|a style of Jamaican popular music blending blues, calypso, and rock-‘n’-roll, characterized by a strong syncopated rhythm, usually with an accent placed on the offbeat, and lyrics of social protest.Complements of dictionary.com
To preface this list – unlike the previous top-ten mc’s list (VR’s top ten rappers/vocalists of all time) this is my top-ten reggae groups list. However, reggae is very specific genre, by definition, and yet countless bands have been inspired by it and have heavy reggae music influences, though they are not strictly “reggae”.
Unlike the hip-hop list, which was strictly rapper vocalists (not groups, I’m workin on my top ten rap groups list currently), the rules for this list were more general: only that the artists/group were heavily-inspired by reggae, though many may display and utilize other influences as well, such as ska, rock, folk, anything… These artists, however, all have heavy reggae-influences or at least would never had existed if it were not for reggae. Enjoy!
THE MORE YOU READ, THE MORE FREE MUSIC AND KNOWLEDGE YOU GET. I’ve embedded extra songs and free bits within the bios and text, as well as at the end of each section, so basically, if you actually read it, you get wayyy more free shit.
The following are my favorite artists and are those top ten that inspire me the most. Enjoy the list!
USE THIS KNOWLEDGE HOWEVER YOU WILL —
TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH IF YOU WANT…
THAT IS ASSUMING YOU HAVE ANY….
…drum roll please…….
(you’re not going to be surprised)
1. Bob Marley & The Wailers
No surprises there. Honestly, could it go to anyone else?
It is important to consider the roots of this legend: Bob Marley is the first superstar from the Third World. Bob Marley was one of the most charismatic and challenging performers of our time and his music could have only been created from only one source: the streets culture of jamaica, where he was raised.
Could You be Loved?
The days of slavery are a recent folk memory on the island. They have permeated the very essence of Jamaica’s culture, from the plantations of the mid-nineteenth century to the popular music of our own times. Although slavery was abolished in 1834, the Africans and their descendants developed their own culture with half-remembered African traditions minled with the customs of the British.
This Hybrid culture, of course, had parallels with the emerging black society in America. Mamaica, however, remained a rural community which, withour the industrialisation of its northern neighbour, was more closely rooted to its African Legacy.
Rivers of Babylon
Three Little Birds
Bob Marley & The Wailers consisted of Bob Marley himself as guitarist, songwriter and lead singer, the Wailers Band as the backing band, and the I Threes as backup vocalists. The Wailers Band included the brothers Carlton and Aston “Family Man” Barrett on drums and bass respectively, Junior Marvin and Al Anderson on lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl “Wya” Lindo on keyboards, and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson on percussion. The I Threes, consisted of Bob Marley’s wife Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths.
Tremendously popular in their native Jamaica, Bob Marley is regarded as a national hero, the Wailers were also reggae music’s most effective international emissaries. Bob Marley’s songs of determination, rebellion, and faith have found an audience all over the world.
Get Up Stand Up
Marley left his rural home for the slums of Kingston at age 14. When he was 17, Jimmy Cliff introduced him to Leslie Kong, who produced Marley’s first single, “Judge Not,” and several other obscure sides.
Bob Marley & the members were all devout Rastafarians.
I Shot The Sheriff
The group saw little critical or popular acclaim, until Marley expanded the instrumental section of the group and brought in a female vocal trio, the I-Threes, which included his wife, Rita. After this, officially called Bob Marley and the Wailers, they toured Europe, Africa, and the Americas, building especially strong followings in the U.K., Scandinavia, and Africa.
They had U.K. Top 40 hits with “No Woman No Cry” (1975), “Exodus” (1977), and “Satisfy My Soul” (1978); and British Top 10 hits with “Jamming” (1977), “Punky Reggae Party” (1977), and “Is This Love” (1978). ****CLICK THE LINKS****
In Jamaica the Wailers reached unprecedented levels of popularity and influence, and Marley’s pronouncements on public issues were accorded the attention usually reserved for political or religious leaders. In 1976 he was wounded in an assassination attempt. Bastards.
A 1980 tour of the U.S. was canceled when Marley collapsed while jogging in New York’s Central Park. It was discovered that he had developed brain, lung, and liver cancer; it killed him eight months later.. On this day, the world lost not only an amazing musician, but a devout man of god, a political activist, and loving father and husband. It is to this day, one of the saddest losses in musical history. As the story goes, though this is a debated fact, Marley first developed the cancer in his foot after playing football (that’s “soccer” for all my American supporters) and could have had the foot amputated to stop the spread. However, Rasta doctrine says that all parts of the body are holy, and thus one cannot do things like cut their hair, remove limbs or any appendage, etc. Thus, the cancer spread and Marley died due to his devotion to his faith. A sad loss but he will live on forever though his music.
Red Red Wine
Marley was a pioneer not only because he single-handedly brought reggae to the world, but because his passionate, socially observant music has become a yardstick against which all reggae will forever be measured. 10/10
Stir It Up
Punky Reggae Party
No Woman No Cry
Bob Marley changed my life and is an ongoing inspiration to me, and sooo many others.
you won’t be forgotten.
