Conscious Reggae Mix

Reggae is the default music for me. I love all kinds of genres but I always, always return to reggae (in all its forms). This is a mix I did in July 2011. Having listened to it endlessly in the gym, I thought I may as well post it online – the first time I’ve ever done so. It contains some of the finest conscious and lovers reggae tracks from the last few years. This mix is both mellow and uplifting, and features all kinds of artists from heavyweight veterans like Marcia Griffiths and Freddie McGregor to newer kids on block like I Octane, Taurus Riley and Romain Virgo. I haven’t put a tracklist, but can do if anyone’s interested.

Enjoy, and give feedback too, positive or negative – preferably positive 😉

R.I.P. Gill Scott Heron

Gil Scott Heron died in the week of African Liberation Day 2011. He was a genius and encountered some of the problems that usually come with genius. Along with others like the The Last Prophets, bother Gil provided the musical counterpart to the fiery politics of the 1960s and 1970s. And his music helped to inspire me to become politically-aware and to get involved in political activity. Here are some of my personal favourite songs of his.

The Rise and Fall of So Solid: A Cautionary Tale


So Solid Nostalgia!

I’m feeling all nostalgic for the So Solid crew (pictured right). I’m thinking about the kind of things they might have gone on to achieve if their rise had not been stopped so soon.

So Solid emerged at the tail end of UK Garage’s commercial boom in the late 1990s. Up until then, MCs were not really recording artists. Instead, they hyped-up crowds in the clubs and rhymed over tracks on pirate radio stations. But So Solid and others ushered in a new era in which MCs took centre stage as artists in their own right.

On one hand, this was a positive development. MCs are able to express themselves a lot more comprehensively than singers and the new tracks provided a window into the things that black youth in London had on their minds. Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – these MCs mainly wanted to talk about sex, money and guns. The attitude they put forward was unashamedly materialistic, nihilistic and individualistic.

When they were up
This new era was led by the So Solid Crew along with others like Oxide and Neutrino, More Fire Crew and the Heartless Cru. So Solid led the way and in 2001, they achieved a series of chart hits from their debut album They Don’t Know. Their pinnacle was the massive chart-topper 21 Seconds with its superb video.

When they were down
But the bigger their profile became the more trouble they seemed to get into. The mainstream media fell over themselves to tell us about the latest brawl or stabbing or shooting that had occurred at a So Solid gig. At the same time, violence began to occur more and more frequently at UK Garage nights. Clubs began to disassociate themselves from Garage due to the violence.

Within months, So Solid went from chart topping superstars to public enemy number one, with even Government ministers lining up to blame them for the ills of urban Britain. So Solid were driven away from the limelight by the negative publicity and their sophomore album released in 2003 disappeared without much interest.

An alternative ending
Had So Solid been able to flourish and progress, they would have learned valuable lessons about the industry. They could then have passed these on to a younger generation. In fact, they had youngsters in their camp called So Solid Kids who were not actual members but were learning the ropes.

So Solid would inevitably have branched out into other commercial areas in order to generate new revenue streams. Imagine a large group of young black men and women becoming well-versed in business and entreprenuership and passing on that know-how to youngsters!

As they matured, So Solid might also have got more involved with their local community in constructive ways. For example, they could have supported anti-gun and knife crime initiatives and mentoring schemes.

Conscious lyrics
Over time, the group may have also grown up a bit lyrically and their music could have started to offer a more conscious worldview. In fact, last year So Solid’s Swiss released a track called Bad Boys (video below) which dealt with police harassment. Imagine if they had put out this kind of material during their heyday?

Lessons to learn
What can we do to prevent other youngsters falling into the So Solid trap? This question was answered by So Solid songstress Lisa Maffia in an interview last year:

“We had no guidance, no mentor,” says Maffia, “No one told us, ‘It’s probably not a good idea to stay on the estate where you grew up with all that money and success.’”

Our job as a community is to learn from the experience of So Solid and build relationships with up and coming artists to ensure that they are better prepared to handle fame and fortune if it comes their way.