Words by Jesse Serwer—
Many know Ini Kamoze from “Here Comes the Hotstepper,” the massive reggae/hip-hop crossover single from 1994. Others may recognize his as the voice sampled by Damian Marley (“Out in the streets they call it merther!”) on “Welcome To Jamrock.” In 1984, when he released his first music for Chris Blackwell’s Island and Mango labels, Kamoze (real name Cecil Campbell) was considered by some to be the future of reggae.
That year, he dropped two brilliant albums, the self-titled mini LP pictured above and the Mango release Statement, both produced by Sly and Robbie. 1986’s Pirate generated less excitement, ending Kamoze’s partnership with Island/Mango. He would soon rebound with Philip “Fattis” Burrell of Xterminator Records, with whom he made 1990’s “Hot Stepper” (aka “Stepping It Hotter This Year”), the first of several similarly themed tracks culminating in the Salaam Remi-produced No. 1 hit, “Here Comes the Hot Stepper.” Though considered something of a one-hit wonder in the States, his impact in Jamaica was far more significant. At the time of 1989’s general election, his song “Hole in the Pumpkin” was considered so controversial it was banned from the air, and he was personally contacted by Prime Minister Edward Seaga. Current artist Protoje, whose recent single “Kingston Be Wise” reinerpreted Kamoze’s “England Be Nice,” has cited his early work as a key influence.
On the occasion of Ini Kamoze’s 56th birthday today, here’s a look back at the Hot Stepper’s career.
Ini Kamoze’s first single “World Affairs,” from 1981, was a tribute to a then-newly departed Bob Marley.
“World a Reggae” was a hit for Ini Kamoze in 1984, and the bass and vocals were later sampled for an even bigger one—Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock.” According to Ini, the proper lyric is “Out in the streets, they call it merther“—not murder.
“England Be Nice” also appeared on 1984’s Statement album. Current-era reggae star Protoje reasonly paid homage to the track with his 2012 single, “Kingston Be Wise.”
Ini Kamoze performing at Reggae Sunsplash U.K., 1984.
Ini’s first video for “Call the Police,” from his 1984 album Statement. The song was also featured in the movie Good to Go.
1988’s “Hole in the Pumpkin” was banned from Jamaican airwaves ahead of the 1989 general election, on account of its sensitive social commentary.
The original “Hot Stepper”: Released on Philip “Fattis” Burrell’s Xterminator label, “Stepping It Hotter This Year” reintroduced Kamoze to the dancehall audience in 1990.
The 45″ release of 1990’s “Hot Stepper Returns,” like other releases on the Selecta label, came with a stern warning: Unauthorised Copying is Jailhouse Business.
Like many dancehall singles that crossed over into the mainstream, two videos were shot for “Here Comes the Hotstepper”—one filmed between Jamaica (or a set meant to resemble it) and Brooklyn, and another prominently featuring footage from the movie Pret-a-Porter, in which the song appeared.
An article on the crossover success of “Hotstepper” in the New York Daily News.