As David Katz’ work often reminds, Jamaican music is born in relationality: to U.S. boogie and R and B in particular. For ground-zero ska, it’s simply a matter of a different accent on the 2 and 4. The figures which populate ska and rock steady songs, therefore, should be no surprise. The lyrics here specify the appearance of Jamaican James Bonds (he already had visited the island in Dr. No, and would do so again and again) and Frank Sinatras. On one level, it’s a typically moral rude boys track: in the end, the police rise with a vengeance and the cheap imitation outlaws “a weep an’ a wail.” On other level, Dekker implies that 007 represents a license to kill in a specialized sense: the right to produce and determine the third world. Truly, the anxiety of influence.
In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama declared that a “defining project of our generation is to restore [the] promise” of “the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead” despite the “accident of [your] birth.” With the introduction of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, however, we’re encouraged to think structurally, from increased pre-school (“public savings” and a return on investment!) to “fair discipline practices” in schools and criminal court systems. Lest we think he’s appealing to crusty Baby Boomers in the former and white liberals/wonks in the latter, keep in mind that young men of color are a “drag on State and Federal budgets” that should be salvaged in order to “unlock their full potential.” (But as Michelle Obama points out, if her parents “did everything right,” their children would just “have a chance.” Slim odds, slimmer hopes.) Enter Chief Keef, avatar of Chicago lawlessness. There’s a whiff of racial discipline all around. Reviewers called his album everything from “irresponsible, unforgiving, and often infectious” to a representation of African American culture. How can young black and brown men account for themselves given these odds? Here, the trax flounders: snitches, whiners, pregnant women, wanna-be drug kingpins are all objects of derision. Then again, it’s also about cuckolding you. A monetization of the outlaw—both ways. Isn’t this what the whole conversation is about?