B. B. King’s Blues Club
If “Welcome To Jamrock” jumped off a bridge… well? Thrice the summer’s fourth-hottest song appeared through the night, first at the lopsided end of DJ Liondub’s generous 45 RPM set, second during Brooklyn rap team Smif-N-Wessun’s blackhole of a performance. MC Tek thanked the rapathetic for letting his group do their thing: “It’s all good,” he added with a smile. “No it ain’t!” someone yelled back. Then, like a variety show host with a stagehook, the DJ cued “Jamrock”, and a resigned Boot Camp Clik prepared their exit. Murder, they call it.
As if his Firehouse Band’s entrance to “O Fortuna” didn’t suggest as much, Jamaican dancehall don Sizzla couldn’t give a shit about Damien Marley (“dissolvit ut glaciem,” folks). He couldn’t give a shit about a lot of things, actually—political correctness, smoking bans, “smoking” bans, but you know that—barreling through what seemed 30 albums worth of midtempo numbers in the first 15 minutes. Like Diddy, Sizzla’s a vibe giver, but he’s also a vibe taker. So when the audience didn’t flick a bic or sing along to songs that weren’t “Da Real Thing” or “Stay Focus” or “Good Ways” or “One Of Those Days” or “Jah Knows Best,” he skipped to the next riddim and asked, politely, for more fire.
A thing about fire. As someone who can take years just to finish a bottle of Amstel light, I marveled at the efficiency and professionalism with which the crowd ripped the green stuff. Apparently some people have the ability to inhale smoke from their own dreadlocks. Granted, this is a reggae show, and more than that, Sizzla’s certainly made a platform out of pot advocacy, which gave him good between-song recourse when the “people here don’t know their own culture” line and “this is why I hate gays” bullshit fell flat. (Though I’ll give him, “What are the colors on a stop light? Red, yellow, green—that’s Jah Rastafari.”)
The longer the songs played, the more fiercely he snarled, screamed, and shouted his toasts over the singing audience’s flubbed but earnest patois—”Thank You Mama” jerked the tears that the smoke couldn’t. Dame Dash possibly excluded (time will tell), people do and want to continue to like this magnetic artist despite the dissonance—his own, and the semi-cognitive kind he heaves on us too. Pure tuff things, they are Jah. And oh, “Jamrock” played on the way out too.