Top Cats: The New ‘Generation’ Roots Reggae of The Lions

January 22, 2013

Words by Jesse Serwerโ€”

The Lions This Generation

Stones Throw Records is best known for underground hip-hop staples like J Dilla’s Donuts and MF DOOM and Madlib’s Madvillainy,but recent years have seen the California label branch out into rock, electronic funk and various other frontiers.

Its latest signing is its first full-on reggae act: LA’sย The Lions are a dozen-piece outfit with members including actor/singerย Alex Dรฉsert (known for roles in movies Swingers and High Fidelity and the ska band Hepcat) and deejay Black Shakespeare, a cousin of bass god Robbie Shakespeare who’s known around LA for his ice cream truck-turned-mobile-soundsystem.

Among the group’s rotating cast of vocalists, the most impressive may be Malik Moore, a little-known singer whose style recalls Sam Cooke (a huge influence on early reggae and rocksteady music) and Heptones great Leroy Sibbles. Sibbles, in fact, makes an appearance on This Generation, The Lions’ debut album, set for release Feb. 26 in the unusual format of an all-vinyl box set (with eight 45s containing the album’s 12 tracks and four additional “dub versions” not available on the CD or digital release.) A quick listen to the LP reveals a vintage reggae style that recalls Daptone Records’ new-generation spin on classic R&B. No one will confuse these tunes for old Studio One recordings but it’s clear that attention was paid to keeping the sound as analog as is possible in 200o-whenever.

Watch The Lions’ energetic video for the album’s title cut “This Generation” below, download their recent Stones Throw podcast for a sampling of their influences and tell us what you think in the comments.