Record of 1984


My God, My King

Philip Levi

Philip Levi throws off a couple of heavily echoed introductory phrases and he's off. "Mi god, mi king, him name Jahoviah, Him inspire me to be a mike chanter" launching straight into a perfectly measured, nonstop lyrical incantation with never a pause for breath.

Behind him a bouncy, fluent update on the Heavenless rhythm is trampolining along. In and out of it patters what is surely the most fiendishly catchy guitar lick ever laid down on a reggae record. It's a piece of twanging country picking guitar which is also reminiscent of sneaky Seventies guitar licks on disco hits like the Bee Gees' Staying Alive or earlier slices of funk from James Brown, and if you don't believe me, check it out.

Meanwhile Philip Levi is moving fluently, point by point, through a humorous and witty lyric on the triumph of black culture over the evils of slavery and centuries of cultural brainwashing. All this alone would have made a brilliant and memorable record but then half way through he pauses, for the first and only time, and abruptly moves up two gears into the UK's finest "fast style" chat. He then proceeds to deliver himself of more lyrics in the next two minutes than the average DJ would hope to come up with in two decades.

First released in the UK on Bad Breed, My God, My King caused a sensation in Jamaica when released on the Taxi label, becoming the first UK DJ record ever to top the Jamaican charts. The "fast style" of DJ delivery is generally recognised to have originated with South East London's Saxon sound system in the early 80s and proved to be one of the most exciting trends in UK reggae, providing at least one crossover hit in the national pop charts with Smiley Culture's Cockney Translation.

Right now, with records coming out of Jamaica like Ward 21's Haters and Beenie Man's Dark Glass, the reggae world seems ready for a journey back to the fast style or, arguably, a journey forward into a potentially exciting raid on the hip-hop vocabulary, but that's another story. For the moment at least, for me this record towers above the rest like a colossus. Fifteen years later, you can drop this in any dance and maximum mayhem will be guaranteed.