Real Situation

2012 & The Eschatology of Reggae Music1

by Frederick R. Dannaway (Riddim Magazine, July/August 2012)

2012, something big going to happen, either me married or the Lord is coming” Chris Martin2

“But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:28

So Much Trouble in the World3

     Most of the world’s religions have some sort of end-times scenario. These range from the destruction of the world and rebirth of a New Jerusalem or the appearance of the Madhi or a new cyclic Vedic world age. Religions from Christianity and Buddhists to Mayans and Rastafarians all anticipate some cataclysmic event or divine moment that will forever change life as we know it. Science predicts global entropy for environmental systems as cultures, economies and societies seem to crumble like melting icecaps in the world news. To confront reality, to literally be “conscious,” is to sense that the world is in hyper-crisis –and although it has always as such– it has perhaps never faced so many complex scenarios from global warming to catastrophic world obliterating weapons. Zimbabwe’s biggest newspaper just had a major Sunday feature on evangelical doomsday prophecies threatening African’s very stability as the people’s faith has them stopping saving for their retirement or children. Whole villages are abandoning long-term concerns of health, investments and education in slightly more zealous certainty than an outstanding amount of Evangelicals worldwide who eagerly await being raptured off the earth before divine wrath consumes the world. Numerous documentaries have shown villages abandon with jobs, debts, savings and families, so utterly convinced the end is near and the worlds rampant use of finite resources and pollution would seem to indicate that elites are not concerned for long term planetary sustainability. Mayan calendar predictions have reached pop culture from Hollywood movies to commercials and Jamaica is no exception. And as Chris Martin isn’t planning on putting on a wedding ring this year something big might happen as this is perhaps reggae’s most discussed year numerologically since 1977. So even if you are either planning a wedding this year, as is yours truly, or expecting the Lord to return or the earth’s pole to shift into hyperconsciousness, one is still haunted by reggae’s soundtrack to the apocalypse that stretches back some 35 years.

     Rooted deep in Jamaica’s divided theology are conflicts between the religion taught by slave masters that preached submission for a future reward and the empowering theology of Rastafarians like Bob Marley who said to “look for yours on earth.”4 The “great god in the sky” never impressed the Rastaman who looked to a living god on earth, establishing a new kingdom on earth for living the righteous, as “no dread can’t dead.”5 Rastafarian beliefs, though without broad consensus amongst sects or even individuals, are self-empowering and yet still messianic from the roles of Garvey, Selassie and Prince Emmanuel to still fervent calls to “send another Moses.”6 There is little room economically or culturally in Rastafarian faith for a “dream deferred” and yet the progressive moves and emphasis on revolution and repatriation movements simmer against a more encompassing theology that the book of Revelations is playing out in the modern world. Rastafarian and Judeo- Christian/Islamic culture believe that a Messiah will appear, although what that exactly entails is hotly disputed. But in Rasta theology it is a judgment day, with trials and tribulations, war, famines, and plagues unleashed upon the land while wicked men invert the natural order decreed by God. Major events are the opening of seals, spoken of cryptically in the Book of Revelations, such as Italy’s war with Ethiopia, crises in the Middle East, nuclear wars or meltdowns or catastrophic natural events like earthquakes and tsunamis. The order, and the specifics become irrelevant as prophecy culminates into reality. “This could be the first trumpet, might as well be the last.”7

I Read these Things in Prophecy8

     World events from Selassie’s coronation to Italy’s invasions or when “two sevens clash”ed9 in 1977 are read with eyes that have “overstanding” into a prophecy revealing “the other half that’s never been told.” To the spiritually patient, the destruction will be a cleansing fire, a righteous judgment and finally: a new day. The ghostly tone of Johnny Clarke’s None Shall Escape the Judgment10 and the fiery sermons of Prince Far I warn “that not even the dog that piss on the wall of Babylon will escape God’s wrath.”11 “A lot of people won’t get no supper tonight” sung Willie Williams in Armagideon Time12, a plaintive warning that times are getting desperate as populations swell and food and soil are being poisoned and depleted. Yabby Yu’s Judgment Time13 and Freddie McGregor’s Prophecy (see 8) are particularly poignant and brilliant examples of apocalyptic music warning that while the end is nigh, the rewards are not for the swift but for those that can endure. Reggae’s long time almost hippy image must be confronted with an enduring fire that is chanted upon the modern Babylon system. Legion are the songs warning of judgment, praying for Jah to return, with a blended mix of mournful angst and righteous jubilation. Signs appear in the norms of culture and countries that some see as imminent warnings, or tests to the faithful, that are seen as a decadence of moral values and deliberate agenda based subversion of what has been considered holy for millennia in Christian and African cultures.

