Riding the triumphant horns and bubbly bass to far more meaning than any other track on the Six Month Break riddim, “Tear It Down” by deejay duo Superman & Spiderman is surprisingly conscious. Factor in that this was a deep cut on a double-riddim release from VP in 1990, and it ought to be clear what a progressive dancehall gem this is.

While barriers like apartheid, war and crime, and slackness are typical stylistic targets for tearing down, the crucial lines of “homosexual barrier, come mek we tear it down; lesbian barrier, come mek we tear it down” are refreshingly inclusive three full decades later. A devastating coup for the slightly mysterious superhero duo, this up-tempo embrace of positivity is primed to mash up any dance.

Unknown rather than obscure, you will need to know where to seek to track down a digital copy, but the original LP is still widely available. Reggae Fever and Reggae Record both have it in stock as of publishing, beyond the multiple affordable copies on Discogs.

More info:
Superman & Spiderman on Discogs

Update 2021

Well, that was some wishful thinking! Ultimately, this original article is a firm reminder that one’s own lens and perspective are a constant, as well as that reggae music in the broad sense (and particularly dancehall) has often lacked the positivity widely attributed to it. Is there room within “One Love” for all?

Here, yes, the lines themselves sound positive, but the overall framework proves my original assessment as optimistically incorrect. The song’s intro states, “barriers, we come to tear them down” – off to a promising start! Yet the list of barriers, upon careful re-review, includes “apartheid,” “war and crime,” “slackness,” “homosexual,” “lesbian,” and “more to come.” So those items (amongst others mentioned throughout) are all negative barriers in need of removal…

To be clear, the song is evidently stating that racial discrimination based on the color of one’s skin (“apartheid’) is a barrier that needs to be torn down, while discrimination based on sexual orientation is somehow needed to tear down other barriers (“homosexual” and “lesbian”).

The deeper question here is whether Jamaica’s anti-gay lyrics have any cultural validity, or if they are merely lyrical expressions of societally condoned hatred. Promoter Lloyd Stanbury, in his book Reggae Roadblock pointedly raises the question. “Within the context of the UNESCO 2005 Convention, is there room for a legitimate debate to be had regarding the promotion and protection of Jamaica’s religious and cultural practices and beliefs about homosexuality? (p. 36).

My response, for what it’s worth? Neither religion nor culture is an excuse to support hate, full stop.

The Groove Thief
.the future of dub is the present.
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