Wayne Marshall, 11 March 2004, paper presented at Caribbean Soundscapes, New Orleans
www.wayneandwax.com / wayne@wayneandwax.com

"Mad Mad" Migration:
Caribbean Circulation and the Movement of Jamaican Rhythm [1]

One can hear the stories of reggae and hip-hop together in one riff, one remarkably resilient, resonant riddim. [2] Known as the "Mad Mad," a title that aptly describes the mind-boggling circulation it has seen, this riddim has provided the backing for over 100 songs since it first appeared in 1967. Distinguished by its bassline, chord progression, and an instantly recognizable three-note descending horn line, sometimes played on guitar, the "Mad Mad" has emerged as one of the most popular, and reused or versioned, riddims in the history of Jamaican music, and it has served as the basis for a number of seminal hip-hop tracks as well. Over the course of three and a half decades, the "Mad Mad" has propelled gun tunes and "gal" tunes, party tunes and "reality" tunes alike. Artists have employed the familiar riddim, and several melodies associated with it, to represent Jamaica as well as the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Puerto Rico, righteous strains of Rastafari as well as utter moral "slackness," the benefits of marijuana and the problems of traveling with it, government oppression and foreign influence, "golden age" hip-hop and foundational reggae. Despite such widespread use, the riff has not become stale. Producers continually reinvent it, employing the latest technology and stylistic markers to put their stamp on the classic rhythm and say something current. Examining the migrations of the "Mad Mad" over time tells the stories of reggae and hip-hop in a novel manner, revealing technological innovations, stylistic developments, and intertextual--and sometimes international--allusions in an intensely audible way.

Following the movement of a particular riff makes concrete the sometimes vague or mystified transnational circulation of music. With reference to something as tangible as a distinctive melody, one can trace circuits, seek origins, and observe changes. One can focus in on the ways that particular producers work with well-worn musical materials, making them new and making them their own, and the ways that performers articulate meaningful connections to previous performances. Tracing the "Mad Mad" across time and space, one hears how the foreign becomes familiar. One gets a better sense of the pool of resources that not only are available to an artist in a particular time and place but are appealing. Understanding which resources are considered "cool" or compelling frequently provides insight into identity politics and the intersections of music and ideas about race and class, nation and heritage. What is it that makes reggae a powerful resource for Bronx youth in the mid-80s, or hip-hop an appealing expressive outlet for Kingstonian youth in 2004? By focusing on one riddim and the many meanings made of it, I seek to tell a story that, with its attention to particular historical, social, and cultural contexts, challenges the dominant nationalist or industry-promulgated narratives which, in service of the status quo, tend to flatten out interesting details and obscure unseemly social conflicts. In contrast to the now conventional stories of reggae and hip-hop--both of which propose an early stage of foreign influence followed by decades of steady, insular development--I propose to tell these two stories together, in relation to each other, in order to tease out the ways that the music of Jamaica and the music of the United States, like the people of Jamaica and the United States, have long been engaged in conversation.

When it first appeared in 1967, the rhythm underlying Alton Ellis's "Mad Mad Mad" already said a lot about Jamaican culture and Caribbean circuits of exchange. Accompanied by a group of Jamaican musicians who cut their teeth playing calypso, mento, and other regional styles, Ellis's recordings in the late 60s defined the style known as rocksteady, a fusion of post-ska Jamaican pop and American soul music. Ellis recorded "Mad, Mad, Mad" at Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One, the recording house responsible for a great number of reggae's foundational riddims. An active musical arbiter, Dodd spent time in Florida in the 1950s as a migrant farm-worker, where he had access to the latest American rhythm and blues records. Dodd was well acquainted with music from outside of Jamaica, and he encouraged his studio musicians to draw not only from the American R&B repertory but also from Jamaican mento and Trinidadian calypso, Cuban son and bolero, Dominican merengue, and anything else that caught his ear. [3] Such an ecumenical approach came as second nature to the members of the Studio One house band, for the players already brought extensive transnational musical experience to every session. The Studio One band comprised half of the Skatellites--Jamaica's most famous and influential, if short-lived, ska group. When the Skatellites broke up, half of the players went to work for Dodd and half went to Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio. All had extensive experience playing jazz. Many of the musicians--including Rico Rodriguez, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, and others--learned to play at the Alpha School for Boys in Kingston, where musical instruction, with an emphasis on jazz techniques, was an important element in a strictly disciplined education program. After honing their skills at the Alpha School, several played big band jazz and dance music in the Eric Deans Orchestra. Many also found work on the tourist circuit, playing at hotels and on cruise ships, drawing from a repertory consisting of songs and styles from across the Caribbean that provided a pan-island soundtrack for the tourist industry. Before joining up with the Skatellites, for instance, saxophonist Tommy McCook spent eight years leading a jazz group in the Bahamas (Katz:57). Several musicians had direct, familial links to other islands. Rico Rodriguez, Tommy McCook, and Roland Alphonso, for example, were all born in Cuba of mixed Cuban-Jamaican parentage (Katz:58). And, of course, these session musicians also all had experience playing rhythm & blues, which made up the bulk of Jamaican popular music in the late 50s and early 60s.

