joseph hill - informer

A: Prince Mohammed – Informer

B: Mighty Two – Informer version


In just a few years after its birth, the reggae sound has changed face more times than Cher did in two decades. Reggay from 1968 and reggae from, say, 1976 are worlds apart, yet it is always identified as reggae. Ofcourse that’s because the basis is always the same and it’s toying with what’s on top of that footing that makes it sound different. Taking the Jamaican music scene in mind – almost fully based in Kingston, evolving around a few key players and in constant search of inspiration, innovation and progress – it makes perfect sense that reggae was always in motion.

Just look at dub, for instance; a truly unique sound that was borne from sheer creativity. It has many founding fathers, all of whom took the idea and transformed it into something else completely – shaking up the entire music world in the process. Or take the art of toasting – also the fruit of creativity, cross pollination and ‘out of the box’ thinking – which was strictly a yard thing before some smart producers, like Keith Hudson, took the deejays in and recorded them on wax. Unleashing a whole a new spectrum of opportunities, styles and ideas.

In a music scene where being unparalleled makes you stand out from the crowd, you’ve got to trod barren land. If that means dragging a bike in the studio, like Hudson did, creating new drum patterns or relicking old riddims: it’s all part in the evolution of reggae.  Thus, it also makes perfect sense for artists to try their hand at something new. Something fresh. Like deejays trying to sing, drummers acting as a bassie or singers who take a shot at riding a riddim

It’s a favourite topic and a popular game among reggae fans: to name the songs by singers or deejays in which they switch trades.  The obvious ones always come up first, like George Nooks who is also known as Prince Mohammed; Scotty, who sang with The Federals and The Chosen Few before drawing his breaks and start over, riddling his way into a blossoming career as a deejay; Doctor Alimentado, who sang a heartfelt tribute to being alive after severely crashing his bike and spending a long time in the hospital; and Big Youth, who started singing after his deejay career had made him a superstar. The less obvious ones can win you the game, like Dennis Brown, John Holt, Horsemouth Wallace, Alton Ellis and Joseph Hill.

Starting out as a percussionist with Studio One band Soul Defenders, Joseph Hill eventually took up the mic and recorded a solo effort  in 1972. By 1976 Joseph Hill was no longer performing at Studio One, but had teamed up with Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes (and possibly a fourth member) and had formed a group called The African Disciples – a militant group of devout rastafarians who conveyed the lessons and beliefs of Marcus Garvey in almost every song they wrote. Strongly based on Burning Spear’s style, they found themselves hanging around the Joe Gibbs camp – by then a leading producer. Legend has it they were quite reluctant to record, but Blacka Morwell convinced them to do it anyway and also persuaded them to change their name. Despite singing about heavy topics such as religion, protest and sufferation, Culture broke through big time when they recorded songs like Two Sevens Clash and See Them a come. The songwriting skills of Hill, the magic of Errol Thompson on the board and the craftmanship of the Professionals struck a chord with reggae fans all over the world and was instrumental in marrying punk with roots reggae.

Despite bearing a credit to Prince Mohammed (again) the deejay version of See them a come is obviously not recorded by Prince Mohammed. One thing that truly set Culture apart from the rest was Jospeh Hill’s unique timbre – a tad nasal, crystal clear and second to none. It’s the same timbre that is on display on ‘Informer’ and if it’s not that, than surely the lyrics must give away that it is indeed mister Hill testing his skills as a deejay here. Although slightly loosing track every now and then, he’s doing a good job. A strong believer in the power of music and passionate by nature, Joseph Hill sounds comfortable and delivers with ‘Informer’ a heavy, militant, fun and upbeat rockers tune. Indeed, the exact same ingredients that made Culture so great a reggae group.  Well, that and a top class Sound Dimension riddim ofcourse.

Joseph Hill would take up the deejay mic again when Culture left Gibbs for Sonia Pottinger and recorded Production Something, which, needless to say, again sounds different from what’s on display here. After all, it’s reggae, you know?


Label: Heavy Duty (Ja)
Release date: 1977
Riddim: Heavy Rock – Sound Dimension / Culture – See them a come
Matrix: DSR 2602 / DSR 2603

Posted: 05-04-2015


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