     The whole issue of “burn battyman” must be contextualized in terms of prophecy. Jamaica, saturated as it is with churches, is fervent in evangelical theology on the one hand and caustic with fundamentalist Rastafarian fire on the other, framing social morals for even the most worldly massive and secular artists. So there is, perhaps, little difference between a disciple of Billy Graham and one of Prince Emmanuel’s on Bobo Hill reading St. Paul’s letters to the Romans, “Romans 1:26-27 “For thiscause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into thatwhich is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned intheir lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving inthemselves that recompense of their error which was meet.” Homosexuality is the sin, Biblically, behind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and its sudden modern acceptance (less than two decades ago it was considered a psychological disorder) is seen as a fulfillment of prophecy. The linking of Diseases14, with its truly infectious riddim, has Michigan and Smiley taking Biblical notions that the “wages of sin are death,” and that abominations from women wearing male clothes to lusting for jewelry are causing pestilence and illnesses from diabetes to arthritis and worse. The linking of AIDS and homosexuality is cemented in Jamaica and Africa to such an extant that the latter is calling for execution of gays in many countries, whereas it is already illegal in Jamaica. The banned rhetoric that has reggae artists visas revoked and boycotted is found in every hotel drawer with the Gideon Bible and read in every church on Sunday the world over. Of course, the banning of artists for defending their culture merely reinforces that modern society as Babylon is conspiratorial in targeting reggae singers.

Mark of the Beast15

     So along with the modern world’s embracing of “deviant sex” there is “the mark of the beast” warnings that are ubiquitous in lyrics from Peter Tosh to Capleton to Beenie Man. Wars, and rumors of war, the rise of one global government gets chanted down in countless songs. Mystery Babylon, in cabals from Rome and Bavaria are also frequent topics from anti-New World Order songs from artists ranging from LKJ16 to Queen Ifrica17 to Bambu Station to Thriller U18 and Luciano. Perfect19 asks who to blame for WTC-911: Bush or Bin Laden, in a song that links some of the most penetrating examples of oppression and tragedies that seem to be building intensity. The Youths gettricked20 as Babylon use dem brain21 and get them funny22, lusting for vanity to their soul’s seduction is sung masterfully when the Bobo dreads are focused on conscious lyrics. While some lament the same topics regurgitated over and over again in dancehall, there are artists like Deadly Hunta talking of Seedless Society23 in a permacultural anthem to the reality of nature’s perversion by companies that modify genetics. Stephen Marley’s indicting Mind Control24 lyrics speak for themselves, “Don’t Let Them Mold Your Mind, They Want To Control Mankind Seems Like Their Only Intention Is To Exploit The Earth.” Taurus Riley and Sleepy Hallowtips’ Mad Scientist25is a blistering insight on an industrial sounding dancehall riddim that diagnoses the madness. “None of the problems you can fix, none of the pieces you can fit in ya puzzle.” In August of last year Riley, whose prophetic insight into reality often elevates his lyrics above his peers, released the apocalyptic Armagiddion Time26 mentioning the Mayan calendar 2012.

