Henry "Junjo" Lawes / Various Greensleeves 12" Rulers

The early ’80s may have felt like an end of an era for reggae. Bob Marley died in 1981, and while this affected reggae’s international popularity, what it meant in Jamaica was the death knell for his classic roots sound. This sound was thoroughly outdated by the ’80s and replaced by the cavernous grooves of the Roots Radics as produced by the top hit-maker of the day, Junjo Lawes. Drum and bass are at the top of the sonic food chain here and boy genius Scientist, then barely out of his teens, constructs macabre frameworks of dub that heighten the tension and sense of alienation in these songs. Michael Prophet’s kick-off cut "Gunman” is a spectacular example. Prophet’s horrific lyrics ride over a riddim devoid of sunshine, only to dissolve into a Scientist-built maze of interconnected effects that synthesise new sounds and rhythms independent of the musicians. The technique is astounding, and that’s before one even mentions that these mixes were huge hits in the dancehall, where they would have taken on even more gravity. This is some of the best music Jamaica had to offer in the days prior to computerised riddims. (Greensleeves)