Smoke Two Joints
Surprise! I told you it was not going to be a strictly reggae list – and many people do call bands like sublime, and more recent similar bands that they have spawned “skinhead” reggae – but I think music’s focus (*and ESPECIALLY reggae’s) is to bring people together – not divide them by race, age, gender, or anything. I say, long live “skinhead” reggae.
A much more problematic artist for me, however, personally, and yet another sad casualty of drugs. Why do so many great artists have to be so badly conflicted? No one knows, but suffice it to say that Bradley Nowell, even in the short time he had on this earth, touched many lives, and friends and family alike will attest to him being one of the kindest, gentlest, and most loving souls ever.
Also, from a purely musical perspective, Nowell was one of the greatest musical pioneers of all time, combining traditional reggae, with rock n’ roll, ska, and even latino music, to create one of the most unique and diverse sounds of all times. His bandmates, who went on to create Long Beach Dub All Stars, were also extremely talented. One of the greatest songwriters of all time, one of the greatest live musicians, and one of, if not my favorite, bands ever.
“It’s so nice, I wanna hear the same song twice” – Boss DJ
Formed in Long Beach, CA, in 1988 as a garage punk band, Sublime grew to fame in the mid-’90s on the back of the Cali punk explosion engendered by Green Day and the Offspring, though Sublime mixed up their punk rage with reggae and ska influences. The band released just two albums during its first seven years, finally finding a hit with its self-titled third one. It was Sublime’s last, however, as lead singer Brad Nowell died in May 1996 of a heroin overdose while on tour, leaving behind Lou Dog, his bandmates, a wife and daughter, and a generations of fans-to-be.
No Woman No Cry (Cover)
40 Oz. To Freedom
The trio which comprised Sublime — vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Nowell, bassist Eric Wilson, and drummer Bud Gaugh — played their first gig on the 4th of July 1988 at a small Long Beach club (a show that sparked the infamous Peninsula Riot!). Classic sublime. The group began aggressively touring around the area with an increasingly substantial following, gaining notoriety for drinking and smoking publicly on stage, causing riots, and just having a general out-of-control rocker style about them. They were especially popular among the surf/skate beach crowd. Their shows encouraged debauchery, moshing, and disorder.
Wonder why I like them so much?
April 26, 1992
After four years of concentrating strictly on live shows, Sublime’s first album (40 Oz. to Freedom) was recorded in 1992. The LP was released on Skunk Records — the label formed by Nowell with Sublime manager Miguel — and sold at shows, but it really started to break when KROQ began playing the single “Date Rape” two years after its initial release. The album still exists today and has seen many other notable artists and much success (a few of which appear later on this list..)
Caress Me Down
Mostly due to the radio exposure, Sublime signed to MCA for 1994’s Robbin’ the Hood, which revealed an experimental ethic more in keeping with cut-and-paste dub than the well-tuned rage of the Cali punk revival. Most of this album was recorded solely by Nowell, as he had recently relapsed and was at the peak of his drug usage. The album, however, performed well at college radio and set the stage for the breakout success of their self-titled third album. On May 25, 1996, however, Nowell was found in a San Francisco hotel room, dead of a heroin overdose. The band collapsed, but Sublime was still slated for a July release. On the strength of the alternative radio hit “What I Got,” the album was certified gold by the end of 1996. Sublime’s career had only just begun, and yet all we have now is the legend.
Let’s Go Get Stoned
There were also a number of posthumous Sublime releases, among them 1997’s Second Hand Smoke, 1998’s Stand by Your Van and Acoustic: Bradley Nowell & Friends, Greatest Hits in 1999, and Gold in 2005.
What I Got
54-46 That’s My Number Now
Mary…………………………….Rivers of Babylon………………………..Scarlet Begonias
RIP Bradley Nowell.
You are missed.
3. Lee “Scratch” Perry & The Upsetters
This one is an obvious one to those in-the-know, but in mainstream view, and especially with my generation, Lee Perry is actually lesser known than many of the artists on this list. However, he has been instrumental (pun..get it?) in the evolution and expansion of reggae music. Lee “Scratch” Perry (born Rainford Hugh Perry, on March 20, 1936, in Kendal, Jamaica) is a reggae and dub artist, who has been highly influential in the development and acceptance of reggae and dub music in Jamaica and overseas. He employs numerous pseudonyms, such as Pipecock Jackxon and The Upsetter.
“Words of My Mouth”
Perry’s musical career began in the late 1950s as a record seller for Clement Coxsone Dodd‘s sound system. However, disagreements between the pair due to personality and financial conflicts, a recurring theme throughout Perry’s career, led him to leave the studio and seek new musical outlets.
“Down Here in Babylon”
He soon found a new home at Joe Gibbs‘s Amalgamated Record. Working with Joe Gibbs, Perry continued his recording career but, once again, financial problems caused conflict. Perry eventually broke ranks with Gibbs and formed his own label, Upsetter, in 1968. His first single “People Funny Boy”, which was an insult directed at Gibbs, and sold very well.
“Sons of Slaves”
Lee “Scratch” Perry – The Invention of Dub:
Lee “Scratch” Perry is often credited as being the inventor of dub since the creation of his song “People Funny Boy” is an off-shoot of reggae that emphasizes a mixing-board remix. Lee Perry specialized of instrumental songs often with the bass and drums turned up and lots of reverb.