     Draconian legislation and surveillance states degrade the individual’s rights, but even if “none of them can stop the time”27 they can microchip you as artists like Prezident Brown, Sizzla and Taurus Riley sing against Babylonian tricknology. Assailant toasts about Freemasons microchipping his head already on The World28all of which are familiar to hip hop acts from Nas, Mobb Deep and Immortal Technique. These have become reality – from RDF chips in passports and drivers licenses and credit cards to Verichips for prisoners and detainees, and the world is on CCTV. Like Macka B., you have to mind who you spar with29, and the justified paranoia echoes in cuts from Dandelion30. Other uneasy tunes range from Watching Me by Pilah31 and Leroy Green to the atmospheric Big Brother put out by Reality Souljahs and the mighty Conscious Sounds. Many, like Beenie Man, assert that it was a conspiracy to kill Bob Marley on songs such as No mama no cry32 and What those guys are for, which falls into a larger conspiracy to eliminate black leaders and enslave the population. It is a quite rampant theory that gays conspired to have Buju Banton arrested in a drug sting operation. Many theories, which come from the evidence of CIA cocaine operations to infecting Tuskeegee Airmen to FBI psy-ops on black radicals, justifies suspicions. Hip hop has long been influenced by such books as Behold a Pale Horse, one that certainly influenced Tupac Shakur’s and Old Dirty Bastard’s art against Illuminati evils that they felt were directly trying to eliminate them. Modern society, in which the System Set33 and System Crash34, is itself a conspiracy and collusion to divide and conquer. “Babylon no build great man.”35

Judgment Time36

     An elite 1 percent consolidate for full spectrum domination of the planet, effectively ending the world as in life as we know it. It may be an incremental suicide or an exploitation of shock doctrines, but as law after law is passed stripping the other 99 percent of time-honored human rights its hard not to be a bit cynical. The lies and search for nuclear weapons in Iraq lead to war, and the deception is echoed in reality tunes like Terrorist Attack by Luciano37 and others. The elite are, sung in the Capleton classic, Mashing up the World38 with wreckless abandon in devious ways that assault the very fabric of nature. Bobo artists and Gaza gangsters alike sight serious evil in the way society is turning. Truly moving anthems emerge in the haze of punany and gun tunes, such as the still fresh sounding tune of 2010 from Mavado Jah is coming soon39. Soulful echoes in Jah Cure’s 2012 (Savethe World)40, “If you don’t have a ticket, you don’t have a chance to do the Devil dance” whispers of an elite reveling in the people’s suffering, with the focus on oppressing the people being almost ritual nature. The evocative Good Times41 sung of by Joseph Hill describes a debauched and vice-filled frenzy that has Lucifer partying in hell trying to tempt the Rastaman into all types of wickedness from strong drink and pork to human sacrifice. The song is from the album Payday, which is a clever double entendre on wages due and the judgment on the downpressors.

     World politics and oil crises, warned about even from slack djs like General Echo42, find comprehensive treatments as to the symbols of countries as beasts in the battles of Revelations, in songs from Supercat to Capleton43. The opening of the Seven Seals has been a subject from early ska songs to many roots rockers tunes and even finding a fair amount of mention in dancehall songs. Most culture book shops, run in the U.S. by Bobo Dreads, carry many videos and books relating to their specific mystical interpretations of the Biblical prophecy, much of it from Revelations 5. Selassie’s, or the Lord’s or Jah’s existence, and role in opening the Seven Seals is echoed in many reggae tunes, from Matumbi to Horace Andy44, and echoes in UK dub tracks from Jah Shaka, Aba Shanti and countless others. So many roots tunes in the 70’s warned of Judgment Time (see note 36), such as the classic by Junior Ross, which conjures images of children and the weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth of God’s wrath poured out upon the earth. The praise and triumph of songs featuring the fall and destruction of Babylon resonant deeply from digital 90’s cuts to steppers tunes out of Europe. But few sound as majestic as Jah Shaka’s horn infused Revelations 18 pouring out of scoop bins. “Babylon a burn!”45

