ATX Sound System: February 9, 2019

Raised on Reggae: Hempress Sativa

Hempress Sativa grew up surrounded by authentic reggae culture. Born Kerida Johnson in Kingston, she was raised by devout Rastafarian parents who entertained many musical friends (such as “Uncle” Dennis Brown) in the family home. Her father (Albert “Ilawai Malawi” Johnson) operated the Jah Love Sound System, which meant that Kerida was effectively raised on reggae music. She first began guesting on tracks as early as 2013 but her feature on the 2015 hit “Boom – Wha Da Da Deng” by Paolo Baldini DubFiles is the one that really announced her arrival on the scene (while also establishing her “Lyrical Machine” nickname). Sativa’s own debut single, “Rock It Inna Dance”, would follow in 2016 and further establish these credentials: “Rock it in a shamah wid me Wallabee Clarks / Strictly sinsemilla, mi a crush you naw fi ask,” she sings, celebrating her love for weed, Jamaica’s favored suede footwear and her own prowess, all in one snappy verse. Sativa’s full-length debut, Unconquerebel,would arrive in 2017. On it, she proved she was more than just clever with wordplay, she could also be political, conscious and downright fierce. Adhering to tradition, Unconquerebel was followed in 2018 by its’ dub companion, Scientist Meets Hempress Sativa in DUB, engineered by none other than Jamaica’s greatest living mixer. To kick off 2019, she just released the Ancient Kingdom EP, featuring a further five versions of her single “Revolution”. Our favorite of these new versions is Ras Malekot’s “Hail H.I.M.”, which you can check out, along with several of the other tunes mentioned above, on the Austin Reggae Fest playlist. And, of course, you can see the mighty Hempress Sativa perform live this April at the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival.

 

All Good Good

Montego Bay is located on the opposite side of the island from Kingston. Historically, “Mo Bay” has always been Jamaica’s tourist destination; lined with hotels and cruise ship terminals, it’s a world away from the mean streets of Trenchtown. But it still played a crucial role in the birth of reggae music. In the 1960s, the musicians who were laying down some of the most timeless reggae instrumentals by day in Kingston (at recording studios like Treasure Isle and Studio One) were often earning their real money on nights and weekends in Montego, playing traditional jazz standards for tourists in the city’s hotels and clubs. Icons such as Prince Jammy, Joe Gibbs and Niney the Observer may have all hailed from this side of the island back in the day, but lately it seems like Kingston (and neighboring Portmore and Spanish Town) are the places usually recognized for breeding great reggae and dancehall talent. One notable exception (aside from Kranium) that we’ve been really enjoying in recent years is Good Good Productions. This record label and production house, founded by duo DJ Satdayz and Evan “ZUM” Powell, has been delivering some of the most upfront, feel-good riddims in the dance. Last year’s gem, the Life’s Path Riddim, was a wonderfully bouncy and musical production that attracted the likes of Masicka, Konshens and Govana (check the latter’s version, “Rich Forever”, on our playlist), while 2017’s Money Mix Riddim featured heavy-hitting versions by Vybz Kartel and Spice. Their newest release, the Carni-Afro-Jam riddim, is another delight. Mixing Afro Beats and Soca, this is fresh, forward-thinking dancehall that boasts another impressive list of names recording versions for it, from Vybz and Alison Hinds to Teejay and Shenseea (whose “Beat Me Congo” take is another new addition to the playlist this week). Good good, indeed.

 

This Week’s Austin Reggae Fest Spotify Playlist

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