Dub, in turn, is now considered the predecessor of many genres of dance music, as well as many forms of rap and hip-hop. Hellz ya.
“People Funny Boy” Lee “Scratch” Perry
It is notable for its innovative use of a sample (a crying baby) as well as a fast, chugging beat that would soon become identifiable as “reggae-dub” (the new sound did not really have a name at this time).This is, by many accounts, the first identifiably reggae-dub song ever recorded.
From 1968 until 1972 he worked with his studio band The Upsetters. During the 1970s, Perry released numerous recordings on a variety of record labels that he controlled, and many of his songs were popular in both Jamaica and the UK. He soon became known for his innovative production techniques as well as his eccentric character.
In the early 1970s, Perry was one of the select few producers whose mixing board experiments eventually resulted in the creation of dub. In 1973, Perry built a studio in his back yard, The Black Ark, to have more control over his productions and continued to produce notable musicians such as Bob Marley & the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, The Heptones, The Congos and Max Romeo. With his own studio at his disposal, Perry’s productions became more lavish, as the energetic producer was able to spend as much time as he wanted on the music he produced. Virtually everything Perry recorded in The Black Ark was done using basic recording equipment.
White Belly Rat
By 1978, stress and unwanted outside influences began to take their toll: both Perry and The Black Ark quickly fell into a state of disrepair. One night the studio mysteriously burned to the ground – rebellion YES! – and Perry later admitted that he burned the Black Ark himself in a fit of rage. Nice.
It’s disputed whether he actually did.
After the demise of the Black Ark in the early 1980s, Perry spent time in England and the United States, performing live and making erratic records with a variety of collaborators. It was not until the late 1980s, when he began working with British producers Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser (who is better known as Mad Professor), that Perry’s career began to get back on solid ground again. Perry also has attributed the recent resurgence of his creative muse to his deciding to quit drinking alcohol and smoking weed. Perry stated in an interview that he wanted to see if “it was the smoke making the music or Lee Perry making the music. I found out it was me and that I don’t need to smoke.”
Perry now lives in Switzerland with his wife Mireille and two children. Although he celebrated his 70th birthday in 2006, he continues recording and performing to enthusiastic audiences in Europe and North America. He is one of the few artists to make the top five and still be alive and well. His modern music is a far cry from his reggae days in Jamaica; many now see Perry as more of a performance artist in several respects, because his style has remained unchanged since its early days. In 2003, Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with the album Jamaican E.T.. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Perry #100 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.More recently, he teamed up with a group of Swiss musicians and performed under the name Lee Perry and the White Belly Rats.
From “A Live Injection: Lee Perry & Friends Anthology 1968-1979”
“People Funny Boy” Lee “Scratch” Perry
“Super Ape” – Lee “Scratch” Perry
“Better Days” Carlton&The Shoes
“Curly Locks” – Junior Byles
“Jump and Rale”
“Talk About It” – Mighty Diamonds
Now that’s some roots-down, old-school reggae. I love it.
Matisyahu: God I love this guy. If you took out the singer, you would have a pure roots-reggae group – really, their music is quite old-school, but they also mix in a groovy modern twist with some rock, hip-hop & some amazing guitar players. But then add in Matisyahu, the first and only orthodox jew to see mainstream success within’ the industry, whose new-school vocals mix all kinds of elements. The guy can sing, but also combines it with a sort of rapping/fast singing style that makes the music very unique and amazing. 5 stars.
Off “Live at Stubbs”
King Without A Crown
When Matisyahu emerged with his debut album, Shake Off the Dust…Arise, in 2004, his musical persona seemed to some a novelty. Here was a Hasidic Jew, dressed in a black suit with a broad-brimmed black hat worn over a yarmulke, and sporting a full, untrimmed beard, who nevertheless performed toasting raps about the glories of traditional Judaism over reggae beats in a dancehall style directly from Jamaica, punctuating his performances with stage diving. It seemed like a joke at first, but as soon as the guy opens his mouth, you realize he’s serious, and that he whole-heartedly believes everything he is saying in each lyric, and damn does he have some skill. Gotta respekt.
He began to attract press notices to go with the enthusiastic audiences that packed his concerts – he puts on one hell of a live-show – I’ve seen him twice.
Close My Eyes
Matisyahu was born Matthew Miller on June 30, 1979, in West Chester, PA, although his family moved to Berkeley, CA, when he was a child before settling in White Plains, NY. He was given a traditional Jewish upbringing, against which he rebelled at first, considering himself a Deadhead and a hippie by his early teens. But at the age of 14, during a camping trip in Colorado, he reconciled himself to Judaism and soon after visited Israel. After returning to White Plains, he dropped out of high school and traveled the country to attend Phish concerts. Back at home again, he agreed to let his parents send him to a wilderness school in Bend, OR, where he became enamored of reggae and hip-hop, and began rapping at open-mike competitions. He returned to New York at 19 to attend the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, but also joined the Carlebach Shul, a synagogue where his musical interests were encouraged. Meeting a Lubavitch rabbi, he became interested in the strict Lubavitch Hasidic sect of Judaism and renamed himself Matisyahu.
