Tonight at Robert Bar, Scratch Famous of Deadly Dragon Sound will be joining me in an exploration of the foundation of reggae. If you’ve never had the chance to meet him, either out at Downtown Top Ranking (New York City’s longest-running roots reggae party) or at his old storefront, allow me to introduce the man formally known as Jeremy Freeman. His knowledge of Jamaica and the history of its recording industry is expansive. His record shop was a beacon to every fan of Jamaican music, in the city and way beyond. Sadly, rising rents and stubborn landlords have become an increasingly common theme here, and he had to close the brick-and-mortar shop last year after a great run. He still deals in records privately and on the Deadly Dragon website, and he’s still turning many of us onto hidden gems every day.
I’ll never forget the first time he invited me out to play alongside the crew at Downtown Top Ranking years ago. Deep into the night, when I was let loose on the turntables, I was in the middle of running “You Don’t Care” riddim. I still hadn’t gotten my hands on a clean copy of Nora Dean’s “Barbwire” and he knew that I had been looking for it for a little while. Just as I was about to switch riddims, he handed me a nice copy of it and told me to run it. After the tune was done and I handed it back to him, he told me to keep it. Since then, my stacks of 45s organized by riddim have grown quite a bit, but leafing through that group of records brings that vivid memory back to me every time. Like most of my favorite people, when you get to know Jeremy, his cynicism and biting commentary reveal themselves over time. But his sense of timing, generosity, and impeccable memory are still the characteristics that stand out the most. I’m looking forward to seeing what magic he brings tonight.
Saturday, June 24 – Robert Bar – 104 Bond St, Brooklyn, NY – No Cover