All these influences maintain a presence in rocksteady, but significantly, it was the infusion of American soul music that seems to have given rocksteady its most definitive stylistic push away from ska. Although the conventional narrative attempts to make sense of rocksteady's stylistic features--in particular its slower tempo--by drawing an analogy to the waning optimism of the post-independence era, such a reading is not necessarily the most persuasive account of this instance of musical change. Among other factors, as studio bands became smaller and technology changed (including, notably, the advent of the Fender electric bass), new instruments came to the fore and bandleaders composed new arrangements to accommodate these reconfigurations. Whereas the nationalist narrative claims that Jamaican music began looking inward at this point (and, in fact, had turned its back on outside influence since ska broke from boogie), anecdotal and musical evidence suggests otherwise. Jamaican musicians were engaged, as always, in a conversation with musicians from the United States and around the Caribbean. The dynamics of this conversation ebb and flow, of course. In many ways, rocksteady style, with its prevailingly duple-metered rhythms, crooner singing style, and back-up harmonies seems to constitute a northward-leaning part of the cycle. And yet, as I hope to demonstrate, the riddims produced during the rocksteady era have informed Jamaican popular music for decades and remain foundational referents for reggae style.

[Let's listen to Ellis's "Mad, Mad, Mad" to get a sense of the sound. Note the prominent bass, the one-drop drums, the legacy of ska's upbeat emphasis. Also, listen to Ellis's Sam Cooke-style crooning and the way the arrangement recalls late 60s productions from popular soul labels such as Motown and Stax. Listen in particular to the horn-riff--a figure associated with the "Mad Mad" riddim ever since.]

With the emergence of the DJ as recording artist in the late 60s and early 70s and the increased growth of the reggae music industry, popular riddims like the "Mad Mad" provided accompaniment over and over again for singers and DJs who wanted to put their own stamp on a familiar track. The "Mad Mad" joined favorites such as the "Real Rock," the "Answer," "Satta," "Cherry Oh Baby," and "Stalag" as some of reggae's foundational texts. Frequently released as instrumental b-sides, these riddims were referred to as the original songs' "versions," indicating a recognition of the practice of adaptation and creative re-use that had become standard in dancehall performances and recording studios. Producers such as Lee "Scratch" Perry, King Tubby, and Coxsone Dodd himself versioned classic roots rhythms through the spatial reorganization of dub. As a producer's art, dub certainly has its insular and introspective tendencies, and the work of Scratch and Tubby in the 1970s--rife with sonic close-ups--often conveys a kind of intimacy. It is telling, though, in considering this period, that even a music as hermetic as dub shows consistent signs of engagement with the outside, and with American music in particular, from soul to funk to disco. By the late 70s, session bands such as the Revolutionaries, which contained members of the Roots Radics as well as the bassist and drummer duo, Sly and Robbie, contributed their talents and familiarity with other genres--Sly takes his name from Sly Stone, for example--to the production of a new reggae style, which, with its close connections to local performance spaces, would come to be known simply as dancehall. In collaboration with a number of emergent producers, their re-interpretations of the "Mad Mad" constitute a new direction for the versioning--in this case, re-playing--of well-worn riddims, moving beyond the manipulation of previously recorded tracks and toward the incorporation of new sounds and stylistic approaches.

