REWIND: Celebrate the next Vice President with Jamaican musicians

Kamala Harris

Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris at the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 30, 2019. Gary Chancer/STAFF.

Joe Biden has selected the next Vice President of the United States of America and it’s none other than East Bay native Kamala Harris.

First, if you’ve got a problem with her, just… don’t. Seriously. Don’t. Nobody cares if you don’t think she’s perfect. Demanding perfection from every candidate is how we ended up not sure there’s going to be a Presidential election at all and, oh, with (as of this writing) about 165,000 dead Americans and rising.

Second, what a way for Biden to celebrate Week 11 of RIFF Rewind Black History Month!

In honor of Harris’ Jamaican heritage, this week’s topic is musicians from Jamaica or of Jamaican decent. And, since you know all the Marleys, I’m going to do it without including even a single Marley.

Ini Kamoze — “Here Comes The Hotstepper”

If you’re from the ’90s like I am you definitely know this song. In the mid ’90s it was inescapable.

I’ve written about what I consider to be a genre unto itself: Songs I remember from middle school dances. Or, more specifically, songs that give me flashbacks to middle school dances. I did not have fun at dances in middle school, and yet I went to most of them, and at every single one they played the same handful of songs.

As I’ve pointed out, the reigning kings of the genre are “Tootsee Roll” by the 69 Boyz (yep, that song is by the 69 Boyz) and Tag Team’s “Whoomp! There It Is” (actual lyrics: “Point blank, gin and juice I drink/ And then invent as I puff on dank/ Rock the mic, uh oh, I crave skin/ Rip shit, find a honey dip to dip it in”). They played both those songs for 11- to 14-year-olds, in case you were wondering how someone ends up like… you know, this.

Anyway, comparatively speaking, Kamoze’s song that’s probably about a murderer on the run from the law is pretty tame.

Harry Belafonte — “Jump In the Line”

Speaking of things from the past, you know the music of Harry Belafonte from the movie “Beetlejuice.”

Oh, you think you know Belafonte from his acting career? You’re gonna claim you’re familiar with him because of your deep knowledge of music and your first exposure wasn’t a young Wynona Ryder dancing to this while hovering in the air?

Uh huh. Yeah. No, really, I totally believe you. Everyone definitely buys that.

Shaggy — “Boombastic”

Shut up, I like Shaggy. Fight me.

Lots of musicians shout their own name at random, but nobody does it quite like Shaggy. I’d argue that his is the only name that actually sounds right being shouted. It works so well! Don’t try to deny it.

Also, he was hilarious in “Game Over, Man,” a Netflix movie starring the guys from the TV show “Workaholics.” He plays himself as a hostage. Other than featuring exactly 100 percent more of Adam Devine’s junk than I needed in my life, it’s really funny.

NeeQah — “Ms. Melanin”

I’m gonna be honest with you guys, I don’t know much of anything about NeeQah. I know she’s from Jamaica and that she’s responsible for this song, and that I really like this song. I’m certainly not in any position to talk about colorism since I’m so white I could practically get a sunburn from fluorescent lighting, but I do know music, and I know what I like, and I like this.

I also wanted to put a modern song on here to point out that Jamaica is still producing really good music. The whole country’s got a population of about 3 million people, about the size of Nevada, and no disrespect to Nevada, but they’ve got, what, Ne-Yo and Panic at the Disco, whose name I refuse to put an exclamation point in the middle of? I rest my case.

Gil Scott-Heron — “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

This is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch as a “song,” since it’s a spoken-word piece set to jazz music. Scott-Heron was a writer and a poet and only released records of his poetry because that’s the sort of thing you did in the ’70s. But there are a few reasons it’s on here, anyway.

First, you’ve heard the phrase. This is where it came from. Know the source because it’s brilliant and Scott-Heron is a genius.

Second, this song/poem/proto-rap/whatever is depressingly relevant to 2020, because, as I pointed out before, we never really solved anything. We drove bigotry back a bit in the late ’60s then decided to ignore it while it regrouped and gained strength in the shadows.

Third, Gil Scott-Heron’s father, Gil Heron, was a famous Jamaican soccer player. So he counts for the column theme.

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