Throwback Thursdays: Echo Slim on Bounty Killer’s “Down in the Ghetto”

October 3, 2013

Words by Echo Slimโ€”

Recently, we introduced you to beatmaker Echo Slim and his reworks of classic Bob Marley and Super Cat. For this week’s Throwback Thursdays, he takes us back to 1994, when he first encountered one Bounty Killer..

Its the fall of ’94, and I’m coming in from the cold, as Mr. Nesta Robert Marley would say. Relocating from the outskirts of usually-chilly Toronto to the tropical climate of Miami, I immediately immersed myself in the local sound system culture. Already being familiar with iconic deejays such as Super Cat, Shabba Ranks, Ninja Man, Tiger, Papa San, and other greats, I almost flipped when I first heard one of the most unique voices in the history of music. “Well, Dis one called Down Inna Di Ghetto, none otha den the Mighty Bounty Killa say so, Everyday I get up its just gunshot ah echo, Lawd Ah Mercy”. Miss Ivy’s Son, aka the Warlord, aka Rodney Price, instantly earned my respect when I heard the classic “Down In The Ghetto,” or, as Killer actually says it, “Down Inna Di Ghetto.”

For all my Miami heads, I first heard this song from my older cousin “Trini Boy,” who played on one of the sickest sound systems at the time called Elite Unlimited (Large up Chuckie, Martin Lutha, King David, Red Snapper, Pressa, and the rest of the Elite Unlimited crew). Trini dropped this track at a house party in the Norland area of North Miami (now known as Miami Gardens), and the place went nuts. Who ever owned that house almost lost a house that night. Between all the lighters and liquor flying all over the place, I’m surprised it didn’t burn down. Trini must have pulled up that song over 10 times. No lie. Every lyric Bounty said in the first hook and first verse was wheel-up material, straight quotable lines. It was Bare Vibes. The force was strong within Trini that night, representing like a young sound bwoy Jedi.

Well down inna di ghetto where di poor nuh have a ting, and di politicians wit di guns dem ah bring

Bounty was straight dropping knowledge behind the mesmerizing horns and sick bass line of the Shank I Sheck riddim. It’s sad that many of my friends and I could relate to this song living in America, the supposed land of equalityโ€”whether that be racial equality, socioeconomic equality, or just overall equal opportunity for all citizens. I can only imagine what Bounty saw happening in Jamaica at the time with his own eyes. This song. along with many other classic gems, solidified his legacy as the defender of the poor, and earned him the title of the “Poor People’s Governor.”

Just when things started to cool down in the domestic dancehall for the night, Trini dropped another track on the same riddim. All we heard was that same unmistakeable voice say, “Well actions speak louder den words, so bad man nuh talk betta if ya observe, yes”. The place erupted. The real estate value of that house definitely dropped after that chune. Good times!

Bounty never shot a music video for “Down In The Ghetto,” and quite frankly, a music video could never really portray the realness of such a powerful song. However, if you wish to see what inspired the song, you can’t do better than this documentary segment from Jamaican TV show Entertainment Report which follows Bounty back to Callaloo Bed in Riverton City, one of the impoverished areas where he grew up. The segment gave me even more of an appreciation for this classic song, and Bounty’s entire catalog. For all of you just hearing of “Down In The Ghetto,” I advise watching the clip first, than listening to song. You’ll visualize what you just saw while listening to the song, painting an even more detailed picture when listening to Bounty’s descriptively chilling words.