Trojan Presents: DJ's - 40 Toasting Classics

Fire Corner - King Stitt
Matchuki's Cooking (aka It Is I) - Count Matchuki
Pop A Top - Andy Capp
Dynamic Fashion Way - U Roy
Jack Of My Trade - Sir Lord Comic
Monkey Spanner - Dave & Ansel Collins
Draw Your Brakes - Scotty
King Of Kings - Dennis Alcapone
I Like It Like This - Johnny Lover
Shocks '71 - Charlie Ace & Dave Barker
President Mash Up The Resident-Shorty The President
Mava - Dennis Alcapone
Give Me Power Version 2 - King Iwah
Buttercup - Winston Scotland
Blackman's Time - I Roy
S90 Skank - Big Youth
Yamaha Skank - Shorty The President
Tighten Up Skank - Dillinger
Hi Jacking - I Roy
Ah So We Stay - Big Youth
Natty Dread Don't Cry - Tapper Zukie
Natty Pass His GCE - Shorty The President
Natty BSc - Dillinger
Soldier And Police War - Jah Lion
Natty Pass Through Rome - Prince Jazzbo
Heavy Manners - Prince Far I
Reggae Music - Hugh Blackwood & Doctor Alimantado
Home Guard - Mikey Campbell
Three Piece Suit - Trinity
Cool Runnings - Prince Mohammed
Keep On Moving - Wong Chu & The Wailers
Tubby At The Controls - Big Joe
Starsky And Hutch - Trinity
Fist-To-Fist Rub-A-Dub - Kojak & Lisa
Rub A Dub Evening - Joe Tex & U Black
Drunken Master - General Echo
Donkey Want Water - Yellowman & Fathead
Shoulder Move - Jah Thomas
We Hot - Charlie Chaplin
Sunday Dish - Early B

Remember when Rap was new? When Sugarhill ran the dance floors, when Kurtis Blow ruled the world, when Run-DMC were Tougher Than Leather? While the novelty of Rap was fun to many, other voices grumbled. 'This isn't music,' one Soul fan told me. 'They're just talking.' And that wasn't a lone voice; many people in the Soul community saw Rap as just a gimmick - and a gimmick too far at that. But one section of the black music fan base didn't think Rap was a big t'ing. They weren't in the least bit fooled by the way it was being sold as a new phenomenon. They'd heard it before - a dozen years or more before - performed so much better. They were Reggae fans, and knew it was their cousins in New York who had influenced American kids to try chatting on the mic. Because DJ music, toasting, MCing, chatting, rapping, whatever you want to call it, was part of the Reggae scene from time. And every US rapper from Melle Mel to Jay-Z owes Jamaican music a debt, even if they were not aware of its subtle influence. After all, wasn't the NT hip-hop pioneer Kool Herc a Jamaican? Wasn't Reggae the first music to 'sample' old tunes and talk over them? Didn't the early US rappers live alongside Jamaicans in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and enjoy their lyrical skills at dances?

In Reggae, DJ doesn't mean disc jockey, although that's what it grew out of. It means jive talker, lyrical designer, entertainer, comedian, raconteur, master of ceremonies, narrator - even singer. these lyrical assassins started off, like so much else in Jamaican music, on sound systems. These mobile discotheques employed a selector, who chose the records, an operator, who ran the equipment, and box boys to shift the megalithic speaker cabinets. But they also had a master of ceremonies, aka a toaster (from 'toastmaster'), also called a DJ, who kept the crowd sweet. In the 1950s these guys introduced the tunes and got people dancing - a bit like the 'caller' in country music. By the early 1960s they were chanting a bit of jive talk; the odd couplet offered in unconscious homage to the US radio jocks whose shows wafted into Jamaica from Florida and New Orleans. During the Ska era, they made rhythmic noises - shack-a-tack, shack-a-tack! - and in the mid-1960s chatters like Sir Lord Comic, Count Machuki and Count Rusty delivered a coherent rhyme or two. Nobody thought of these performers as artists, although some made it onto record occasionally.

It was a youthful, slightly serious DJ who changed that and started a rhythmic revolution. Ewart Beckford, known as U-Roy, was a popular figure on King Tubby's Home Town Hi-Fi, one of Kingston's best known sound systems. Tubby, an electronics engineer, had built up his 'set' from scratch, and when he wasn't terrorising the neighbourhood with good vibes at loud volumes, he could be found in his tiny studio in Waterhouse, a Kingston ghetto, cutting dub-plates (acetates) for sound systems. One day in 1970 Duke Reid, a record producer with a formidable reputation as a sound system owner, cut some dubs at Tubby's and enquired after the youth who was cutting such a dash on Tubby's system. Tubby put Reid in touch with U-Roy, and Reid took him to his Treasure Isle studio to test him on some of his Rocksteady rhythms. Reid wasn't the first producer to record U-Roy - Keith Hudson ('Dynamic Fashion Way') and Lee Perry had tried - but he was the first who knew what to do with him. He set U-Roy free on some of the greatest backing tracks - riddims - ever made in Jamaica, and U-Roy's lyrics flew. At one point in 1970 he had five records in Jamaica's Top 10. The difference between U-Roy and his predecessors was that he was so swift with a rhyme and he hit it from the top to the very last drop - prior to his arrival, chatters were more ponderous. The DJ era had arrived.

