ATX Sound System: January 11, 2019

Double Barrell

This week, we’ve had the surprise new mixtape from Deadly Dragon Sound in heavy rotation. Deadly Dragon is a sound system that originated in Chicago in the 1990s before relocating to New York City in the 2000s. Their Chinatown record shop was a mecca for serious collectors and selectors (before rising rents forced its closure in 2016), and their weekly residencies at various downtown clubs became a centerpiece of New York’s reggae scene. Thankfully, Deadly Dragon’s founder, Scratch Famous, still dips into his massive collection a few times each year to bless us with a new mixtape. Several years ago, he created one devoted to so-called “gunman” tunes called “Year of The Gun”. While gun imagery goes way back in Jamaica (think: “The Harder They Come” film), it certainly hit a peak in the 90s when dancehall began taking cues from American gangsta rap. Scratch’s “gun tune” mix was both popular and controversial upon its release in 2004. Some challenged that he was glorifying Jamaica’s pervasive gun violence, while others commended its’ in-depth chronicle of this long-running theme in Jamaican music. Well, it seems Scratch decided to start off 2019 with a bang (ahem), surprising everyone with a follow-up mix, some 15 years later, called “Year of the Gun Part 2”. For this one, he’s dug even deeper than before, assembling a collection of rare gunman vinyl cuts from artists such as Junior Cat, Spragga Benz and Ricky General that is all at once silly, scary, entertaining and fascinating.


Rude Boy No Powder

Despite the entertainment factor of gunman tunes, gun violence is also a deadly serious (and often glorified) fact of life in Jamaica, and has been so ever since the days of “Johnny Too Bad” and the outlaw legend Ivanhoe (aka “women like bi men“). Nobody is immune to it: From Peter Tosh and Prince Far-I to King Tubby and Winston Riley (to name but a few), numerous Jamaican recording stars and producers have been the fatal victim of someone wielding a gun. Heck, even Bob Marley only just narrowly escaped being shot to death. Ironically, Winston Riley, the man behind Sister Nancy’s legendary “Bam Bam”, was also the writer of one of reggae’s first big international hits, “Double Barrel” (by Dave and Ansell Collins). The DJ and writer S.h. Fernando, Jr. takes an intriguing look at this phenomenon in his piece “Murder Dem: The Turbulent Saga of Reggae Stars and Violent Crime”. It’s a sobering reality check that you can read while listening to the mix of gun tunes above. In it, he asks why so many prominent Jamaican artists have been killed or incarcerated. One month on from Buju Banton’s early release from prison (and following another year in which an imprisoned Vybz Kartel continued to rule the Jamaican charts), it remains a potent question. One prominent theory is echoed in the piece by On-U Sound founder (ad Prince Far-I collaborator) Adrian Sherwood, who points to pervasive poverty and the fact that Jamaica’s young people “respect the gunman, because they have little to no opportunity otherwise.”


This Week’s Austin Reggae Fest Spotify Playlist

Click here to hear the dub sounds we have been listening to the last few days.