In 1981, Henry "Junjo" Lawes produced a more radical version of the "Mad Mad" than the reissues of the 70s typically demonstrated. Lawes drew on the talents of the Roots Radics, one of Jamaica's premier session bands, in order to re-record a version of the "Mad Mad." The result was at once recognizable and recognizably different--stark, minimal, at the edge of late dub and early dancehall. Junjo's version proved to be wildly popular, ushering in the trend for redone rhythms--many originating at Studio One in the 1960s--that would become the basis for composition in the 1980s and continues into the present day. Although the advent of so-called "digital" riddims, or those produced entirely on synthesizers and computers, would soon offer another popular production method, these pre-digital versions continue to inspire the creation of much reggae music. [4]

Under Junjo's guiding hand, some of early dancehall's finest DJs, including Yellowman, Michigan and Smiley, Josey Wales, Nicodemus, Toyan, and Cocoa Tea, recorded hit songs over the Roots Radics reinterpretation of the "Mad Mad." As the first popular tune performed to Junjo's "Mad Mad," Michigan and Smiley's "Diseases" (1981) became such a touchstone that, for many, the "Mad Mad" is better known as the "Diseases" riddim. [5] In the song, the duo projects a somewhat Puritanical version of Rastafari, warning with apocalyptic dread that Jah will take vengeance on a modern world symptomized by women in trousers and vanity-worship.

[Let's give it a listen to hear Junjo's and the Roots Radics' version.]

Junjo's version of the "Mad Mad," despite its recognizable connections to the Studio One original, represents a creative departure, to be sure. Dub's layering comes to the fore: the bass suddenly drops out of the mix only to return with force; snare drums and guitar chords unexpectedly erupt in reverb and echo; the familiar horn riff collapses in on itself while a crisper version, played on guitar and mixed bright and loud, jumps out of the texture at crucial moments. The bass, which remains one of the more distinctive features of the "Mad Mad," serves as a kind of anchor in this arrangement where sounds seem to float in and out of the mix. Except for an occasional flourish, the bass generally sticks to playing roots and fifths on downbeats, giving the track much of its drive.

Not long after the success of "Diseases," [6] which topped the Jamaican charts in 1981, Yellowman--dancehall's first international star--recorded his own smash hit over Junjo's "Mad Mad." In true dub form, Junjo provides a subtly but profoundly different version of the Roots Radics' performance for Yellowman's "Zungazung," a song based around a catchy, "nonsensical" chorus.

[Let's listen to the track. Attempt to pick out the differences, aside from the vocals, between "Zunguzung" and "Diseases."]

The same drum-fill introduces the track, but this time it is drenched in reverb and echo and lacks the synthesized percussion of Michigan and Smiley's version. The distinctive guitar riff enters immediately, although here, as with the drums and vocals, it is more heavily cloaked in reverb than on "Diseases." The bassline maintains the rather regimented form--more or less a one-measure loop--that has appeared in most subsequent versions of the "Mad Mad." A few different fills and new riffs appear, further adding to the song's distinctive character.

"Zunguzung" was an immensely popular song, and ultimately it has proven more influential than "Diseases," with Yellowman's catchy chorus melody continuing to turn up in reggae and hip-hop songs every few years or so. [7] The penetration of Yellowman's melody into hip-hop's lexicon is so deep at this point that it is unclear how many artists reference it as a knowing allusion to King Yellow. Although the phrase first appeared in recorded form as an AA phrase, on a popular live recording released the same year--and presumably in other performances during this period--Yellowman changed the melodic contour on the repetition of the phrase, singing the melody higher and creating more of an AB structure. Tracing a melody like "Zungunzung" is one way to apprehend the depth to which reggae has penetrated hip-hop's very vocabulary.

[Let's listen to a string of hip-hop references to Yellowman's melody, beginning with the original version (1982), followed by the live version (1982), and then the hip-hop appropriations, including BDP (1987), Biggie (1995), Black Star (1998), Joe Budden (2003), and Jin (2003). See my blog on this subject for more details.]

Far as I can tell, the first hip-hop song to employ Yellowman's familiar melody is Boogie Down Productions' "Remix for P is Free" on their 1987 album, Criminal Minded. It is not merely the melody that carries forward here, however, as "Remix for P" is also built on a familiar sample, the guitar riff from the "Mad Mad." Of all the samples BDP use on Criminal Minded (including such far-flung sources as AC/DC's "Back in Black"), this is the only instance on the album where producer Scott LaRock actually samples a reggae song. [8] The appearance of the "Mad Mad" on Criminal Minded seems to present strong evidence of reggae's significant presence in New York by the mid-80s. Indeed, Criminal Minded is literally filled with melodies, phrases, and vocal interjections from the popular dancehall hits of the day.

