Bullwackies played a major role in the history of Jamaican music as the first to set up a reggae recording studio in New York City, a hub for newly arrived West Indians in the late 70s, most specifically Jamaicans fleeing political tension and increasing violence back home. Among them was Lloyd Barnes aka Bullwackie or Fada Wackie.
Bringing his experience as engineer for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle and knowledge from mentor Prince Buster, Wackies brought authentic yard vibes to the Bronx, where he set up his studio and accompanying record store. His sound stood out from other reggae producers of the time. Lo-fi textures were met with eerie harmonies and that behind-the-beat, head-nod swag. While he worked with both well-known (Sugar Minott, Leroy Sibbles) and unknown (Jah Batta, Chris Wayne) artists, he always achieved that unique vibe no other producer could.
When I worked at the infamous East Village reggae record store Jammyland in the late ’90s, Wackies himself would come in to restock our shelves and handle b-i. Armed with the reddest eyes I’ve seen to this day, he carried himself with a casual yet certain sense of pride— the original NY dub ambassador. One of my most distinct memories while working there were the Japanese DJs who would come in to Jammyland with suitcases in hand, explaining they had come straight there, before checking into their hotels, with three-page-long lists of records that always started with 40 Wackies titles. It was clear: Japan loves Wackies!
Fast forward to 2013, skate gear kingpins Supreme have come with a Wackies collection, celebrating the label’s most visual releases like Horace Andy’s Dance Hall Style, the Lovejoys’ Lovers Rock Reggae Style and, of course, the label’s iconic Lion of Judah logo. While you’re likely to see kids wearing these tees who have no clue what a “Wackies” is, maybe a handful will go as far as googling the name. For their benefit, and your listening pleasure, we went ahead and picked some of our favorite Wackies joints from the iconic label’s archives.