So if a fire mek i bun
An if a blood mek i run
Rasta deh pon top
Can’t you see?
So you can’t predict the flop.
Gotta lightning, thunder,
brimstone an fire, fire
Lightning, thunder, brrrr
brimstone an fire
Oh ya, fire, oh ya
Kill, cramp an paralyse
All weak-heart conception
Wipe dem out of creation, yeah!
Skill at creating and performing lyrics about their own reality will give a few of this generation access to unimagined wealth. But most are alienated from Babylon and its culture of scarce benefits and spoils. In failing to remember Bob Marley’s own fiery chanting down of Babylon, Jamaican society does him, and his potential beneficiaries, a grave injustice. Cut off unnaturally from the contemporary generation of DJ chanters, Marley is made inaccessible to them as a credible role model of social protest.
Marley’s biological children understand the need to bridge the ideological and rhythmic divide between their father’s generation and their own. They have experimented with his music, cutting and mixing it with dancehall, rap, and R&B, making it over for consumption by their contemporaries. Chant Down Babylon, produced by Stephen Marley, is an excellent example of this innovative trend.
In response to his critics, Stephen Marley is philosophical: “The people that say the music shouldn’t be touched is those that know that music and get it. … But all them people that listen to Tupac and the gangsta rap, them no get it. The ’70s, that culture and that time, was a very revolutionary essence, which a lot of older people had the opportunity to grasp and be affected by. It’s different now … . Now you have a whole heap of different things to show to the youth today; them get more of a thug mentality. But we are the living testimony of my father, and what you don’t know, me can tell you. And I can tell you in my heart, my father woulda dig this record.”
I would be the first to admit that some of our less-inventive DJs ought to take lessons from Marley in the use of symbolism. Marley often drew on proverbial wisdom to chant down Babylon – throwing word without naming names; throwing corn without calling fowl. By contrast, the youths not only throw corn, dem call fowl, dem catch the fowl, dem wring off di fowl neck, dem pick the feathers and dump the carcass in a pot of boiling water on the fire.
But each generation must tell its own complex truth. And, truth be told, if Marley were a youth today, he would sound a lot like Capleton, Sizzla and Anthony B.