Throwback Thursdays: Walshy Fire on Shinehead’s “Jamaican In New York”

Words by Walshy Fire—

Black Chiney Sound MC/DJ and LargeUp contributor Walshy Fire has been holding down Miami since forever but the Kingston, Jamaica native knows his way around New York, too. Here, Walshy (who you can also find all over the world these days, as the stage-diving, hype-building MC for Major Lazer) tells us how Shinehead’s colorful 1993 video for “Jamaican In New York” inspired him to investigate NYC for the first time.

In 1993, I had never been to NY. Yo! MTV Raps was pretty much the only way to kinda have a clue. Jeeps with booming systems, girls at the bus stop sucking on lollipops, Timbs and cargo pants with hammers swinging from ’em—u know NY. And then this reggae-ish remake of the Police’s Sting’s “Englishman in New York” by Shinehead called “Jamaicans in New York” drops and messes everything up. Floating Jamaicans putting their faces in flowers wearing hypnotizing glasses, living in potholes… That’s NY?! Is that also shinehead at the beginning of the Blondie “Rapture” video?!! Time to cut some lawns, help get mangoes out the tree and beg an aunt if I can cotch on the floor. Cuz I need to see what is really going on.

The song reached No. 30 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1993. I would describe the video as feel good music with some super fit Patra lookalikes, and a likkle rap breakdown. Besides the visuals of the song, the lyrics are pretty dead on for a New York yardie. Drinking roots, hat to the side while walking down church avenue—a/k/a Caribbean central. Shinehead also reps with words of encouragement. Do right, live good, work hard and you can make it in NYC.

This song’s timing was pretty much on point with what was happening as far as Caribbean pride beginning to sweep the whole of North America. There was a moment where having an accent was an instant beatdown, and a lot of Caribbeans tried hard to blend in and not stand out. This song is a bigup to those that never did. “Be yourself no matter what they say.” The sweetest thing for me was hearing this on dub from sounds like King Addies or David Rodigan. It’s just as powerful a portrayal of yardies in NY as it is a dub to kill sounds in NY. A great cover song from a great entertainer.