Instantly upbeat and conscious, this rather rare digital reggae 12″ (which Deadly Dragon Sound System recently sold out of at US$150) is a scorching condemnation of Jamaican socioeconomics. Calling on the listener to ‘take a walk’ and ‘watch the big man sit up on top, lookin’ at we the poor people on the flat,’ Kentucky doesn’t romanticize the repetitive realities of Kingston’s yards.

With its slightly shuffling hiphop-influenced ragga beat, this is an interesting production from King Jammy’s studio. It fuses together the full potential of Jamaican production enabled by earlier computerized hit “Sleng Teng”, along with the increasingly mainstream influences of the American rap scene. This inescapable funkiness is due not just to the catchy groove, but also because of the clarity with which Kentucky approaches the mic.

Kentucky then, is the truly intriguing part of this whole equation, as it is ultimately the vocal that makes “Only The Poorman Feel It” such a powerful tune. By eschewing the somber approach often given to such heavy subject matter, this becomes instead practically a party-record (with definite crossover potential). However, that potential was clearly unrealized, given the obscurity both singer and track remain in.

Even the date of release is under debate, with DDSS vaguely listing it as 80s while Riddim Guide cites 1992. RG is more likely to be correct, since the “Bigger Boss” riddim – which Jammy’s has amped-up (and massively improved) – originated in 1989. This is arguably the most distinctive and memorable vocal turn, even when compared to versions by the likes of Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Luciano, and Sugar Minott.

Backed with Quench Aid’s easily forgettable ode to the “Beautiful Ladies,” this is one of those great tunes that seems to be trapped in low-quality YouTube oblivion, unless you’ve got your wealth stored in wax. A true shame, since this is not merely a wicked tune but also an important piece of evidence of the musical influences that America and Jamaica have had upon each other for most of the past century.

The Groove Thief

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