Redman International - We Run Things (VP Records)
I was honoured to write the liner notes for VP Records' important new retrospective of Hugh "Red Man" James' mid-to-late 80s' dancehall hits, compiled from the original master tapes by Frenchie and Chris O' Brien. I was a DJ in Brighton clubs and on local radio when most of the tracks on this latest Reggae Anthology came out, and vividly remember the raucous welcome given to tracks like Red Dragon's Ease Off, Carl Meeks' Wah Dem Fa, Conroy Smith's Dangerous and of course, Clement Irie's all-conquering Kolo Ko. All these years later and the excitement hasn't dimmed in the slightest. Below are the opening two paragraphs that I hope will encourage you to check out the double LP.
"For a long time, all dancehall fans from outside Jamaica knew about producer Hugh “Redman” James was that he owned a sound system and wore a lot of gold chains, as was the fashion during the mid-to-late eighties. We knew this because of the photo that appeared on his record labels although it turns out that Redman wasn’t a brash extrovert as you might imagine, but a self-effacing man who cared more for the music than anything else.
By the time he began to make his mark, the major label support that had been there for many of Bob Marley’s generation had dried up, and early dancehall artists and producers had to provide for themselves. Sound systems became all-important both as a source of fresh talent and also promotion, since airplay wasn’t exactly forthcoming either. Then in 1985, Wayne Smith’s all-conquering Under Mi Sleng Teng, which used simple, digital beats to startling effect, turned the entire industry upside down. Out went structured song arrangements, and in came a creative force so vibrant, off-the-cuff and unfettered that it proved irresistible. The ten years or so that followed yielded so many stylistic and technological innovations; so many new and exciting artists, producers, record labels, sound systems, fashions, dances and different ways of doing things that it was like viewing the island’s music scene through a kaleidoscope. It was a time of renewal – rebirth even – and Redman, owner of Redman Hi-Power, was there at the heart of it..."