Fire of Heaven/Alter of Earth
Sea to Sea
Continuing to perform, Matisyahu assembled a backing band consisting of Aaron Dugan (guitar), Josh Werner (bass), and Jonah David (drums). They recorded Shake Off the Dust…Arise, released by JDub Records in 2004. A concert held in Austin, TX, on February 19, 2005, yielded the follow-up release, Live at Stubb’s, which was released by Or Music on April 19, 2005, then picked up for national distribution by Epic Records, a division of Sony BMG, which reissued it on August 23, 2005. This is one of my all-time favorite albums, I can only imagine how great this show was (I am so sad I missed it!)
The final product, the professionally produced studio version, Youth, appeared in March 2006 and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Reggae Album.
Time of Your Song
A person who was once skeptical of authority and rules, Matisyahu began to explore and eventually fully take on the Lubavitch Hasidic lifestyle. He thrived on the discipline and structure of Judaism, making every attempt to abide by Jewish Law. The Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy proved to be a powerful guide for Matisyahu. It surrounded him with the spiritual dialogue and intellectual challenge he had been seeking for the past decade. The turmoil and frustration of his search subsided, and now Matisyahu lives in Crown Heights, splitting his time between the stage and his yeshiva.
What can I say, I love this guy. Even though he is a reggae beatboxing superstar he is not full of himself, not on an ego trip. It seems he is very humble and easy going, I wish more artists were like him. I don’t think you’ll be seeing him with a fleet of cars and 3 big fancy houses anytime soon.
What I’m Fighting For
Combining the sounds of Bob Marley and Shlomo Carlebach, yet remaining wholly original, Matisyahu’s performance is an uplifting, powerful experience for all in his presence. Even the most pessimistic in his audience are inspired by his ability to so honestly convey such a delicate, topic as his faith and spirituality, and still not come across as a preacher. It is his dedication to his belief and openness to others that compels one to respect his artistry and message – despite his intentional lack of a reggae/superstar image. It’s in that fleeting moment when our skepticism melts and our souls open up, that Matisyahu enters with his booming sound and says WHAT-THE-F%$# IS UP!
Unique is my Dove
……………………take a deep breath…………
5. Slightly Stoopid
Ahh what a great band. AND RESPEKT: BOYS IS FROM CALIFORNIA. big ups.
Main thing to remember: members MILES DOUGHTY and KYLE MCDONALD were hand selected and signed to Skunk records by Brad Nowell himself (RESPEKT). Saw them on my 18th birthday, when Pepper opened for them at the Crystal Ballroom, with my ex-gf, and half way thru the show I had completely forgotten about her – I was too busy moshing. What a show. Ever since I have been a die-hard fan of both Slightly Stoopid and also Pepper (see later on the list)
MILES DOUGHTY – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
KYLE MCDONALD – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Ryan Moran- Drums
Oguer Ocon -Congas, Percussion, Harp
Throughout modern pop culture, melodic music representing the California lifestyle has always had its place (Beach Boys, Eagles, Grateful Dead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime, Jack Johnson to name a few), and every era yields a definitive reggae-influenced rock band with HUGE breakthrough commercial success (The Clash, The Police, UB40, Sublime, Shaggy, etc.). SLIGHTLY STOOPID is a clear descendant of that lineage.
“Fat Spliffs”…….“Bandelero”…………..“This Joint”…….“Ain’t Got A Lot of Money”
SLIGHTLY STOOPID possess a unique dynamic. They have a musical kinship so to speak, which is clearly the organic result of years growing up together in the setting of one of Southern California’s premier surf towns (Ocean Beach, San Diego – one of my favorite places in the world, for surfing or anything, and it shows thru in their music). Miles and Kyle are perfect musical counterparts, complementing each other in the realm of electric and acoustic rock, reggae, dub, blues, hip-hop, punk, and metal. Boasting dual front men Slightly Stoopid are a great studio and live band. They are both multi-instrumental, oftentimes switching effortlessly from bass to guitar in the middle of their live shows, continuously balancing and bouncing their vocal stylings and fresh harmonies, and seemingly always converging into songs that are good enough to be respected by the very artists who inspire them.
Back in 1995 while still in high school, Miles and Kyle caught the ear of SUBLIME vocalist BRADLEY NOWELL, who then signed them to his own Skunk Records label. Bypassing the notion of a “golden ticket” from a major label, SLIGHTLY STOOPID also drew influence from the business acumen of their entrepreneurial predecessors. Staying true to the D.I.Y. ethic of punk rock, the band released its first two albums independently on Skunk. With minimal distribution (primarily in Southern California), the Skunk label released the punk tinged early debut SLIGHTLY STOOPID (1996) and the more produced reggae leanings of the band’s surf inspired LONGEST BARREL RIDE (1999). A copy of the debut, which has been out of print since 1998 (and in high demand in reggae/punk circles), recently sold on E-Bay for $221.00! F*&%IN HELL.
