Hey, hey… My favorite poet of Jamaican reggae music, Ini Kamoze, my “lyrical gangsta”, was born in 1957 in Port Maria, Saint Mary, Jamaica. This man is truly a reggae lyrical genius. WICKED!
Ini Kamoze’s recording debut was Trouble You a Trouble Me in the early ’80s. As competent a songwriter as Bob Marley with a masterful talent for social commentary, his catchy hooks and sly wittiness set him up to be the greatest reggae artist since Marley. But Mr. Kamoze marched to his own drummer, refused to be categorized by the music industry, made a few questionable career choices and reportedly did a short prison stint in the 1990s.
While he hasn’t benefitted from huge popularity outside Jamaica, his signature song Here Comes the Hotstepper (1994) made Ini Kamoze a household name and became one of dancehall’s most well-known hits. He later adopted the nickname “Hotstepper”, from Jamaican Patois meaning a man on the run from the law. This song remains his only U.S. #1 hit.
With his trademark “hey, hey…” Ini Kamoze will always be one of my all-time favorite reggae artists. He is a powerhouse of talent for fresh and significant conscious lyrics, influenced greatly by R&B, rap and hip-hop. He speaks directly to my soul – like an electrical current – and is never boring.
Mr. Kamoze does not condone random acts of violence but is an advocate for constructive change. Twenty years ago, in Gunshot (Respect Not) he chastised Jamaica’s corrupt leaders and politicians for condoning gun violence, thus forcing poor kids to kill each other senselessly. Sadly, his message is still quite relevant today as suffers from far too many pointless gun-related deaths.
Ini Kamoze’s songs are arrogant, cocky and defiant yet, at the same time, eloquent and graceful with a keen sense of wit. His unmatched lyrical mastery helps him produce some of the most interesting lyrics in all of reggae music. And he can write some darn fine lovers’ lyrics as well. He has collaborated with the greats, like Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare, and I am certain he has some potent reggae left in him!
If Ini Kamoze’s music interests you, try to find his debut album from 1984, Ini Kamoze, which is (criminally) still available only in vinyl, or pick up Debut, his double CD compilation album which features re-recordings of his early hits, and listen im tic!. Although the songs suffer just a little bit due to the lack of the Sly & Robbie productions, the poetic lyrics remain the same. Your soul will thank you.
Visit Ini Kamoze’s MySpace site for great information, music, and insight into this cryptic but charismatic personality: http://www.myspace.com/inikamoze and for news about his upcoming CD release “51/50 Rule”. While his career has certainly been erratic, Mr. Kamoze has thankfully not disappeared from the music scene. I hold my breath in anticipation!