goes off on this crazy Sorrow dat / Bumboclot Arawak / Arafat flow, tripling up the internal rhyme schemes like he thinks he’s Bun B or something (tranzlator’s crew: the Arawak were the native Americans who inhabitated Jamaica before the Spanish came. Bumboclot is a bad word. If you don’t know who Arafat is, god help you.) That one is definitely the standout but there’s equally strong cuts by new dude Jim Laden (oh yes. he did.) and Frisco Kid, a criminally under-rated veteran who’s been killing riddims outta road since the original “Showtime”.
Download: Foundation throwback blend
“Darker Shade” riddim:
Cherine Anderson - “Kingston State of Mind”
Vegas - “Lean Wid it Rock Wid It”
“Prison Oval Rock” riddim:
Vegas - “Muss Come a Road”
Mitch - “Want No More”
“Tune In” riddim:
“Tune In” - Bounty Killer & Sugar Minnott
“I Do Love You” riddim:
“I Do Love You” - Shinehead
“Heaven Only Knows” - Tony Curtis
“Loves You Back” - Frankie Paul
“Non-Stop Loving “ - Sizzla
Throwback is always in style in Jamaica, but since the X-mas dance season, there’s been a ton of 45s in this vein. A lot are Sly & Robbie versions on their Taxi label—the popularity of Vegas’ “Lean Wid It” apparently inspired both Cherine Anderson’s version and a brand new Vegas throwback on Barrington’s immortal “Prison Oval Rock.” But there’s also a set from Stone Love hitting back a Studio One classic in their trademark style.