"Remix for P is Free" is a fine case in point. Chronicling the bleak pragmatics of ghetto life in the crack era, KRS-ONE borrows the chorus melody from Winston Hussey's "Body No Ready" (1984) in order to describe the ease of procuring sex from a drug-addict: "The girlies is free / 'cause the crack costs money / oh yeah" [listen to a comparison]. [9] As you can hear, Hussey's original is yet another track recorded on the "Mad Mad"--this one, a George Phang production. Such layered allusion suggests that KRS, like any good dancehall DJ or hip-hop MC, consciously brings together related references. That these references are drawn prevailingly from reggae songs demonstrates the deep penetration of reggae into New York borough culture by the mid-80s. Despite hip-hop's well-rehearsed origins in Jamaican soundsystem culture--as famously imported by DJ Kool Herc, who moved from Jamaica to the South Bronx in 1967 (and, famously, played funk, rather than reggae, at parties)--reggae had never shown up so explicitly in hip-hop prior to Criminal Minded, which suggest a significant socio-cultural shift. [10]

In line with the competitive spirit of soundsystem clashes, KRS-ONE uses Yellowman's melody to boast about BDP's dominance across New York's boroughs. [Let's listen to "Remix for P is Free." Notice, despite the presence of the "Mad Mad" riff, the stylistic departure between this song and the reggae tunes that have preceded it. Nevertheless, note the use of Jamaican slang and patois, the melodic allusions to popular dancehall songs, and the central position of the "Mad Mad" guitar riff.]

In contrast to the songs we have heard to this point, here the drums assume prominence. BDP essentially created the "hardcore" hip-hop sound with their use of gritty, forceful electronic percussion. By using vintage drum machines such as the TR808, they connect their sound to electro hip-hop predecessors like Afrika Bambaataa, another Bronx-based hip-hop luminary. The off-kilter hi-hat pattern, with its disconcerting panning and dynamics is reminiscent of dub's disorienting use of volume and spatial signifiers. The echo on the voice and the guitar sample also evoke reggae's recording techniques. With this production, Scott LaRock put his own stamp on the "Mad Mad"--as much as Junjo, Sly & Robbie, or any other producers have--and, as you will hear soon, the familiar guitar riff is now strongly associated with BDP's drum beat, in particular the syncopated snare pattern.

Clearly, by this point, Bronx identity could be tied to Jamaicanness rather unproblematically. BDP's brash, dub-accented production, "ragamuffin" language, catchy tunes, dark street tales, and glorified violence made an enormous impression on the hip-hop world and helped set the template for what would later be called gangsta rap. That BDP's expression could be at once so Bronx, so hip-hop, and yet so Jamaican, so reggae bears witness to the degree to which Jamaican music and culture had become part of the texture of New York life by the mid-80s. Indeed, one might even say that, especially in the boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx, the Jamaican presence had become ubiquitous and, at times perhaps, dominant. This cultural shift is undoubtedly tied to the high rates of migration from Jamaica to New York during this period. According to sociologist Mary Waters, "In the 1980s alone, Jamaican sent 213,805 people to the United States--a full 9% of its total population of 2.5 million people" (Waters 1999:36). 45% of these immigrants stayed in New York (ibid.). And, "By 1996, it was estimated that 35.1% of the city's black households was headed by a foreign-born person--the vast majority from the Caribbean" (ibid, 37). This demographic shift was accompanied by a powerful cultural visibility projected, one the one hand, through reggae soundsystem culture which filled streets, parks, and clubs with the sounds of Jamaica, and, on the other, by the rise of the infamous cocaine-running posses, which quickly came to dominate the drug-trade in New York. [11] Legendary for their ruthlessness and firepower, the posses quickly took over corners across Brooklyn and the Bronx, and their powerful presence undoubtedly realigned many people's sense of what Jamaicanness--and reggae--could signify. Far from the islanders that were ridiculed as too "country" a generation before, Jamaican immigrants in the 1980s epitomized a powerful kind of cool in the dog-eat-dog world of urban America. It is no coincidence that KRS-ONE alternately refers to Boogie Down Productions as the "BDP posse," an appropriation of the powerful gang signifier, which itself was--in a fine stroke of irony--a term borrowed from Hollywood Westerns, which have long been popular in Jamaica.

