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Album Review

Yellowman's 1985 Galong Galong Galong album had reunited the DJ with Sly & Robbie, or at least their riddims, for his producer, George Phang, exclusively relied on a clutch of riddims the pair had given him, rumor had it in payment for a debt. The following year, the Riddim Twins would be in the driver's seat, overseeing the DJ's new album, Rambo. The two sets were only a year apart, but oh what a difference 12 months make. Galong's marvelous rockers-styled riddims, laid down by the drum-and-bass pair at Channel One, were now history, for the Taxi Gang were now driving straight into a digitized future. One step forward, three steps backward, roots fans would sneer, but back then this synthetic sound was so fresh and new, it's no wonder the dancehalls fell immediately under its spell. But Rambo isn't a pure ragga record. Robbie Shakespeare's bass whumps, thumps, and pulses straight through the eight tracks, Sly Dunbar provides some live drums, and there's even guitar, quite a bit on "Tarzan," in fact, the set opener. "Girls Pet" is even more old-fashioned, a typically militarized rocksteady riddim that might have been cut by the duo at the dawn of the decade, as could the even bouncier "Crying Time." Except for that drum machine that replaces Dunbar's own metronomic beats, of course. And it's brought its friends along for "Computerize," where the DJ celebrates the musical wave of the future, while the Taxi Gang prove just how forceful a riddim you can create with drum machines and a synthesizer. And how complex they can get, even with the then rather primitive technology, as Dunbar deftly showcases on "Love." The musical style may have changed, but the DJ's themes haven't. Yellow is still the king of the dancehalls, the girls can't get enough of him; in fact, they can't stop talking about him, forcing the DJ to demand they "Stop the Rumour." And whether celebrating the exploits of "Tarzan" or "Rambo," Yellow bests them all, and puts even British PM Margaret Thatcher in her place on the excellent cultural cut "Crying Time." Musically, the set has dated rather spectacularly with time, but in its day this was a classic, and as a period piece, Rambo is still a force to be reckoned with.


Born: 1956 in Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Jamaica's first dancehall superstar, Yellowman ushered in a new era in reggae music following Bob Marley's death. His early-'80s success brought the popularity of toasting -- the reggae equivalent of rapping -- to a whole new level, and helped establish dancehall as the wave of the future. For better or for worse, he also epitomized dancehall's penchant for "slack" lyrics -- that is, casual violence, sexism, homophobia, and general rudeness. Graphic sexuality was his particular forte, reaching levels...
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Rambo, Yellowman
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