One thing that has been constant in Jamaican music (and seems to grow in popularity with each passing craze) is the art of the Deejay at Sound System dances and on record. Originally taking influence by listening to jive talking American deejays on the radio, Jamaican pioneers like Count Machuki and Sir Lord Comic would introduce record with rhyming catch phrases for top sound systems of the day.
But Deejaying really took its place in Jamaican music history with U Roy, who is often called the originator (even though there were many Deejays before him). It was John Holt who heard U Roy jive talk through a Paragons rocksteady record when John Holt figured this guy needed to be recorded. So Holt took U Roy down to Duke Reid where they cut 3 singles, "Wake the Town", "Rule the Nation" and "Wear You to the Ball", all three eventually took the top three spots on the Jamaican charts at the same time!
Another early deejay at the time who was knwon on the sound system circuit since the early 60's was King Stitt. He mostly deejayed on Coxsone's set but is known mostly for his tracks produced by Clancy Eccles, most notably "Fire Corner", "Vigoraton 2" and "Herbman Shuffle", all of which are over some of Clancys most popular rhythms of the day.
An import thing to consider about deejays though is that one generation directly influences the next so that there seems to be different waves of deejays. The first being the pre-recording days deejays like Machuki and Comic, as well as Stitt. The next being U Roy and Dennis Alcapone, who was Coxsone's main toaster in the late 60's scoring a full LP over classic Studio One rocksteady rhythms on his album "Forever Version, which was put out in response to Duke Reid and U Roys "Version Galore" LP. U Roy definitly led the way in the early days though with witty, sarcastic lyrics, and over Duke Reids tried and tested classic rocksteady rhythms.
The next generation though is when things started to really heat up in the deejay game with roots and culture taking the lead rather than lyrics about whos a better deejay and so on. The top toaster in the 70's was Big Youth on Lord Tippertone's sound system. Youth scored hits with tracks on rhythms by The Wailers, The Abyssinians, Yabby You, and Burning Spear. U Roy was still rocking though as is especially proven with his "Dread In A Babylon" LP produced by Prince Tony Robinson in 1975. Jah Youth's biggest contender in this time tohugh was Dillinger who recorded for producers like Lee Perry, the HooKim brothers at Channel One and so many others. His "CB 200" album was a instant classic and he rode rhythms by Gregory Issacs and the Mighty Diamonds just nicely. Other deejays who were big at this time were I Roy who became one of the top toasters with tracks recorded mostly at the CHannel One studio (and mostly self produced), his "Don't Check Me With No Lightweight Stuff" retrospective compilation released on Blood and Fire is essential. Other deejays to make a splash in a slightly smaller degree were Prince Jazzbo, Dr. Alimantado and Jah Lloyd.
The 1980's showed off a new kind of deejay, one who talked of his own sexual prowess and his own skills on the mic as well as a few who still chatted cultural lyrics. The sound was now dancehall though and it was when deejays really started to get out on their own and be more popular even that singers. One of the most popular was Yellowman who chatted "Mad Over Me" which was really quite stunning considering the fact that he is an albino which is a people looked down on alot in Jamaican culture. Yellowman really stood on his own in the '80's though and became the top deejay in Jamaica, some say equaling the fame Bob Marley had in his heyday. Other top deejays were the slack inspired General Echo, and the cultural deejays from U Roy's school of deejay, his Stur Gav sound system, the deejays CHarlie CHaplin and Josey Wales. Charlie is probobly one of my favorite deejays from the time and I would recommend anyone getting his stuff. Another gif deejay was Lone Ranger who scored many hits for Studio One.
Eek-A-Mouse is another deejay who still goes strong too this day chatting in his singjay style. His lyrics are usually full of humor and his "Wha Do Dem" album is pretty essential. Other top deejays from this time were Fathead who often toasted with Yellowman as well as Michigan and Smiley who scored big hits with "Rub-A-Dub" and "Diseases".
The 1990's produced a new Jamaican sound, using digital rhythms, this music was called ragga and its first big names were Chakademus and Pliers' international hit "Murder She Wrote" as well as deejays like Shabba Ranks who scored record deals with US and UK record deals and put out classic ragga deejay albums like "Golden Touch" and "Mr Maximum". But it was Buju Banton who would bring deejays back to cultural lyrics when he released his "Til' Shiloh album in the mid 90's. This album is absoleutly essential and features classic songs like "When I'm Laid to Rest" and "Untold Stories". Buju later became one of the top deejays to come from Jamaica.
Other great ragga deejays to check out are Sizzla, Anthony B, and Ninja Man. Also Beenie Man just got the Grammy for best reggae album of the year in 2001. Bounty Killer is another good deejay worth checking out.
To make a long story short, deejays have played a major part in spreading the music of Jamaica and are every part as important to the sound as any singer, musician and producer. So let this page serve as a small tribute to the art of deejay.
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