Many consider Criminal Minded to be one of the first gangsta rap albums as well as a blueprint for classic hip-hop. Although it seems ironic that rap's gangsta subjectivity comes filtered through Jamaican posse life, this kind of fractured reflection becomes an important figuring process in the continued conversation between reggae and hip-hop. Suggesting a new type of "mirror/mirror" relationship, to borrow a phrase from Rex Nettleford, the hardcore pose, gun-talk, and ghetto life reportage that increasingly became the focus of reggae and hip-hop lyrics, resonated as true and powerful representations for sympathetic ears in Jamaica and the United States. Rappers and DJs have looked to each other's representations of "reality" ever since, especially in cultural crucibles such as New York city, where reaffirming representations echo from car stereos, street vendors' stalls, and soundsystems.

Because it set the template for stark depictions of urban life, Criminal Minded is considered a touchstone for hip-hop. Everything in it, including dozens of verbatim quotations from contemporary dancehall songs, has become a hip-hop reference at this point, which would seem to obscure the boundaries between the two genres. For listeners unaware of the album's deep intertextuality, the tuneful phrases peppered throughout the album are understood simply as KRS-ONE's inventions. Despite their origins, these quotations are now simply canonical phrases of the hip-hop lexicon.

In 1998, Black Star--a group that, significantly, takes its name from Marcus Garvey's famous fleet of ships--re-versioned BDP's version of the "Mad Mad," updating the thematic focus but staying faithful to the beat to the point of true homage. Their loving re-make has served to cement the status of BDP's reggae allusions as foundational to the hip-hop vocabulary. Significantly, DJ Hi-Tek, who produced the track, draws his samples directly from BDP's version, as opposed to, say, any of the "original" reggae versions of the riddim. This creates some inherent limitations, but Hi-Tek uses them to his advantage, underscoring the power of the BDP version. Small samples of KRS-ONE's voice--"yaaaaa"--lurk in the background, and the familiar guitar figure once again plays a prominent role. Unlike BDP, who tease the sample by stuttering a single note, Hi-Tek simply triggers the full chord over and over--an aesthetic outcome produced by the limitation of using "second-hand" source material. We hear the same drum pattern with its triplet snares and machine-gun kicks, though the sounds themselves seem fatter, heavier--enhanced by over a decade of advancing production techniques and technologies. Nevertheless, the drum timbres still recall BDP's lo-fi, drum-machine aesthetic. On top of this faithful updating of the track, Mos Def brings a dancehall-indebted style to his flow, employing steady, staccato rhythms, consistent end rhymes, and stuttered singing. He borrows familiar melodies and drops in some Jamaican slang for good measure--"Follow me nuh"--and interjections--"Lord"--that recall Yellowman's vocal workouts as much as KRS-ONE's. [Let's listen to Black Star's "Definition".]

As a self-conscious "underground" anthem, Black Star's remake of BDP's "Remix" affirms the original song's seminal status and further establishes the "Mad Mad" as a nostalgic rap resource. Black Star mobilize the "Mad Mad" in service of a kind of hip-hop historicism: by making direct reference to a hip-hop classic, they align themselves with a tradition that they seek to celebrate as they redirect. They marshal BDP's anthem of borough dominance, and hip-hop's braggadocio more generally, in order to critique the violence that too often exceeded the lines of metaphor in the late 90s. Their message is post-Biggie-and-Tupac, post-crack, and, if you will, post-Bronx--hip-hop having long gone global. The spiky guitar stab, which once evoked reggae and the Bronx, now represents "golden age" hip-hop and Brooklyn's Caribbean character. Few listeners would connect the chorus to Yellowman, for instance. Significantly, there is little sense of contradiction here about using reggae references to express an identity that is primarily oriented toward hip-hop and Brooklyn. Even so, the residual resonance of the "Mad Mad," augmented by Mos Def's West Indian inflections, shimmers in this version of a version.

Black Star's "second-hand" appropriation, as knowing as it may be for some, including the artists, testifies again to the degree to which hip-hop has absorbed reggae language. This level of interpenetration may help to explain why many people, especially outside of the United States or Jamaica, perceive hip-hop and dancehall reggae as a single, conflated genre. [12] Indeed, even within the Americas, in such Caribbean urban centers as New York and Miami--not to mention San Juan, Kingston, Havana, and Port of Spain--it is also common to find hybrids of hip-hop and reggae, as each represents a resonant and often ubiquitous style.

