Destination Jam: Five reggae-influenced tracks that help you make sense of the world right now
If there's one genre that can really help make sense of the wild world we live in, it's reggae, and from protest to healing, these reggae tracks are as inspiring as they are relaxing
Is there any genre more perfect for a chill summer at home than reggae? Originating in Jamaica in the '60s, the genre hit mainstream audiences when Toots and the Maytals released their 1968 bop 'Do the Reggay', which effectively named the emerging sound to uninitiated listeners. Over time the term 'reggae' has come to refer to popular Jamaican music at large and extends to include mento, jazz, R&B, ska, rocksteady, and more. Thematically, reggae music is known to incorporate elements of politics and social commentary into its lyrics.
Summer 2020 has been an interesting time for many who find themselves continuing to battle a pandemic, trading out individual desires for the collective good, while also having to grapple with important social and political issues. And if there's one genre that can really help make sense of the wild world we live in, it's reggae. So here are five reggae-leaning tracks to help you enjoy your weird summer at home.
Subatomic Sound System & Junior Dread: 'Revolution 2 Freedom'
Founded in 1999, Subatomic Sound System is a music collective of artists from an array of backgrounds. The group gained international fame in 2008 following the release of a limited edition 12" vinyl that featured their collaboration with the inventor of dub, Lee 'Scratch' Perry. The record featured Perry's first official foray into dubstep, blended effortlessly with the '70s Jamaican dub that influenced the genre and which were originated by Perry himself. On 2020's 'Revolution 2 Freedom', SSS and Junior Dread put out a resounding call that orders listeners to fight for their freedom against the corrupt politicians. Declaring that they will not take it anymore, the song is essentially an anthem that provides the perfect soundtrack to a movement that is demanding equal rights.
The song is a gorgeous blend of old and new, and you can practically feel the strength and spirit of the revolutionaries that paved the way filter through your speakers as the hard-hitting 'Shaolin Dub' style rhythm plays beneath the track. Dread, who grew up in a Sao Paulo favela and was heavily influenced by Bob Marley's struggles with living life in poverty, addresses the issues stemming from less-than-adequate leaders in both the U.S. and Brasil all while drawing musical inspiration from Marley's unique sound.
Listen to 'Revolution 2 Freedom' HERE.
Fugees: 'The Mask'
Sampling 'Nights in White Satin' by The Moody Blues, this Fugees song touches on the concept of having to 'mask' one's real identity in order to fit into society. Evidently referencing Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem 'We Wear the Mask', this track tackles what it means for African-Americans to conceal their emotions as a means to co-exist with others in a white society. The poem includes gut-wrenching statements like "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile," pointing to the fact that Black people have to often pretend to be happy all while hiding an intense amount of pain. It can also bee seen as a reference to the myriad of caricatures that have been drawn up of Black slaves that depict them as being happy when the reality is that they were anything but.
But in addition to this, the song also details other instances where people wear masks, including Lauryn Hill's verse that addresses unwanted and overtly sexual advances from men. The song now has an added meme-level meaning for many who find themselves wearing literal masks on the regular now, which has brought it back into popularity among crowds.
Lee 'Scratch' Perry & Subatomic Sound System: 'Black Ark Vampires'
Perry and SSS make another appearance on this list, this time with 'Black Ark Vampires', a song that declares war on the 'vampires' threatening to ruin us. Perry, in particular, appears to be swearing revenge on the 'vampires' that caused him to burn his own Black Ark studio down, an incident that the artiste once stated occurred after he lit a fire in a fit of rage. This 1979 fire destroyed his Jamaican studio, while another one would later consume his studio in Switzerland after he forgot to put out a candle he lit.
On 'Black Ark Vampires', Perry promises to hunt down those that caused his rage. Studio fire aside, this song is a battle cry at its heart, one that tells its listener to not let those that threaten to hold you down win and to instead stand up for what matters to you. The song is paired with one of the most chill grooves ever and manages to both relax and energize you all at once.
Listen to 'Black Ark Vampires' HERE.
Erykah Badu: 'The Healer'
'The Healer' is Badu's ode to hip hop culture. Opening with a snippet of a song from Malcolm McLaren featuring the World's Famous Supreme Team, the song has been noted for its interesting, often unidentifiable instrumentation paired with Badu's mesmerizing incantation which references everything from the gods of different religions to hip hop's role as a social institution greater than religion. Speaking about the lyrics in a New York Post interview Badu shared, "to me, hip-hop is felt in all religions - it has a healing power. I've recently been to Palestine, Jerusalem, Africa, and a bunch of other places, and everyone is listening to hip-hop. There's something about that kicking snare sound that all kinds of people find meaning in."
Jesse Royal: 'Natty Pablo'
While popularized by the likes of Bob Marley, the Rastafarian way of life is often subjected to stereotypes that paint it in a strange, sometimes negative light. While the Rastafarians have historically advocated for self-care and spiritual togetherness, they have often been the target of political discourse that villainizes them for these beliefs. On 'Natty Pablo', Royal takes direct shots at these stereotypes, hoping to shed some light on the Rastafarians' beliefs while also dispelling some myths. But aside from that, Royal also shares the Rastafari message with listeners, which, essentially, is a message of revolution based in protest that seeks to educate and uplift.
In a Billboard interview, the artiste shared, “There’s good in bad and bad in good. Many teachers will come along your path, but it takes a real student to grasp the message and activate. The time for reintroducing love to the revolution is now.”
Destination Jam is a daily list of songs that will keep you entertained and grooving up top in lieu of feeling drained and losing the plot. Look out for a fresh selection of great tunes from MEAWW to refresh your mood every day!