Ragga Essentials

Ragga Essentials

Ina Dancehall Style

Hip-O

The liner notes paint a vivid picture, to pinpoint accuracy. On February 23, 1985, Prince Jammy played Wayne Smith’s “Under Me Sleng Teng” and things were never the same. The age of ragga — the synthesis of Jamaican music and technology — had begun.

The 18 tracks included here showcase a lot of the differences between styles, and a lot of the similarities at the same time. Following a fine tradition of borrowing and building from the beat, ragga can be slow or it can be fast, soulful or militant, but it never fails to move. A lot of the tracks on here have historical significance — the creation of new sounds, the breakthrough of ragga in other countries — but overall, accuracy pales in the face of the fact that this is just great greasy good stuff. “Under Me Sleng Teng” is tucked in there, but so is Tenor Saw’s “Ring the Alarm,” Apache Indian’s “Boom Shack-A-Lack,” Chaka Demus & Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote,” Junior Reid’s “One Blood,” etc.

You don’t have to be a ragga enthusiast to get this. Against a total ragga agnostic like me, it made a pretty convincing argument for something worth checking out, in depth. Ragga Essentials indeed.

MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608; http://www.umusic.com/

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