The latest version of the "Mad Mad" comes neither from Jamaica nor New York but from Puerto Rico. The familiar riff again reared its head in 2003 on the debut album by Tego Calderon, who raps over music that draws equally from hip-hop and reggae, nods toward salsa and Puerto Rican folk forms, such as bomba and plena, and adds some techno for dramatic crescendos and digitally-enhanced dancefloor thump. Sometimes simply called "Spanish reggae," this hybrid musical style has recently garnered greater mainstream recognition under the name reggaeton. With a firm grip on the pan-Latin youth market, reggaeton is an increasingly popular style across the Americas, with the Northeast United States and the Caribbean--in particular, New York and Puerto Rico--serving as centers of production. As its name suggests, reggaeton differs from what some have labeled Latin rap in its predilection for backing tracks that are stylistically closer to reggae, especially early 90s dancehall, than to hip-hop. Like hip-hop and reggae, reggaeton is a deeply diasporic music, emerging out of transnational circumstances to give shape and form to new kinds of experiences and identifications.

Similar to Jamaica, Puerto Rico has become a nation that exceeds its island borders. Soon more self-identified Puerto Ricans will reside outside of Puerto Rico than on the island. [13] With a greater ability to move back and forth between the island and the mainland, the transnational Puerto Rican community is not only defined by a high rate of out-migration but by a significant degree of circular migration, and some social scientists argue that Puerto Rican migration is becoming increasingly circular, especially to places like New York and the northeast U.S. (Rivera Batiz:59). Bringing together influences that reflect this regional circulation, reggaeton projects a new Latin identity that seems commensurate with the new social arrangements arising from intensified migration processes and generational cultural shifts.

Tego's version of the "Mad Mad" is especially remarkable in the way that it evokes an almost equal engagement with hip-hop and reggae, yet at the same time projects a sense of Puerto-Ricanness that loses nothing in its indebtedness to "foreign" forms. The song is a self-consciously stylized hybrid, sampling a one-drop loop from a reggae version of the "Mad Mad" and overlaying the same drum pattern employed in BDP's and Black Star's versions. During the first verse Tego even uses the phrase "hip-hop reggae" to describe the explicit fusion.

[Let's listen to "Bonsai" to get a sense of the sound. Bonsai, by the way, is Tego's slang for marijuana, a la trees--a predictable thematic focus for a reggae-inspired song. Listen for the familiar sample as well as BDP's distinctive drum pattern.]

Stylistically, this is not a typical reggaeton track. In a genre which predominantly features a rhythmic pattern resembling soca, merengue, or early 90s dancehall reggae, Tego's version of the "Mad Mad" stands out with its relaxed tempo, roots-reggae loop, and hip-hop drums. The use of a sampled loop of the "Mad Mad" riff, and the reproduction of BDP's classic drum pattern, demonstrates a familiarity with the originals and, further, suggests a desire to engage with both traditions at once and on their own terms. Such a seemingly explicit articulation should dispel most doubts about intentional allusions (though I have to admit I am still curious about Tego's singing "hey, hey, hey," which almost exactly echoes the Alton Ellis original--a somewhat obscure song at this point, even for reggae enthusiasts).

Tego's "Bonsai" represents a dual engagement with hip-hop and reggae. To a Puerto Rican artist, these genres represent "foreign" resources in some sense, but from another perspective, they are not very foreign at all. Hip-hop and reggae are rather familiar resources for most Puerto Ricans at this point. [14] The track was produced by DJ Adam, who brought to the project extensive experience as a producer in New York's and L.A.'s Latin hip-hop scenes. [15] Tego, too, considers himself as a rapper first and foremost, descended as much from Tupac as from any Puerto Rican musical heroes. [16] Because of his eclectic stylistic departures, Tego is regarded as a bit eccentric within the world of reggaeton. Popular and critical acclaim, however, seem to suggest that his music is appealing precisely because it draws from so many places, engages seriously with so many styles, and--in its own idiosyncratic synthesis of various familiar and unfamiliar resources--emerges as a distinctive and undeniably local expression. Despite the significant presence of so-called "foreign" influences, which is true for most reggaeton, Tego's music presents a clear example of vibrant local creation happening within the context of asymmetrical globalization processes. The sound of Puerto Rico is hip-hop and reggae and salsa and plena. It is the sound of New York, as filtered through experience, memory, mass media, and other channels of transmission. And, of course, this goes the other way, too. (I still recall the irony of hearing a young Jamaican rapper use the Nuyorican term of endearment, "Ma," over and over again in his songs, as that's what New York-based rappers such as Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy and others were doing at the time.) Tego's music is also the sound of blackness in a transnational Puerto Rican society that, in the majority, self-identifies as white. [17] Although I don't have the space here to explore Tego's articulation of blackness through the embrace of Afro-Antillean signifiers, it is worth noting that Tego's music, with its explicit links to African-Americans and Afro-Jamaicans, projects such an identity.

