Throwback Thursdays: Watch King Jammy’s Change The Sound of Dancehall in 1985

July 16, 2015

Words by Jesse Serwer


As our friend Johnny Osbourne once said, None ah dem nuh sound like Jammy’s, none ah dem nuh sound like wi. These words, recorded for posterity on the single “People Are You Ready” but adapted from mic chatter on King Jammy’s famed sound system, weren’t just idle talk. There have been many other influential producers and big sound systems to come out of Jamaica, but no one combined the private creation and public presentation of reggae and dancehall into one massive juggernaut quite like Lloyd “King Jammy’s” James. In fact, no one comes even close.

This is all quite apparent from this three-minute clip pulled from King At The Controls, a 2006 documentary about Jammy’s produced by Oliver Chastan and Johnny Wonder that will be re-released on DVD as part of VP Records/17 North Parade’s new CD/DVD retrospective, Roots, Reality And Sleng Teng. With Jammy’s game-changing Sleng Teng riddim currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, the clip takes us back to 1985, the year that Wayne Smith’s “Under Mi Sleng Teng” and subsequent tracks on the groundbreaking instrumental ushered in dancehall’s digital revolution.

Jammy’s was already legendary as both a producer and a sound man by 1985, but the sonic revolution he ushered in that year cemented his legacy. Featuring footage with Jammy himself, Wayne Smith and legendary Jamaican radio DJ Barry G in action, the clip offers a window into a moment most dancehall fans have heard about but very few have ever witnessed.

Roots, Reality And Sleng Teng is out July 24th. King Jammy plays Queens, NY at the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival this Sunday, July 19th, followed by Reggae on the River in Humboldt County, California, July 30th.