Words by Jesse Serwer
No artist embodied the essence of dancehall’s early 2000s peak more than Elephant Man. Ele was — and still is — dancehall at its most extra, unapologetic and self-referential, a man who made no concession to a world outside Kingston street dances even as his songs invaded pop radio and MTV alongside more likely candidates like Sean Paul.
Equiknoxx, the unorthodox Jamaican music collective known for creating their own alternate dancehall realities, celebrate the spirit of the Energy God on their latest single. But “Elephant Man” is not a homage so much as a free association with Ele as its starting point. The brief blast of a track developed organically during a Kingston recording session with Birmingham, UK-based deejay RTKal, who voices “Elephant Man” alongside Equiknoxx’s own Time Cow, made as Equiknoxx’s Gavsborg (aka Gavin Blair) tested out KORG’s volca beats machine.
“The night took an interesting turn when we began to commend people that have made big strides in dancehall culture, with Elephant Man’s name reeling high in the discussion,” the crew tell us by email. “Elephant Man is quite a character [who] deserves a very focused applause for bringing a refreshing ‘burlesque’ flair to the Kingston scene in the early 2000s. When we think of Elephant Man, we think of an outlandish 120bpm, jiggy mixture of Grace Jones and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry meets Busta Rhymes.”
The video, premiering here, was cobbled together during quarantine, pitting self-filmed scenes of Time Cow and RTKal with looped scenes from Elephant Man and Scare Dem Crew videos and street dance DVDs, filtered ever so slightly through a VHS effect. Audio for “Elephant Man” hits streaming services today.