Words by Jesse Serwer and Richard “Treats” Dryden
Photo by Catherine McGann
In the Bronx in 1973, a Jamaican-born DJ started playing just the funkiest parts of his favorite records at parties, while his friends toasted on the mic, riding the ensuing grooves like the deejays back in JA. Soon thereafter, a son of Bridgetown, Barbados and a South Bronx native of mixed Jamaican and Barbadian parentage were adding to the template; the latter perfecting the technique of mixing between two turntables, the other convincing local gang members to lay down their grudges and join him in search of the perfect beat. And that’s how hip-hop began—with three West Indian youths full of ingenuity. As the culture built by Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaata and their peeers was translated into a commercial product through the advent of rap records, producers of Caribbean birth and parentage (including Bambaata himself) would become central to the genre’s development, injecting new and old ideas into the growing arena of hip-hop. And in the 35 year since then, this has remained true, as many of the genre’s most influential and important producers claim roots in the islands.
Continuing where our Top 10 Caribbean Pioneers list left off, here’s 10 beatmakers of Caribbean birth and/or parentage who have shaped the sound and direction over the last few decades, from unsung ’80s pioneers Kurtis Mantronik and Hitman Howie Tee to the ever-evolving and influential Salaam Remi. (And nuff respect to Q-Tip, KRS-ONE, MF DOOM and all of the great beatmakers with one Caribbean parent—we’ll get y’all next time).