Tapper Zukie

From the Archives

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Of all the Jamaican DJs tearing up the sound systems during the mid-'70s, Tappa Zukie seemed the least likely contender for international stardom. Although he released a stream of singles, only a handful caught on across the island, and his hit quotient was much lower than most of his contemporaries. But in Britain, it was another story entirely. There his debut album, Man Ah Warrior, was selling up a storm; it wasn't even released in Jamaica. Zukie cut a string of singles during 1975, then began work the following year on his self-produced sophomore album, MPLA. If Warrior had blown though through the U.K.'s underground like a hurricane, MPLA was the equivalent of a nuclear bomb, exploding across sound systems and punk clubs throughout the land. And that set forms the backbone of From the Archives, bundling up eight of MPLA's tracks, tossing in Zukie's biggest Jamaican hit, "Oh Lord," and rounding up a few other period numbers as well. Much of the DJ's success came down to the phenomenal rhythms he was toasting over. They weren't his own; he had sweet-talked a number of the island's top producers -- Bunny Lee, JoJo Hookim, Yabby You, and Ossie Hibbert, into parting with a clutch of rhythms, and with those he built his album and his reputation. With the Revolutionaries laying down the sizzling rockers accompaniment, Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, the Melodians' Tony Brevitt, and Junior Ross providing vocal assistance, and his own stellar production skills, Zukie recorded some of the most militant-sounding music around. As for his toasting -- well, by 1976 people were demanding more from the DJs than he was capable of, at least in Jamaica. Abroad, his animated delivery, obvious enthusiasm, and anthemic toasts turned him into an icon. Britons cared little about his cultural credentials and couldn't care less that "MPLA" isn't actually a tribute to freedom fighters, "Marcus" has more to do with rice and peas than the great prophet Garvey, "Chalis to Chalis" is lifted wholesale from U-Roy, and "Oh Lord" is not a devotional prayer but an ode to girls in shorts. They were too busy lapping up the rhythms and skanking away to the DJ's breezy toasts. This is where it all began, and even if Zukie's toasting fails to thrill, this collection is still hot enough to melt the most discerning listener.

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