Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor premiered his new riddim album, “80s Rock Riddim,” Tuesday, January 8, 2013 on iTunes, representing the first of an upcoming series of 1980s-styled pop-reggae projects.
The riddim album – which features new tracks from Gappy Ranks, Gyptian, Aaron Silk and JC Lodge – combines musical motifs from Brit-pop, R&B, soul and 1980’s dancehall, to create a distinctive mixture of melodic pop with a propulsive one-drop bass groove.
In early 2012, McGregor departed from the reggae mainstream, and began producing pop-reggae tracks for the corporate licensing market, which enlists a higher percentage of uplifting 1980s-era tracks that remind listeners of reggae’s bygone golden era.
With “80s Rock Riddim,” McGregor wanted to repair a longstanding credibility problem within the modern reggae industry – an industry that erroneously insists on producing music with negative lyrics and depressing musical styles that reggae fans never wanted, and often at the expense of melodic, party reggae, which has always attracted more customers globally than the negative-themed music of the reggae mainstream.
“The concept of ‘80s Rock’ is to try to bring people back to the good old days of vocal reggae,” said McGregor. “The 1980s was where reggae got its fame and popularity. There’s a joy that I get from listening to ‘80s music – it makes you feel like living is worthwhile. And it’s not just reggae, it’s a lot of the ‘80s music. There’s also some good R&B that makes you feel that way.”
McGregor said “80s Rock Riddim” was inspired in large part by the great riddims of the 1980s, including “Far East” (Barry Brown’s version from 1986), “Sleng Teng” (1985), and popular albums “Big Ship,” by Freddie McGregor (1982), and “Rub-A-Dub Style,” by Michigan & Smiley (1980).
From McGregor’s point of view, these styles established reggae music as a universal worldwide party idiom, which would guarantee celebratory vibes regardless of where the music was played.
Apparently, today’s reggae scene has lost this celebratory spirit, McGregor said.
“When I used to watch videotapes from the 1980s, I would see all those people dancing – the couples were slow-wining so tight, that not even the breeze could get through them,” McGregor said. “Today, when I go to a party, the ladies will be standing on the left side of the room, and the men will be standing on the right. The men will be screwing their faces, and the women will be standing with their arms crossed. That’s not the way to party.”
“When I look at a dance floor today, I’ll hear a bunch of noise coming from the speakers, and when I look at the dance floor, I’ll expect to see a man and a woman dancing, but instead I’ll see a group of men dancing in the middle of the floor by themselves. I don’t want to see that.”
To illustrate his love for 1980s music, McGregor recorded a mixture of melodic songs from the most active artists in the new reggae industry, including Aaron Silk, Junior Kelly, Gappy Ranks, Adele Harley and Ammoye, along with a cadre of vocal legends from the 2000-decade mixtape era, such as Norris Man, Gyptian, Jah Mali and Tony Anthony. In addition, “80s Rock Riddim” will contain songs from “America’s Got Talent” finalist Cas Haley, and British reggae luminaries JC Lodge, Carroll Thompson and Don Campbell.
McGregor’s ultimate goal is to send a message that reggae’s survival will require producers to satisfy the demands of real customers, instead of using drug money to promote negative-themed music that no one wants to buy. McGregor said sales statistics already indicate that consumers prefer the sound of the 1980s.
“Overall, I would say the music of the 1980s was more uplifting. There was more joy into it,” McGregor said. “Most of what the artists were saying in their lyrics – whether it was lovers rock, roots or rub-a-dub – you were excited about what was taking place. The stuff they were singing about, like Yellowman and Michigan & Smiley, it would make you want go out and have a good time. That’s why I like the ‘80s music. It has a lot of value to it.”
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