The transnational conversation so audibly illustrated by the migration of the "Mad Mad" is a longstanding and ongoing one. New waves of migration inevitably affect the contours of musical circulation as well as the contexts in which people assign meaning to such things as itinerant riffs. Processes of hybridization and incorporation intensify as new technologies--from air travel to cell phones to cable TV--further facilitate the circulation of people, music, commodities, and ideas across vast distances. Music reflects and informs these new communities, drawing lines as it connects dots, suggesting alternative subjectivities and affirming old and new identities. In embodying such socially-grounded cultural exchange, music provides its own narratives of resistance, accommodation, and change--narratives which, in their rich nuance, frequently challenge more facile attempts to subsume musical style beneath the grand tales of nationalism or music/tourist industry marketing. The songs we have considered here--each of them brimming with intertextual references--together illustrate how much even so-called foundational texts are indebted to so-called foreign precedents and influences, sometimes far-flung, sometimes familiar, and often somewhere in between. This deep degree of musical interpenetration merits some acknowledgment lest we forget how interconnected all of the world's societies are, especially when they reside in the same hemisphere, and, increasingly, the same city.



Bilby, Kenneth. 1995. "Jamaica." In Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae, edited by Peter Manuel, 143-182. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Gunst, Laurie. 1995. Born Fi' Dead: A Journey Through the Yardie Underworld. Edinburgh: Cannongate Books.

Katz, David. 2003. Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae. New York and London: Bloomsbury.

Mitchell, Tony, ed. 2001. Global Noise: Rap and Hip-hop Outside the USA. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Rivera-Batiz, Francisco L. and Carlos E. Santiago. 1996. Island Paradox: Puerto Rico in the 1990s. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Waters, Mary C. 1999. Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.



[1] This paper would not have been possible without the assistance and archival resources of Boston-area selector Mad Skim, as well as the databases maintained at http://reggae-riddims.com and http://www.jamrid.com. The latter were instrumental in providing extensive, cross-checkable lists of appearances of the "Mad Mad," while Skim, who maintains his own database, was able to provide me with dozens of audio samples from his record collection.

[2] Riddim, like beat in hip-hop parlance, is Jamaican shorthand for a singer's or DJ's musical accompaniment in a particular song, which may include a distinctive bassline, drum beat, and/or other recognizable musical figures. I employ the "Jamaican" spelling throughout this essay so as to prevent confusion with rhythm, a less specific term.

[3] The first two chapters in David Katz's Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae (2003) provide numerous first-hand accounts of the various influences that Jamaican musicians were drawing from in the decades preceding reggae's late 60s explosion.

[4] See, for example, Bobby Digital's recent work for Sizzla, the "digital roots" of Da Real Thing (2002).

[5] Alternately, in deference to a famous early 80s Roland Burrell song, the "Mad Mad" is occasionally known as the "Johnny Dollar." Tenor Saw's "Golden Hen" (mid-80s) is another title that vies with the original, although its distinctive horn-line often distinguishes it from other "Mad Mad" spin-offs.

[6] The main melody from "Diseases" continues to reappear in reggae songs, and it even made a mutated-appearance in a song by Queensbridge-based rapper Nas, who transformed the warning into a boast: "the most dangerous MC is / coming out of Queensbridge" ("Memory Lane," Illmatic, 1994). Tellingly, the phrase receives the dub treatment, enveloped in echo, as if to underscore its reggae origins. Yellowman was one of the first DJs to make reference to "Diseases," quoting from its melody in his first major hit, "Soldier Take Over" (1981), which was produced by Sly and Robbie over their own version of the "Mad Mad." Their version differs only slightly from Junjo's and shares the use of echo and reverb on snares and the guitar riff. The bass, which generally follows in the Roots Radics' spare, downbeat-focused style, occasionally takes a more improvisational approach, following the riff and arpeggiating chords more fully. The familiar horn line remains, but its presence is infrequent, coming in at prominent moments such as the chrorus and introdutction. In fine Sly-and-Robbie form, the track also features additional keyboards, some electronic percussion, and some acoustic percussion (e.g., woodblocks and cowbells in the left channel).

