I first heard of Yellowman in a paperback Run DMC biography I read in grade 5. He was cited as an early influence on them, specifically informing their track “Roots, Rap, Reggae” [appearing on it, in fact -ed]. Run DMC were my first favourite group and the idea that this Yellowman was making music they were interested in, along with the evocative curiosity of his name—like a super-hero in head-to-toe yellow, with cape, cowl, mask, and a microphone—intrigued grade school me. “How can I hear this mystical, otherworldly, Yellowman?” I’m sure I didn’t even know what reggae music was at that point in my life, not even as a concept. It turns out that discovering Yellowman, beyond the pages of that one book, in North York ca. 1987 was too tall an order, but the name was ingrained in my psyche. For a long time, I forgot about my desire to hear Yellowman, but when I came across this record while crate digging almost two decades later there was no question it was coming home with me.
Listening to this now reminds me that when I was a teenager I heard some dancehall at a record store on Queen West (maybe the old Vortex location, before it moved further east and then eventually closed?). I had never heard anything like it before and was particularly transfixed by the toasting vocalist, who was calling a mock play-by-play of a boxing match. I left the store without asking what I was hearing, either because I was feeling shy or because they were busy. The bug left in my brain from these new sounds did not leave me and the next time I was in the store I asked the guy at the counter. “I was in here a few weeks ago and you were playing something. It was like reggae music but the guy was just talking fast over it, like he was announcing a boxing match.” The store clerk tried to be helpful, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that I had described to him the entire genre of dancehall. On the upside, I wrote down some of the names he threw out at me that day, which lead me to U-Roy and I-Roy.
I’m not going to comment much on the music on this album, suffice it to say it’s great, laid back, party music. The bass is locked in throughout creating a rock solid foundation for the vocals to lay out across.
The track “Lost Mi Love” is about a man who has lost his woman. His immediate assumption is that she has gone off with a “boss DJ.” Yellowman’s essentially laid back vocal delivery makes this come across as a statement of plain fact more than a lament. We would all be better off if we could just accept that our partners, given proximity to a boss DJ, will no longer be our partners.
Favourite Song: Lost Mi Love
Runner-Up: Two to Six, Supermix