FYM SEATTLE- WORDS: JAMES WHETZEL. GRAPHIC: J THOMAS CODLING. “Dem Can’t Stop We From Talk” by Subatomic Sound System is the best remix album I have ever heard. The politically engaged vocals of Jamaican MC Anthony B blast out with power over twelve versions that include playful Roots Reggae, funky West Coast Hip Hop, uptempo Cumbia, lusty Afro-Dub and cement melting bass music.
One of my day jobs is being the DJ for the International Fountain at Seattle Center. I’ve been making new mixes to play there almost every week for eleven years. Given my constant need for new sounds I listen to a lot of music. And my expectations when I listen to a good remix album are that I’ll enjoy maybe two or three versions out of perhaps five or six tracks. With “Dem Can’t Stop We From Talk” there are twelve versions, and every version is good—in fact almost all are great. This is completely without precedent and is in itself a remarkable achievement. It’s even more impressive given the huge stylistic range of the album.
Much credit is due to Emch the lead producer, DJ and music man behind Subatomic Sound System. He’s gathered together a great crew of producers for this project. Versions have been made by artists based in New York, the Bay Area, Austria, The Netherlands, Columbia & Mexico.
And goodness in, goodness out—another prime reason that there are so many excellent remixes is that the original track is fantastic. It was made as a collaboration of Subatomic Sound & African Hip Hop label Nomadic Wax http://nomadicwax.com/. It’s built upon a riddim which Emch named “NYC-2-Africa,” being as it is an alloy of Senegalese sabar drumming, Hip Hop and Dancehall Reggae. Emch first melded those elements together then galvanized it all with bass.
Here I should share some personal history. I’ve known Emch since back way back in the day. I played sarod on his track “Black Emperor Dub” and have recorded tabla and percussion parts for a couple Subatomic tracks. In 2009 I was part of a Canadian tour with Emch & the bi-coastal “sensitive” ragamuffin Mista Chatman.
[Photo: Emch, Chatman & Whetzel at Diversity Festival 2009 in Canada]
As a friend and collaborator it’s been exciting to see this musical star rise. In the past few years he’s performed with Viennese live dub group Dubblestandart and Dub Reggae legend Lee Scratch Perry—he produced the first official bass music remixes of Perry’s classic tracks “Iron Devil” and “Blackboard Jungle” in 2008 and he performed with Dubblestandart and Perry at Summerstage in Central Park in 2009. In 2010 he toured India and also produced “Hello, Hell is Very Low” & “Bed Athletes” which turned out to be the last recordings by Ari Up the original singer of the seminal all female punk band The Slits. He also remixed filmmaker David Lynch for the “Chrome Optimism” release with Dubblestandart.
And in 2010 he traveled to Jamaica, and through Devon D. of Peoples Records, he was introduced to the vocalist Anthony B. Emch played the NYC-2-African riddim for him and Anthony B responded by creating a fiery new version with lyrics inspired by the violent situation in Jamaica at that time as the U.S. government and Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding were demanding the extradition of Dudus Coke.
Emch returned to New York and released the first version of NYC- 2-Africa in 2011 which featured versions by Anthony B, Sierra Leonean MC Bajah, and Jahdan Blakkamoore. He also made a combination version with vocals from all three singers.
The riddim continued to be fertile and a new version called “NYC-2-India” was creating with vocals by Indian Reggae group Delhi Sultanate. I made a cameo on this version, playing backing sarod parts, listen HERE.
Likewise in 2011 Emch traveled to Moscow as part of John Forte’s “From Brooklyn to Russia With Love” project. He did a set in which Noize MC, the Russian Eminem, rapped over the NYC-2-Africa riddim. Here’s Noize MC rapping over his version on a Russian political TV program.
That year Emch connected with Columbian producer Caballo and worked on a release of Electro-Cumbia with Rebel Records and the Sancocho e’ Tigres collective, and he remixed Elephant Man’s scathing political track “Vampires and Informers,” which deserves a story unto itself.
And now in 2012 with the release of “Dem Can’t Stop We From Talk” Emch is bringing all these different threads and connections of his musical career together. The album is available on Beatport, Juno & iTunes also some tracks are available as vinyl 45s: HERE. I once told Emch that the original track with Anthony B was caffeination for the soul. With the release of the remix album you can get your soul caffeination in black tea, green tea, white tea, americano, cappuccino, drip coffee, latte and mate varieties.
Here are a couple James Whetzel favorites:
Process Rebel’s Afro-Dub Mix. Nasty synths and warped vocals have a lusty party with dub and bass. I see dancing people.
Bleepolar’s Bogotá Cumbia Remix. Que Sabor! Colombiano! Free DL.
Dubblestandart’s Kingston Riot Riddim Remix. The Vienna kings do play songs of dub, but here they deliver a hard charging Sly & Robbie meets Roots Radics style riddim.
Nate Mars’ Lightas Up Remix. Wake up to this one and you’ll dance yourself out of bed. The NYC of tranquility mix.
Fuzzy Logic’s Tropical BASS Remix. A blissful drone transforms into uptempo tropical bass.