[7] The melody possibly has origins elsewhere, as Yellowman routinely borrowed melodies from a wide range of sources (e.g., nursery rhymes, My Fair Lady, "The Candy Man" and other old pop fare)--a practice that he may have bequeathed to hip-hop, as it routinely turns up in the performances of reggae-engaged artists such as Slick Rick and KRS-ONE.

[8] On another track, "The Bridge is Over," the producer replays a classic reggae bassline--found in Super Cat's "Boops" (1985) and Toots and the Maytals' "54-46 (That's My Number)" (1968) and originally based on Marcia Griffiths's "Feel Like Jumping" (1968)--and turns it into a simple, haunting piano riff. Replaying was a technique employed heavily in hip-hop's early days but quickly replaced by sampling in the mid-80s. Despite the advent of sampling, its brilliant exposition in hip-hop, and the tradition of reusing materials in reggae, reggae producers still rely much more heavily on synthesizers and instruments than samples.

[9] As with "Zunguzung," references to this melody show up in several other hip-hop songs. See, for example, BDP's "Criminal Minded" (Criminal Minded, B-Boy Records 1987), Chi Ali's "Age Ain't Nothing But a #" (The Fabulous Chi Ali, Relativity 1992, which also includes a song called "Murder Chi Wrote"--a reference to the 1992 Chaka Demus and Pliers smash, "Murder She Wrote"), Gang Starr's "Ex Girl to the Next Girl" (Daily Operation, Alliance 1992), Erick Sermon's "Female Species" (No Pressure, Def Jam 1993), De La Soul's and Camp Lo's "So Good" (Hip Hop 101, Tommy Boy Black 2000), and Necro's "Hoe Blow" (I Need Drugs, Psycho + Logical Records 2000).

[10] Despite Jamaican-immigrant Kool Herc's looming figure as hip-hop's innovator, it has been frequently observed--including by Herc himself--that early attempts to play reggae at borough parties were received coolly, leading Herc to favor the familiar breakbeats of funk. Moreover, Herc and others have claimed that embracing American style was a primary social strategy for many Caribbean immigrants at this point in time, when islanders were still considered "country" by their African-American neighbors.

[11] The impact of Jamaican posses on life in Brooklyn and greater New York is well documented in Laurie Gunst's history and ethnography of the posses, Born Fi' Dead (1995).

[12] The essays in Global Noise (Mitchell, ed., 2001) testify to the remarkable extent to which hip-hop and dancehall--often called "ragga" outside of Jamaica--travel together. The majority of case studies in this book detailing hip-hop's global reach describe "foreign" hip-hop style as incorporating a significant amount of dancehall style and content.

[13] In 2000, 7.3 million people identified themselves as Puerto Rican: 3.4 million (47%) living in the U.S, including second generation Puerto Ricans, and 3.9 million (53%) living in Puerto Rico (source: Orlando Patterson, lecture on migration in Caribbean societies, 25 November 2003, Harvard University).

[14] One thing that such criss-crossing circulation illustrates is the degree to which people's "cultural wellsprings" (Bilby:145) are increasingly shared, especially in mass media-saturated, intercultural urban contexts.

[15] Latin hip-hop, especially in its English language form, has always been intensely engaged with contemporary (non-Latin?) hip-hop, and most so-called "Latin" rap artists--e.g., Fat Joe, Big Pun, Kid Frost, Mellow Man Ace, Cypress Hill--see themselves as equal participants in the genre. Recently, Tego appeared on the new Cypress Hill album, which signals a maintained connection between "Latin rap" and reggaeton as well as a transition to the mainstream for this Spanish-language reggaeton star.

[16] Tego's music tends to be categorized as reggaeton, often because it is in Spanish and features reggaeton's distinctive rhythmic framework. Moreover, from a logistical standpoint (e.g., concerts, marketing, audience), Tego's career is tied to the reggaeton industry: he collaborates and competes primarily with other artists in the reggaeton world.

[17] According to the 2000 census, 81% of Puerto Ricans identified as "white," 8% as "black," and 7% as "other" (source: Orlando Patterson, lecture on Puerto Rican identity, 23 October 2003, Harvard University).