Archive for July, 2012

RIP Sluggy Ranks

Peggy from Reggae Report indicated yesterday she’d seen reports that reggae singer Sluggy Ranks was killed in a car crash. If it turns out to be true, it’s a real loss, even though he wasn’t a household name for most.

Sluggy was a dancehall artist who came into his own in the mid-1980s, after he’d come to the United States from Kingston. His voice was unique and his mess was conscious and positive, in contrast to many of his dancehall contemporaries.

I thought I’d share three of my favorite tracks Sluggy’s been involved in. I’d love to hunt out more of his work, but much of it is hard to come by.

First is “Ghetto Youth Bust,” where Sluggy takes shot at the gun culture that’s been prevalent in dancehall and among Jamaican youth for decades:

“Progressive youth must try, / kill dem with positive vibes! / It’s nothing but conscious style. / Just tell´╗┐ me who a go hold it back, hold it back, / hold back the youths from buss!”

Sluggy reused the “Ghetto Youth Bust” hook when he teamed up with Trenton’s Poor Righteous Teachers and X Clan’s Brother J on the fantastic “Conscious Style” from PRT’s third album, The New World Order:

My favorite Sluggy track, “Ethiopia,” comes from his work with the Easy Star label on their debut 1997 compilation, Easy Star Volume One. The track is called “Ethiopia” and really captures Sluggy’s talent.

More here (with some inaccurate info re: his involvement with Easy Star).

Seen, Heard, and Read, vol. 3

Seen

Confessions of a Superhero

A touching (and ever-so-slightly exploitative) look at the mere mortals behind the superhero characters on Hollywood Boulevard. With Superman, Batman, and the Hulk, you can sense that this is probably a spot they’ll be in for a while, despite all their best efforts. While Wonder Woman’s story isn’t overly sad, you can sense she’s destined for bigger and better things (since the movie, she’s had bit roles on Party Down, True Blood, and New Girl).

Heard

Miles Davis: Get Up With It

Like anyone else who’s ever spent any time in a college radio station, I went through a heavy Miles Davis period when I was starting to get into jazz. Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew were, of course, on heavy rotation, but I tried to dig into some of the lesser-known Miles albums from various points in his career as well. Somehow, I missed Get Up With It, a double-LP of super-electic electric recordings from 1970-1974. Even if you’ve heard his other electric-era recordings, you’ll be surprised over and over again with Get Up With It.

The two most notable tracks are the 32-minute “He Loved Him Madly,” a dedication to the recently deceased Duke Ellington, and the supremely bonkers “Rated X,” a fiercely funky assault on your senses. The latter is particularly ahead of its time, sounding a lot like the intense electronica-infused jazz we’ve seen coming out of Poland in the last decade (a la Pink Freud, Robotobibok, etc.). (The live version on the Miles Davis In Concert album isn’t as good.)

Read

Fire Monks coverFire Monks by Colleen Morton Busch

A super interesting look at the California wildfires of 2008 and how the monks of Tassajara (which is connected with Suzuki Roshi’s San Francisco Zen Center) worked to defend their land even with little help from professionals. Really engaging and a fascinating examination of how “beginner’s mind” works under extreme pressure.

Don’t miss this Flickr set with photos from before, during, and after the fire by Mako, one of the five monks that fought the fire from beginning to end.