Wild Apache/Louder than Life, 2020

Super Cat is one of the great 70s-80s dancehall dons, renowned for his phenomenal live and recorded work with the equally legendary but now deceased Nicodemus. Super Cat’s 1992 album Don Dada (Columbia) was the second reggae record I ever bought, and it remains a staple in my collection, regularly in my box of tunes for DJ sets. Don Dada was reissued in 2017, and it’s worth tracking: tunes like ‘Ghetto Red Hot’ and ‘Them No Worry We’ are scorchers and still get heads nodding and fists waving.

‘Push Time’ is Cat’s first new released music in 25 years: he has been relatively reclusive and only began performing again recently. He only returned to the stage in 2015 to participate in a Jamrock reggae cruise.

This single premiered online on 3 and 4 September and is produced by New York hip hop veteran Salaam Remi. Remi’s known for his inclusion of reggae and dancehall tinges in his work, and has collaborated with Nas, Amy Winehouse, The Fugees and Black Thought of the Roots.

On ‘Push Time’, Remi provides Super Cat with a killer retro reworked dancehall riddim upon which the great man delivers a mix of heavy socio-economic chat about gun crime, poverty and the growing racial division between the American police and people of colour. He chats about people sent to prison for shootings, others who’ve been crime victims, and then intersperses those verses (albeit) with equally traditionally lyrics on pretty girls, how they whine and grind, and how nice a gold Rolex watch can be on one’s wrist.

The riddim reportedly samples the title cut from his 1990 album, Cabin Stabbin, which also featured Nicodemus and Junior Demus.

I discovered this tune through the Hip Hop Forever Facebook page, and the video is worth a mention. It is hilarious in parts and confronting in others. The majority of the visuals show Super Cat clad in crisp white clothing and Trilby hat, waving a fold-up umbrella in one hand and a large spliff in the other while chatting in downtown Queens (a mural of the late Jam Master Jay features in several shots). Later he does a chin-up on a traffic light. Scantily clad dancehall girls shake their assets in front of a late-model white Rolls Royce, and a random white horse appears – a nod to Super Cat’s Wild Apache’s recording and performance heritage. Sobering footage also shows heavily armed American police teargassing Black Lives Matter protestors and a series of newspaper headlines on racial crime and arrests. Dancehall followers will also spot a brief shot of Super Cat and Nicodemus together in their early 1980s pomp, in what looks like footage taken at one of the famous Skateland dances held by the Gemini Sound of Kingston.

Despite his long absence, Super Cat is at the top of his game here. His voice sounds superb and powerful, he scowls through the video and never once reveals anything resembling a smile. It is like he has never been away.

‘Push Time’ is taken from Remi’s album Black on Purpose, scheduled for release during the American autumn and featuring Chronixx, Spragga Benz and Stephen Marley. There’s no indication as to whether this cut will be released as a vinyl single, but for the veteran dancehall heads, this is essential on any format.

Jeff Neems