Welcome to Jamrock

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The late nineteen-sixties and the nineteen-seventies was a substantial period in Jamaican history. The general election of nineteen eighty between the PNP and the JLP plagued Jamaica with violence, corruption, and chaos. During this time period reggae music was used as a medium for Jamaicans, particularly Bob Marley, to express their feelings and attitude toward the conditions of their homeland. Approximately forty years later, artists such as Damian Marley have re-mastered the genre of roots reggae with relevance to the very foundation it was built upon. In Damian Marley’s track “Welcome to Jamrock”, he incorporates themes of political corruption and violence as his father had under the very principles of roots reggae.

During the early nineteen sixties, two “highly electable” political parties, the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) had come head-to-head with one another as competitors for membership in office (Clarke, 422). To secure votes the ghetto, characterized by low-education value and stricken by poverty was targeted as a prime source for votes and support. Street violence was used by both major parties as a method of winning positions in office (Clarke, 423-424). By the mid-seventies this street violence had been transformed into the development of hierarchal gangs and party-affiliated neighborhoods. Jamaica was virtually at war- the supporters of the PNP versus those of the JLP.

Parallel to the onset of the corruption and violence within Jamaica, reggae music began undergoing a change in both sound and content. This period of “roots reggae” focused primarily on the roots and culture of Jamaica and Rastafarian, as well as spiritual and political conditions. Roots reggae includes references pertaining to the “Rastafarian worldview” which is characterized by the influences of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, writings of the Old Testament, and the teachings of Marcus Garvey (Anderson, 208). Bob Marley has been accredited as one of the most famous and influential roots reggae artists to have ever lived. His role as a musician went beyond producing great music to a political advocate for an end to political corruption and violence in Jamaica. His career was short lived when he deceased in 1981 at the age of thirty-six from cancer.

Thirty-something years later, Damien Marley has encompassed the legacy of his father and the components of roots reggae in his award winning track “Welcome to Jamrock” off his album Halfway Tree. The track aims at exposing Jamaica beyond the beautiful white-sand beaches and luxury resorts to unveil the violence (especially politically related) and the hardships of day-today life for the low to middle-class (Nixon, 193). “Welcome to Jamrock” blends hip-hop with the aggressiveness of dancehall with contemporary reggae perhaps in aim to reach a wider audience or his many years spent living in the United States. However, what characterizes this track as a roots reggae track is his assertion of consciousness, which sprouts from Rastafarian. Consciousness is the awareness of something external, or within oneself. This “something” can be thoughts, feelings, sensations, and personal-identity. Like his father, Damian Marley has included this sense of consciousness in his work as artists had during the roots reggae era with a blend of hip-hop and rap inspired from his work with artists such as Nas and his fondness of hip-hop music (Nixon, 193).

While political violence and corruption within Jamaica is implied in earlier lines and verses, Damian takes the guess work out of understanding his lyrics by his line “political violence, can’t done”. The political violence and corruption fueled by the JLP and PNP is characterized by their loyal supporters who are obtained through manipulative ways. Marley follows this very line with “pure ghost and phantom”. Similarly to the nature of all lyrics, this specific lyric can be interpreted differently, yet similar context....
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