In U-Roy's wake came a generation of talking talent. Dennis Alcapone (Dennis Smith) was hot on his heels, cutting tunes at Studio One and Treasure Isle, plus the magnificent 'Mava Version' for Impact at Randy's studio, and the beautiful 'King Of Kings', which rides Max Romeo and Glen Adams' 'Jordan River', for producer Alvin Ranglin. Dennis freely admits to modelling himself ob U-Roy, although his cheery style was his own. King Stitt - aka The Ugly One - was another early entrant. Stitt's spluttering style carried him through plenty of records for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One and, gloriously, Clancy Eccles at Clandisc, where he enjoyed some of the biggest hits of his day, including 'Fire Corner' (1969). meanwhile David Scott, the fluid falsetto singer in the Federals, gave a lift to his career by DJing, calling himself Scotty and cutting 'Draw Your Brakes', a smash for producer Derrick Harriott. Some of the lesser lights of the first wave of DJs cut big records, like Winston Scotland, whose U-Roy inspired 'Buttercup', bubbled under the British pop charts for weeks in 1972 without getting sufficient traction to climb them. Andy Capp's percussive chanting made his 'Pop A Top' a monster Jamaican hit in 1969. And King Iwah, aka Roy Lee, made rootsy records for Lee Perry without seeing any success.

Two DJs who followed in the wake of U-Roy eventually transcended him. Roy Reid, who styled himself I-Roy, emerged in 1971 with a heap of hugely entertaining records that proved him a lyrical champion. A consummate storyteller, jive-talker and humorist, I-Roy's genius lay in being so listenable. He could present a jokey report like 'Hi Jacking', a cut of Horace Andy's 'Skylarking' and trigger a grin. But when he covered more cultural topics, as on 'Blackman Time', made over Lloyd Parks' 'Slaving', he revealed his depth. Meanwhile, Manley Augustus Buchanan, aka Big Youth, was the Reggae Phenomenon, as one of his albums put it. Big Youth was adept with a lyric for sure, but it was his wailing style and the way he could bend a song - any song - to suit him, that made him a wonder. Whether chatting about mopeds on 'S90 Skank' for Keith Hudson, or riding Dennis Brown's original 'Money In My Pocket' (on this compilation's sister set, 'Trojan Presents Classic Reggae'), Big Youth was more than up to the task. He became Jamaica's biggest star of the mid-70s.

In his wake came other crying chatters like Prince Jazzbo, and Jah Lion aka Jah Lloyd, who both imbued their performances with Biblical dread. Another DJ with a deep vibe was the under-recorded Johnny Lover, whose cut of the Wailers' 'I Like It Like This' is a highly collectable 45 on Tuff Gong. Taking the opposite approach was Charlie Ace, a born wag with a gag in every lyric; he ran a mobile record store that was like a psychedelic ice cream van full of riddims: stop me and dub one. You can hear him alongside the 'Yankee Style' chatter Dave Barker on 'Shocks 71', their cut of Bob Marley's 'Small Axe'. Dave Barker was the first DJ to make a UK pop impact as Dave from Dave and Ansel Collins, thanks to 'Monkey Spanner' and 'Double Barrel'. Meanwhile, a further tune Marley made for Lee Perry, 'Keep On Moving', was given a DJ and dub treatment with the addition of Wong Chu in 1977; no tune was immune to the talking treatment.

The stars kept coming in the mid-70s. Dillinger started off as 'Young Alcapone' before being renamed by Lee Perry, who locked this kid in a studio overnight to get an album's worth of work out of him, although it was not released in such form. Dillinger cut Rasta-mentioning trendsetting tunes such as 'Bionic Dread' and 'Natty Bsc' before scoring a global hit with 'Cokane In My Brain' in 1978. Another chatter with an international vibe was Dr Alimantado, who became a Punk favourite and cut his best tunes at Lee Perry's Black Ark, such as 'Reggae Music'. Trinity was also known to Reggae's Punk audience, thanks to 'Three Piece Suit', which inspired Althea & Donna's 'Uptown Top Ranking'. Alimantado and Trinity were both given to singing to.

Because the DJs rose at the same time as Dub, it might have been assumed that when it fell from favour at the end of the 70s, so would they. Not so. The sound systems ruled Reggae even more in the Dancehall era, and their chatters such as Jah Thomas, general Echo and the unique Eek-A-Mouse became stars. Like American Rap, which began as the Dancehall generation first made its versions, the DJ phenomenon was a permanent fixture. Jamaica's microphone revolutionaries' influence remains massive and their brilliance is not entirely appreciated. Respect is due, of course. But enjoy every rhyme, because the DJs started out as entertainers, and none of them ever forgot that. for that, I propose a toast: long live the DJs.

Ian McCann - Editor of Record Collector magazine
All material © Trojan Records