“Till The Shit Gets Wet”….“Leaving On a Jet Plane”…..“Closer to the Sun”
In the summer of 2001, Kyle and Miles performed an hour-long live acoustic set on San Diego’s Clear Channel Rock 105.3 (one week after Jack Johnson did). The broadcast drew an onslaught of requests at the station, prompting the band to release the performance on CD, through their own “Stoopid Records” imprint. Titled LIVE AND DIRECT- ACOUSTIC ROOTS, this one-take marvel, features both players on solely acoustic guitars and vocals, and was recorded live- “warts and all”, with no overdubs! The album has become an instant live classic and is one of my alltime favorite albums – having sold close to 20,000 copies, mostly at shows, through the internet, and a few select Southern California retailers, few can argue with its legitimacy.
“Sensimilla”………“Cally-Man”……“I Couldn’t get High”……“Fire Shot”
“I Used To Love Her”……..“Sun Is Shining”………..“Souled”……“Prophet”
Slightly Stoopid’s album EVERYTHING YOU NEED was the band’s first legitimate studio-produced album. A departure on some levels, EVERYTHING YOU NEED is really the culmination of a band reaching a new creative plateau. The 14-track album showed that the group had seen a natural progression from their previous works , displaying matured songwriting and enhanced production value.It was also produced by a few notable heavyweights: MIGUEL (Sublime, LB Dub, Unwritten Law), Dub legend SCIENTIST (recent mixes include Ben Harper and No Doubt), and CHRIS D whose PHILADELPHONIC sessions feature a special guest appearance from G-LOVE on “Mellow Mood.” Stylistically, SLIGHTLY STOOPID has made a giant transition into forging their own original brand of music, however, without abandoning the philosophy of where they started.
Everything You Need………….Mellow Mood………………….Older
“Everything really starts with acoustic guitars and us, I mean that’s what we’re jamming on when we’re sitting around smokin’ weed and watching T.V. ” – KYLE
Ain’t No Reason To Go
“What we tried to do with this album is incorporate every kind of music style that we play into each song.” – MILES
“Musically I like everything- hip-hop , punk rock, acoustic music, acoustic music with hip hop beats, reggae, and heavy metal all mixed into one album. Pretty much, that’s what I try to give ’em on every album, but each recording turns out different which is kind of cool.” – KYLE
After forgoing the major label route, the band signed with Southern California independent Surfdog Records in order to complete their fourth album on their own creative terms. This was seemingly a natural fit, as Kyle and Miles grew up surfing and have been jamming most recently at major surfing events such as The Philips Pro in Huntington Beach June 2002, and The Vans Triple Crown in Oahu, Hawaii Nov. 2002. Slightly Stoopid is still going strong today and I don’t see them calling it quits anytime soon. They would be higher up this list, but I listened to them wayyyyy too much in high school. Their new album, Chronchitis represents yet another step forward in their musical progression, as it ventures more into dub than any previous album, while maintaining the beach/acoustic/reggae influence of the previous albums. For creating one of the most eclectic and unique blends of reggae, rock, punk, acoustic, dub, and even at times hip-hop, gotta give #5 to Slightly Stoopid.
“Runnin’ With a Gun”…………“Collie Man”.……………….“Wicked Rebel”…….
Off “The Longest Barrel Ride”
Off “Slightly Not Stoned Enough to Eat Breakfast Yet”
Best song/song that made them famous: “Collie Man”
Ahh Yes. Yet another Calfornia band crackin the top ten. Time to get down to some home-town SoCal locals. Rebelution is a more recent phenomenon, and despite lacking in the musical skills of the previously mentioned groups, their music alone lands them the #6 spot.
~Safe And Sound
The Santa Barbara-based reggae quartet is on a mission to spread positivity, unity and awareness to any and all who will listen, and, lately, it seems as if the number of interested parties may never stop growing.Originally formed in 2004, the group consists of vocalist/guitarist Eric Rachmany, keyboardist Rory Carey, drummer Wesley Finley, and bassist Marley D. Williams (who hand selected each member and formed the group). It was their mutual attendance of music classes at college in Santa Barbara that initially brought them together, and it was in this environment that the seeds of their successful future were planted. While residing in nearby Isla Vista- where VR got caught, officially, his first and only time and still has an M.I.P – (where the majority of the college population lives), the group began to build serious momentum through consistent gigging and the release of a self-titled EP. Before they knew it, they were one of the biggest draws in the area — and not just in the reggae genre. “It definitely went to the next level when we, literally, had thousands of people watching us perform in Isla Vista on Friday nights,” explained Rachmany. The band’s upbeat, highly danceable grooves were charting a direct course for bigger and better things. It was with the release of their first full-length album in June of ‘07, Courage To Grow, that the group’s major breakthrough would be made. Not only did the record garner mass downloads and radio play on monster stations like San Diego’s 91X, Los Angeles’ KROQ and San Francisco’s Live 105 (where they are now in full rotation), but it was also selected as iTunes Editor’s Choice for Best Reggae Album of 2007.
