Papa Biggy reaches out to Officer

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Friday, September 14, 2018

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Residents from some of Jamaica's poorest communities have long had a fraught relationship with the police. But as veteran deejay Papa Biggy tells it on the song Officer, many in law enforcement were themselves born and raised in some of these areas.

Officer is one of the songs on a rhythm of the same name. It features Mykal Rose.

“The Officer Riddim album was released on July 20 by VPAL. We're pushing the whole album, but Officer, Too Late by Luciano, Dem A Come by Lutan Fyah, and Kush by Louie Culture are the standouts. Not undermining the other artistes on the rhythm who in my mind did a superb job as well,” said Papa Biggy.

The Officer beat was built three years ago by Josh Wilkie, an American musician who has quietly made a reputation as a rhythm master, operating out of Massachusetts.

“He built the instrumental at his BDLabs studio in the Boston area. The bass, guitars and keyboards were all recorded live by Josh and friends, and the drums were programmed,” Papa Biggy said.

Officer was the first song recorded for the beat, followed by singjay Mighty Mystic's Only The Strong.

According to Papa Biggy, the vibe was so positive, he and Wilkie decided to add more artistes and compile an album.

“The instrumental track has a unique sound which mixes rootsy foundation-style bass, guitars, organs, hip-hop drums and strings. The mixes were done in a dub style, customised to fit each vocal,” Papa Biggy explained.

Born in Denham Town, west Kingston, Courtney Porteous (his real name) grew up in nearby Tivoli Gardens and St Ann.

After six years at Ferncourt High School in St Ann, Papa Biggy returned to Kingston and became immersed in the sound system scene. As a youth, he also witnessed numerous clashes between residents of so-called garrison communities and police, which puts him in the box seat to comment on this longstanding problem.

Papa Biggy has been recording since the 1980s. His songs include Under The Plane Wing, Times of Trouble, Stop Dem, Live in Peace and Hidden Voices.

He has produced songs by Anthony B, Luciano and Sizzla. Having cut his teeth on sound systems, he identifies with the age-old concept of multiple artistes on a rhythm.

“I am a product of the dancehall and this has been a part of that genre as far as I can remember. It allows a certain flow that, enhances the selectors playing power,” he said.

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