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Album Review

Linton Kwesi Johnson, one of the founding fathers of the reggae subgenre known as "dub poetry," doesn't always get all the respect he deserves. Purists point out that his patois is something of a put-on — he writes songs (or poems, as he prefers) with titles like "If I Waz a Tap Natch Poet" and "New Word Hawdah," but he can turn it on and off at will and has written in standard English for scholarly journals. But despite his tweedy, bespectacled image, his politics are anything but objective or disengaged — he writes about social injustice in general and racism in particular with a quiettly seething sense of outrage and an incisive wit. His latest effort finds him exploring familiar territory — racist violence ("Reggae fi Bernard"), police oppression ("Liesense fi Kill" — "liesense," get it?) — but also getting a bit more introspective as he ponders poetry itself ("If I Waz a Tap Natch Poet") and domestic bliss ("Seasons of the Heart"). As always, the music is provided by Dennis Bovell's top-notch Dub Band, whose springy, sometimes swinging groove provides an interesting counterbalance to Johnson's often dour poetic insights.

Biography

Born: 24 August 1952 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Although he has only released one album of new material in the last ten years, and virtually retired from the live stage after his 1985 tour, Linton Kwesi Johnson remains a towering figure in reggae music. Born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in the Brixton section of London, Johnson invented dub poetry, a type of toasting descended from the DJ stylings of U-Roy and I-Roy. But whereas toasting tended to be hyperkinetic and given to fits of braggadocio, Johnson's poetry (which is what it was —...
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More Time, Linton Kwesi Johnson
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