This 1980 classic is now most well-known for its highly-sampled pro-marijuana vocals: DJ L.A.B., DJ Madd, Matta, and Ed Solo ft. The Skool of Thought (in turn remixed by Krafty Kuts) have all used it, as did The Prodigy famously on “Fire.” However, it is definitely a fierce track in its own right, with a catchy melody and an almost hypnotic groove.
While several re-pressings now exist – with the title switched to the plural in some cases (as on the full-length LP) – all early 12-inches featured “Hard Time” on the A-side and a dub, entitled “Lighter Shade Of Black,” on the reverse.
Lyrically, this is a thought-provoking and personal examination of poverty, sung with a calm sense of reserved passion. Pablo Gad devotes the first 3 minutes of the tune to expounding on, and condemning as “a disgrace,” the realities of “the half that’s never been told.”
But then, at 3:15, over just the drums, the infamous discussion of smoking styles begins. As a youth – in papers; as a man – in a pipe. While clearly embracing recreational (and unfortunately also underage) herb smoking, the role of the chalwa in Rastafarian rituals should not be under emphasized: at heart this is a roots, not a ganja-man, anthem. It’s that transition, despite, or even because of, the hard times, that is so crucial to the appreciation and legacy of this massive tune.
As for the dub, and if you’re reading this you surely appreciate the role and necessity of it, the melody lines are allowed more time and freedom, with the requisite echoes and reverb on all the right notes. The vocals are ignored for over ninety seconds, and even then they are barely introduced, practically as an instrument, alongside cuts of guitar and then keys. However, and it’s quite clear that the lyrical power was realized almost 35 years ago when this was recorded, the “when I was a yout'” section is still featured in its entirety.
Whether selecting “Hard Time” or “Lighter Shade Of Black,” this is definitely an under-appreciated classic ready to nice up the dance.
DJ L.A.B. – Hard Time Style
DJ Madd – Rizla Dub
Matta vs Pablo Gad – When I Was A Yout (Hard Times)
Ed Solo & Skool Of Thought – When I Was A Yout
Ed Solo & Skool Of Thought – When I Was A Yout’ (Krafty Kuts Remix)
The Prodigy – Fire