The Rebirth of the Cool Ruler
Iconic reggae and dancehall producer, King Jammy (Lloyd James), digs into his master recording archive and brings the legendary Gregory Isaacs’ late 1980s/1990s digi catalog to a new generation by pairing him with veterans Shaggy, Sean Paul, Bounty Killer, Junior Reid, Chaka Demus, Alborosie, Bunny General, and Ras Shiloh and now generation artists Jesse Royal, Projexx, Aza Lineage, Ras Demo, Brandon The Messenjah, Claire Angel, and Flinix. Riddims include the popular “China Town,” which Sean Paul rides on “Another Try,” his update of Isaacs’ “Let’s Give It Ah Try.” Singer Alborosie goes into the deep catalog with his update of Isaacs’ “Over The Bridge,” remade as “Dreadlocks Bridge.” Each artist works in tandem with Isaacs from the multi-track master recordings, a follow-up to a series that began with New Sounds Of Freedom (Black Uhuru) and King Jammy Presents Dennis Brown Tracks Of Life.
Gregory Isaacs – Singer, Cool Ruler
Gregory Isaacs, OD, (1951-2010) is one of the most important and prolifc singers in Jamaican music history. His “Night Nurse” (1982) is one of the most popular and recognizable songs in the entire reggae cannon, streaming more than 100 million, as of 2023. One of the cream of reggae’s gifted crop of singers to emerge in the 70s, he remained relevant for decades, finding his stride at the apex of the Lovers Rock era, with “Night Nurse,” “Top Ten,” “My Only Lover,” and “Soon Forward” helping define the genre. He stayed at the top of the game as reggae embraced digital production, with the iconic “Rumours” for Gussie Clarke and the iconic album Red Rose For Gregory (Greensleeves, 1988).
In the streaming era, “Babylon Too Rough” has emerged as a key track, found on Spotify’s influential Reggae Classics playlist. He is one of ten Jamaican artists whose catalog is celebrated at Apple Music with three levels of playlists, Essentials, Next Steps, and Deep Cuts.
Isaacs first recorded for King Jammy in 1986 and saw the release of albums Come Along, Let’s Go Dancing, and Heartbreaker, between 1987 and 1989, plus dozens of singles over the following decade. Jammy’s recalls as much as seven albums’ worth of material being recorded. Isaacs’ history with VP dates to the Randy’s era in Kingston, and the early years of VP Records in New York, when his now classic LP Mr. Isaacs was first distributed. VP worked closely with him over the years, distributing classic African Museum titles such as Cool Ruler, Soon Forward, and Lonely Lover and popular collections One Man Agaist The World, as well as the Cool Ruler Reggae Anthology Series. Greensleeves released seven albums between 1985 and 1995, including Private Beach Party and Red Rose For Gregory.
King Jammy – Producer
Born Lloyd James and initially known as Prince Jammy, he became the undisputed King when digital production took over Jamaican music in the mid-1980s. His influence on the development of dub music and reggae production is incalculable.
Having refined his mixing acumen under his mentor King Tubby in the late 70s, Jammy developed his own aesthetic as reggae turned the corner into the 1980s, enhanced by access to the most relevant new artists from his neighborhood of Waterhouse. First with Black Uhuru, then with an array of singers including Johnny Osbourne, Barry Brown, Junior Reid, and most famously Wayne Smith, whose “Under Mi Sleng Teng” is considered transitional marker in a globally influential continuum of music.
“Under Mi Sleng Teng” is heavily sampled in SL2’s 1991 track “Way In My Brain,” featured in the 2022 rollout advertisements for Facebook’s rebranding as Meta.
By the 1990s, King Jammy’s productions and his soundsystem were synonymous with reggae and dancehall itself. He has also overseen one of the most successful clashing soundsystems in the world for three decades and was honored with a tribute set at Reggae Sumfest 2023 in Jamaica.
King Jammy’s history with VP Records dates back to the late 1970s and now includes most of the major titles in his catalog.
His most recent releases for VP were King Jammy Destroys The Virus With Dub in 2022 and a series of reissue titles including Wailing Souls Stormy Night and Cultural Roots Running Back To Me, and the compilation of late 80s digital scorchers Cries From The Youth (July 2023). Another new dub album, Licensed To Dub is forthcoming.
King Jammy on Gregory (February 28, 2022 interview at studio)
“When I used to work down by King Tubby’s, I used to do a lot of work for Gregory Isaacs. Gregory used to come, and me mix tune for him, voice him down there, but I never had the courage to ask him to do a song for me because he was such a big artist. I was afraid to really ask him to do a tune for me. One day I got the courage, when I had my studio here, and cut dubs. Him come up here and (I) say ‘Gregory mon, you do a tune for me? Me pay you to do a tune for me.’ Him say ‘bwai, yu deyah Tubby’s whole time, you never ask me fi do a tune yet?! You think you grow big and me can do tune fi you now you have money?!’ So me say, ‘how much you want?’ Him say alright, ‘put on di riddim.’ I don’t remember the first song I did with him, I think it was on the Tight Clothes Riddim. Anyway, him do the song and him never take no money from me. Him say, ‘is alright, that a your present’ (laughs). Cause him do a lot of dub that day and him get nuff money. So me and him becomes bredren. Him come back again and say him waan do an album. Me and him end up do around 7 albums.”