Soon Come

     It has always been a testament of the spirit of the people of Jamaica to sing songs of peace and love in the face of such suffering and tribulation. “But the wicked carried us away in captivity Required from us a song”46 (adapted from Psalm 137), and the songs were of redemption and of better days. Rarely if ever does reggae, even in its most slack or violent incarnations, approach the bitter pessimism of many hip hop songs born of similar or at least slightly better social conditions. Better mus’ come47 is the logic that knows good over evil is inevitable, and that tribulations are the twilight of time testing the faithful’s belief in prophecy. “The hotter the battle the sweeter the victory”48 philosophy that infuses apocalyptic reggae imbues life with a spiritual imperative and ultimatum: life and faith verses death and despair. And “if you can’t be good, be careful.”49 Massa God is real and familiar, and Pupa Jesus50 is a friend to blackheartman, raver and revivalist alike. Rasta burn the Living fire,51 and Jah is for the living and not for the dead in a creed that is life affirming, hopeful and enduring. Even though they were tricked appearing on the same cut, badmen like Ninjaman and Shabba Ranks could combine with gloriously juxtaposed rough vocals with sweet singing that despite the Serious Time, there will be “better day.”52

     So if the world should come to an end, or else some major event should unfold, it would seem that Rastafarian mystics long ago prognosticated that Babylon would fall. Or at least they had the wisdom to understand that unbridled materialism and inhumanity is unsustainable, and it must be resisted even if only by diminishing its power by one. Peter Tosh’s look into the Crystal Ball53 has proven true. Money is near worthless, resources are dwindling and violently contested and it seems the world is in the hands of either madmen or the criminally indifferent. And though “it seems like destruction is the only solution”54 all these warnings of doom say the end will come “like a thief in the night.” So although none know the date or the time of their own or the world’s demise, reflections on love and the gift of life are the real understanding. So no matter what goes down, from the second coming or one’s first child or wedding, we ask “Why worry?,”55 and we pray that “every little thing, will be alright.”56

Read a Chapter a Day

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” Matthew 24: 32-33

1 Real Situation Bob Marley

2 2012 Chris Martin

3 So Much Trouble in the World Bob Marley

4 Get Up, Stand Up Bob Marley

5 No Dread Can’t Dead Jah Stich

6 Send Another Moses Echo Ranks, Check versions by Barrington Levy, Lopez Walker etc.

7 Natural Mystic Bob Marley

8 Prophecy Freddie Macgregor

9 Two Sevens Clash Culture

10 None Shall Escape the Judgement Johnny Clarke

11 Same Knife Prince Far I

12 Armagideon Time Willie Williams

13 Judgement Time Yabby Yu

14 Diseases Michigan and Smiley

15 Crystal Ball cuts by Capleton, Freddie Macgregor, Peter Tosh

16 New World Order LKJ

17 New World Order Queen Ifrica

18 New World Order Thriller U

19 WTC-911 Perfect

20 Youths get Tricked Mystic

21 Babylon use dem Brain Sizzla and Capleton

22 Give dem the Ride Sizzla

23 Seedless Society Deadly Hunta

24 Mind Control Stephen Marley

25 Mad Scientists Tarrus Riley and Sleepy Hallowtips

26 Armagideon Time Tarrus Riley

27 Redemption Song Bob Marley

28 The World Assailant

29 Mind Who You Spar With Macka B.

30 CCTV LV and Dandelion

31 Watching Me Pilah

32 No mama no cry Beenie Man

33 System Set Tarrus Riley

34 System Crash Sizzla

35 No Build Great man Jah Cure and Fanton Mojah

36 Judgment Time Junior Ross and the Spears

37 Terrorist Attack Luciano

38 Mashing Up the World Capleton

39 Jah Is Coming Soon Mavado

40 2012 Save the World Jah Cure

41 Good Times Culture

42 Oil in Babylon General Echo

43 Fight Fi Power Supercat

44 Seven Seals Horace Andy

45 Revelations 18 Jah Shaka

46 Rivers of Babylon The Melodians

47 Better Mus Come Michael Rose

48 Rally Round Ras Michael

49 Black Beauty Beres Hammond

50 Massa God World Run Buju Banton

51 Living Fire Chuck Fender

52Serious Times Shabba Ranks, Admiral Tibet and Ninjaman

53 Crystal Ball Peter Tosh

54 Real Situation Bob Marley

55 Why Worry Israel Vibration

56 Three Little Birds Bob Marley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *