Telephone Tracks (1991)


Reggae and dancehall artists have always been driven by the communal vibe of sharing ideas and music, as evidenced by albums like Telephone Tracks. The backbone for this idea is in the “riddim”, or the beat/structure of the song. One musician writes a catchy song, then other artists strip out its beat/bass line/etc to use as the canvas for their own song. It’s a genius idea, as long as the initial artist isn’t looking for an intellectual property lawsuit. As a result, you get hundreds of artists doing their best to create the perfect adaptation of this shared riddim in a friendly mix of competition and collaboration.

Sean Paul tore up the American music charts in the 2000s with songs like ‘Get Busy’ and ‘Gimme the Light’, which were riddim babies. I’m not trying to take anything away from Sean Paul, but reggae fans had been rocking those beats on mixtapes for years. What was pioneering about his work was the way in which he cleaned up the hooks and lyrics to turn those riddims into pop success.

Telephone Tracks is based entirely on the “telephone riddim” from the classic reggae song ‘Telephone Love’ by JC Lodge. Its unmistakable bass line is from reggae heaven, and the adaptations range from the melodic ‘Single Life’ by Home T to the more rap-oriented vocals of Lady G on ‘Nuff Respect’. Every song has the same bass line, but each one develops it in a different way. If you have an extra decade or so, start looking up riddims online and be amazed.

A lot of modern artists are engaging in the Soca scene, which encourages a more competitive approach to the music (here’s a good write-up from a reputable source). Clubs and festivals rely heavily on local chatter and trash-talk among performers to sell out tickets to the shows. So while the sharing of ideas and music may be less obvious and friendly these days, my guess is that the riddim is a concept that likely will never completely disappear from Caribbean music. And let’s hope I’m right, because the world of music could use more classics like Telephone Tracks.

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What do you think about this album? Comment below


6 Responses to “Telephone Tracks (1991)”

  1. That is one of the most riding out Cd’s you ever wanna hear. Track after track. I’ve been looking for this Cd for awhile. Need to put this in my collection. Got to get a copy of this CD, MP3….

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    Fairly certain he’ll have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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