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.
The coverage of the Michael Brown and George Floyd protests were almost breathless. What’s new with this iteration of popular uproar? Is it the “bottoming out” that finally leads to racial progress? The further militarization of the police? Rather than seek out an event in today’s headlines, the contiguities are more sobering. Toddy Tee’s grudging 1985 homage to Daryl Gates’ police tank—“it’s coming”—could be taken as both a warning to crack dealers and a protest over police violence and the suspension of the fourth amendment in black and brown neighborhoods. And it would be just fine as that. But there’s also the mayor’s decision to “legalize something that works like that.” Operating during the early height of the War on Drugs, the Batterram was used to strike in indiscriminate discriminatory ways. The police are like “F Troop,” knocking on random doors trying to entrap residents. But these circumstances are a dime a dozen with law-and-order governors and police departments inheriting equipment used during recent wars. According to one protestor from Ferguson, Missouri, the city “could be any town in the world.” Absolutely true, but more often not. As the places add up—Dearborn Heights, Sanford, Los Angeles, etc.—the patience wears thin. Both the media’s hopeful exhaustion and a healthy dose of neighborhood utopianism.
Today, mere bad vibes amount to a dangerous misstep, and an unwillingness to staightforwardly communicate (post-Nietzschean buzzing, white noising, talking “maths”) is the paramount crime. Criminalized bad karma, then, as a break from a mandated sensus communis, as the police are decoupled from a limited Law. But, in the coda, singer associates the Big Brother-style turning in of cultural refuseniks with a “lost” “self,” suggesting that if we find our true being, singularity might be freed. Actually, this is all backwards: the lost need not be found, nor become founders of some (always retro) polity; rather, one might begin from original foundering (communications breakdown: it’s not always the same).