As the musicians featured on the Afropop Worldwide show "Dread Inna Inglan" demonstrated, you can take Caribbean musicians outta the sea, but they're taking their music with them. Of course, even though it's too cold, far and cloudy to be even an honorary Caribbean island, the United Kingdom's Afro-Caribbean population has been making music in conversation with people in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere for so long, it should be no surprise that a well-connected world makes something like 4,500 miles seem only a small barrier to creating great music. The latest proof: this new EP of soca-inflected dancehall from the producers Jus Now, titled Cyah Help It.
Jus Now is a collaboration born in Bristol in 2010, when the U.K.-based drum 'n' bass producer Sam Interface met Keshav, a.k.a. Laza Beam, a Trinidadian percussionist and producer. Their Feel Up Records five-track EP release Cyah Help It features a cast of British and Trinidadian musicians. Trinidad's “Viking of Soca” Bunji Garlin shows up twice, sharing the title track with British hip-hop star Ms. Dynamite. Coreysan and Kerwin Prescott, both Bristol-based Trinidadian musicians, round out the roster.
The EP is an organic fusion of full-throated U.K. underground bass and reggae with dancehall, soca, ragga and even bhangra. The combination isn't unprecedented but Cyah Help It certainly sounds distinctive enough that fans of any of those genres will find something to enjoy here. A casual hip-hop fan might just assume that there are Jamaican producers behind it all—parts of the track “Culture” roll along languidly on the upbeats—but there are more than enough hints that something else is going on here. It's the sound of a conversation that spans a hemisphere and the English-speaking world. Yeah, it's “Culture.”