For those in the know, it’s not too hard to imagine, because Courage To Grow is an excellent album complete with crafty melodies, socially conscious lyrics and savvy musicianship. Whereas other SoCal reggae-infused groups such as Sublime and the Long Beach Dub All-Stars tend to be rock- or punk-based, Rebelution sticks much more strongly to a vintage “roots” reggae sound. The album’s “single” and third track, “Safe and Sound,” wastes no time setting a worry-free, perhaps stoney, mood with its kicked-back vibe and catchy refrain: “When we come down, we’ll be dreaming safe and sound.” But as far as serious messages go, few tracks hit harder than “R Way” — a seven-minute opus of political dissatisfaction where Rachmany speaks of our deceased forefathers, and what they must be thinking as they look down from above onto our lie-riddled society. Few bands can walk the middle road between politics and parties, and even fewer as well as Rebelution. Perhaps that’s what makes the live show experience such a great one for their fans. Not only can they dance the night away, but they can also leave with a little food for thought — that’s a main-theme on rebellion’s top ten list.
~Green to Black
You can currently catch Rebelution on their Fall tour — a 23-state expedition across the nation with The Expendables and OPM. Two other great bands.
Gotta respekt the boys from 2 hours north of my school in SoCal hittin’ it big off sheer talent and catchy tunes. Big ups. If you ever wanna go on tour with me, I’m down. 😉
“Green smoke to black, green smoke to black, green smoke to black, ya that’s what we stand for”
Despite their indie/acoustic sound, OAR almost never strays from the classic up-down rhythm strumming that is typically reggae. They feature interesting, sometimes abstract but impressionable lyrics, sung with catchy hooks, often doubled or tripled melodic lead vocals especially on chorses, mixed with excellent musicianship, several acoustic guitars all strumming reggae in unison, mixed in with acoustic solos and swift basslines – god they have it all. It’s quite a show. Get on it.
“Heard The World”
Despite it’s handle, ~Of A Revolution~ O.A.R.’s music does not reflect any political intent, and the band’s unique and revolutionary approach to its music career has proved it worthy of such a name. O.A.R., whose music has been compared to that of the Dave Matthews band, has achieved notable success based solely on its credible body of work, word-of-mouth promotion, and unparalleled dedication to bringing music to its fans through non-stop touring. In a story that seems straight out of a fairytale of big dreams and rising stars, O.A.R. got its unofficial start in the dorm rooms of a university and managed, without a record label, press, advertising or tour support, to become one of the most successful independent American jambands ever.
O.A.R. (an acronym for the band’s full moniker, Of a Revolution) transformed themselves from local Ohio State University bandmates to Billboard chartbusters and headliners thru non-stop self-promotion and endless touring to all venues across America. First, the band’s two demo recordings were hawked at universities. Then, news spread about the band’s roots-rock and reggae-inflected songs, which owed much to the jam band genre. Before long, O.A.R.’s website had turned into a highly-trafficked internet destination, and the group gradually left the college scene for the bright lights of national stardom.
Formed in 1996 in Rockville, MD, O.A.R. coalesced around lead singer/rhythm guitarist Marc Roberge, lead guitarist Richard On, saxophonist Jerry DePizzo, bassist Benj Gershman, and drummer Chris Culos.
Their first song to gain them national notoriety was “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker.” Many lyrics for this and other of the bands songs came from Roberge’s interest in literature, particularly Stephen King’s novel -The Stand. To appease their developing hard-core jam-band fan base, they issued a live album, Any Time Now, in the spring of 2002 and subsequently signed with Lava/Atlantic for the release of 2003’s In Between Now and Then. Additional tour dates led to the release of 34th & 8th, the band’s second live offering. The band returned to the studio again with 2005’s Stories of a Stranger, which contained a pair of Top 20 Hot AC hits in “Love and Memories” and “Heard the World.” The Live from Madison Square Garden CD/DVD appeared in 2007. O.A.R.’s slickest album yet, the commercially-mindedAll Sides, was released in 2008.The Wanderer
They are similar to Phish in that they have few chart-topping singles, ‘Heard The World’ being the obvious exception, but their musical talents are unique; they are one of the great American-band stories, and are in my top three favorite live bands, along with Phish and the Grateful Dead.
“I Feel Home”
“That Was A Crazy Game of Poker”
“I said ‘oh’, you say ‘ah’, I say revolution, and you say Jah”
“I said we won, won, won the war, we grab our guns and we head for the door”
Despite the obvious objection that they are a rock/punk-band first, its true that no reggae-inspired top ten list would be complete without 311. Period. Plus they might be the only successful band I’ve ever heard of that comes from Nebraska. Props
311’s fusion of reggae and rap-metal was created in Omaha, NE, where singer/guitarist Nick Hexum, DJ/singer S.A. Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton, and the bassist known only as P-Nut launched the group in 1990. During high school, Nick and Tim played in a rock band together called “The Ed’s”. Nick was also in the high school concert jazz band with Chad.
At seventeen, Nick graduated early from high school and moved to downtown Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career. When Nick returned to Omaha for Chad and Tim’s high school graduation – the three of them jammed and realized they had a special musical chemistry. They soon added a keyboardist named Ward Bones and called themselves “Unity”. In late ’88, Nick, Chad and Ward moved to LA and made an unsuccessful stab at getting a recording contract. Glad they ditched that name.
“Creatures (for a while)”
Disillusioned with the L.A. scene, Chad soon moved back to Omaha and began jamming with P-Nut and a guitarist named Jim Watson. Months later, Chad persuaded Nick to move back to Omaha and join them. They played their first gig opening for Fugazi on June 10th 1990.
In 1991, they parted ways with Jim Watson and added Tim Mahoney as lead guitarist. At that time, SA Martinez began to make guest appearances with the band – and was eventually added as a full member. 311 was complete (Nick, Chad, Tim, P-Nut and SA).
In 1990 & 1991 the band released three independent records on their own label (What Have You Records). The records were called “Dammit,” “Hydroponic,” and “Unity.” With these records and their solid live show, the band quickly established a following in the Midwest and then set out for the West Coast.
They rented a small house in Van Nuys, California and all moved in together. These were very lean times for the band. Just before disintegrating into total poverty, they were signed to Capricorn Records. Taking their name from the Omaha Police Department’s code for indecent exposure, (or disputedly from another source which I refuse to mention) the quintet began gigging locally and soon moved to Los Angeles, signing with Capricorn Records in 1991.
“Do You Right”
311 truly has developed a reputation as one of America’s greatest live acts. In fact, bands such as No Doubt, Korn, Sugar Ray, Incubus and Deftones all opened for 311 on their own way to headlining status. True story.
“Beyond The Gray Sky”
Their unique combination of thrash, heavy metal, reggae, is comparable only to early sublime work and has spawned a generation of copycat artists left in their wake. However, their sound was not limited by rock but enhanced by it, and their shows are some of the roudiest and most dangerous I have been to. 5 stars.
A few snippets:
- “Come Original”
- “Don’t Tread On Me”
- “Love Song”
- “I’ll Be Here A While”
9. Bedouin Soundclash
This one is a surprise – even to me. And to everyone else to for that matter. Who knew canadians could even play music? Much less produce amazing reggae?! I didn’t.
I won’t make that mistake again.
Walls Fall Down
Bedouin Soundclash is a pure roots reggae band with a groovy modern twist.
Bedouin Soundclash emerged in the past years as a young group refusing to be classified, while blurring the lines of reggae and rock. Jay Malinowski’s soulful wail, with a high raspy voice is not typical of a lead singer, but works strangely well. Eon Sinclair provides deep dubbing bass while Pat Pengelly drives a heavy rhythm, blazing their own path in the musical landscape. The three-piece group hail from Canada.
“At the time we were making music that reflected the music we grew up on, and that we were exposed to …punk, reggae, dancehall, world, dub, jungle, two-step, everything… We wanted to try to make something that was ours and was our experience, and that has continued to push us, to incorporate the music we love in a new way.”
The band toured from Vancouver to Montreal in support of Root Fire, their first albim, while still remaining in university, sharing the stage with such acts as the Slackers, Vernon ‘Maytone’ Buckley, and the legendary founders of ska, The Skatalites. They have not looked back since, and though still largely unknown, have developed both a loyal following and are increasing fans daily. They deserve it – their songs are incredible.
When The Night Feels My Song
Gotta give up that #10 spot to the flyin’ hawaiians man. Pepper’s frontmen are one of the most unique and craziest duos in the history of music – not just reggae. Their music is both roots-reggae but also infused with punk dub ska and rock influences – and Kaleo’s lyrics are f%$#in inspired – seriously profound.
Pepper is a rock band originally from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but has since relocated to Southern California. They play a mix of reggae, dub and rock.
Pepper began in 1996 when singer/guitarist Kaleo Wassman joined forces with bassist/singer Bret Bollinger. After going through a number of drummers in the ’90s, Pepper decided that Yesod Williams was the best man for the job. With the trio in place, Pepper left Hawaii for Los Angeles and went on to open shows by Burning Spear, Shaggy, and other major reggae artists. Pepper first entered the studio in 1997 and recorded a seven-song demo.
Tradewinds……Your 45……………Stone Love…………Dry Spell…….
In 1999, after gathering a local following on the Big Island, Pepper gained the interest of an independent, L.A.-based record company, Volcom Entertainment. Volcom produced and distributed the band’s first release, Give’n It, which combined dancehall, reggae, hip-hop, and pop genres. With the success of Give’N It, the band landed a spot on the 2001 Warped Tour.
After extensive touring, Pepper took to the studio with Steve Kravac (Less Than Jake, MXPX) to record their second album entitled “Kona Town“, released in March 2002. With Kona Town, Pepper’s sound continued to evolve, adding elements of an “island sound”.
Give It Up………………Face Plant
Are You Down……………….Stormtrooper
Pepper continued to tour throughout 2003 and into 2004, including dates with 311 and Snoop Dogg, along with appearances at the annual Bob Marley Birthday celebration, San Diego‘s Festival “Street Scene”, and a U.S. tour with Slightly Stoopid, which I saw, and blew me away.
In March 2004 Pepper released “In With The Old”, debuting at #35 on the Billboard Heat Seekers and #18 on the independent albums chart. The album was recorded at 311’s completely analog Hive studios by legendary board master Ron St. Germain (Bad Brains, Living Colour, 311, Tool, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden), the album showcases a broader range of influences shared by the trio.
Beginning on July 20, 2006, Pepper supported 311 along with The Wailers on their U.S. tour. In August 2006, Jagermeister announced that Pepper & Slightly Stoopid would headline the annual Jagermeister Musictour through December 2006, which I had to pleasure to see when it came through Portland, OR, and man, still one of the best shows I have ever seen, no question about it.
The band released their fourth album (and major label debut) entitled “No Shame” on October 3, 2006. It features production from Nick Hexum of 311, Tony Kanal of No Doubt, and Sublime producer/ Butthole Surfers member Paul Leary. A music video was shot for the single “No Control”.
“Outta My Face”
The band also headlined the “Law Records” tour in October 2008 along with Passafire, and The Supervillians. This was their first consisting of only Law Records bands. After a UK tour with Less than Jake, and a break in December, Pepper, Passafire, and The Supervillians will tour the Northwest to complete the first Law Records tour.
One of the greatest live bands ever, and gotta love the hawaiin spirit. Big ups.
“Point and Shoot”……………….“Wanted”………………..“Office”…………….
“Chop up your heart with my truthful tongue, don’t touch me girl til the song is done”
notable mentions/top-ten contenders:
(11) The Reel Big Fish: the only purely ska group to nearly crack the top ten. Such a vicious, delicious combination ska, rock/metal, reggae, and funk. Gotta respekt the fish – with their combination of musicianship, humor, good content, and a wealth of fantastic covers, givin them the #11 and feelin’ sad they can’t be higher.
“You Don’t Know”
“i want your girlfriend to be my girlfriend”
“A Little Doubt Goes a Long Way”
“Take On Me”
“Don’t Start a Band”
“She has a Girlfriend Now”
“Brown Eyed Girl”
“It’s the End of the World as We Know It”
Gotta love those covers and their unique outta control style!
(12) Aswad: another old-school Reggae group which played a large role in the development and expansion of Reggae
54-46 was my number (covered by Sublime on 40 oz. to freedom)
I a Rebel Soul
(13) Steel Pulse:
A must know as far as the history of reggae goes. Steel Pulse were very influential in the development of Reggae into what it is today, and are one of the few on this list native to England (began in Birmingham).
They are still recording and touring even today – and David “Locks” Hinds, guitarist/vocals has still not cut his hair either. Props.
Brown Eyed Girl
(14&15) Damian Marley & Ziggy Marley
I could only make room for one Marley on the list (the father of them all) however, that guy’s blood ran with music. His sons, including most notably Stephen, Ziggy, and Damian Marley are all amazing artists in their own right.
Catchafire – Damian Marley
Born To Be Wild – Damian Marley
There For You – Damian Marley
Welcome To Jamrock – Damian Marley
Road to Zion ft. Nas – Damian Marley
Where is The Love ft. Eve – Damian Marley
Damian is one of my favorite artists, and he has seen the most mainstream success of any of the Marley sons.
Rainbow in the Sky – Ziggy Marley
Redemption Song (best cover I’ve heard) – Ziggy Marley & The Chieftains
Trenchtown Rock – Ziggy & Stephen Marley
The Marley sons and his daughter carry on his tradition and continue to create amazing music to this day. Ziggy is noted to be the most similar in style to his father, while Damian strays more into dub, experimental, rock, and hip-hop. However, all exhibit a strong reggae influence and I’m so glad the Marley music did not die with Bob!
Dragonfly – Ziggy Marley
True To Myself – Ziggy Marley
Shalom Shalaam – Ziggy Marley
(16) The Expendables
Yet another great band from SANTA CRUZ- CA
F%$& YEAHHH! SoCal all the way man. Word.
Off “Gettin’ Filthy”
off “no time to worry”
off “open container”
Gotta give it up for the best reggae Maori band I’ve ever heard. Seriously, if I were to do a top five list for artists from New Zealand (assuming there are 5 artists in New Zealand) than Katchafire would undoubtedly come in at #1
Katchafire is a New Zealand roots reggae band from Hamilton, New Zealand.
Katchafire formed in 1997 as a Bob Marley tribute band and later began writing and performing their own songs. They have released three albums: Revival (2003) which featured the highest-selling NZ single of 2003, “Giddy Up”; Slow Burning (2005) and Say What You’re Thinking(2007).
- Collie Herb Man
- Colour Me Life
- Redemption Song
Other favorite reggae bands/individuals:
Walk of Life
Feelin’ In The Mood
Winds from the West
Long Lost Way
The Lazy River
So Good (best song ever)
We Get High
Babylon Rule Dem
The Echo Movement
“Things I’ve Done”
Those two are mp4 files, so I’m not sure if the links work..
Culture: another important group in the formation of reggae
The Supervillains: a slick combination of reggae, ska, with humorous sometimes deep lyrics mostly relevant to generation Y.
“Mary Jane and Jager”
SOJA – (Soldiers of Jah Army)
“We are from Africa, Europe, and Israel. North and South America and Australia. From all the islands, from all the seas..
We are the roots and branches of one tree. The roots and branches of one tree. We may have different colors of skin, but we all have the same blood flowing within..” – Mishka
Now isn’t it time we started living like that?
An eye for an eye and the world goes blind.
A tooth for a tooth and there’s no one left to speak truth.