Billy Boyo

Zim Zim

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Teenaged toaster Billy Boyo already had a clutch of singles under his belt -- produced by the likes of Junjo Lawes and Jah Thomas -- when he walked into the Silver Kamel offices in 1983. Needless to say, the label liked what it saw: a young, self-assured artist with a blithe tongue in his mouth and without a self-conscious bone in his body. So Trevor Ranking took the DJ into the studio and let him loose across six heavy roots rhythms; the results, with their dubs appended, comprises Zim Zim. Listening to it today, one may feel tempted to double-check the date, as it's far removed from virtually everything else flooding out of the sound systems of its day. For Ranking it was the basslines that ruled -- big, hefty, throbbing basslines that pulsed out of the ether and fueled the entire arrangement. The drums seem a mere afterthought, throwing out sparse, sharp beats that echo and reverb, a martial counterpoint to the overwhelming heft of the bass. Riffs are even more sparingly used, mostly emitting from keyboards and floating in and out of the mix. Accompanying the vocal cuts, these are the dreadest of rhythms, and are so heavy that their dub companions can do little more than extend the heft across the grooves. As for young Boyo, he's a typical teen. Party-friendly "Jamaica Nice" finds him particularly ebullient, boastful, and, of course, prideful, but still willing to 'fess up to occasional girl trouble. Like most youth, he's convinced he could rule the nation better than the adults in charge, and, on "Iron Woman" (a smack-out at Margaret Thatcher), he urges fans to vote for him. But it's this very cheekiness that is his charm. "To know me is to love me," Boyo promises the listener, and, in truth, to hear him is to adore him, audacity and all.

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