The late, great Jacob "Killer" Miller said, "Dreadlocks can't live in a tenement yard." He was sick of nosy neighbors messing with his vibe. Just as the world could relate to his words then, it still can today.
That's why Inner Circle has made the song "Tenement Yard" a hit once again, teaming up with Chronixx, the 22-year-old son of reggae singer Chronicle and recent Tonight Show musical guest.
Inner Circle is a group of reggae pioneers, going back to the original birth of the sound. By the time they made hits of "Bad Boys" and "Sweat (A La La La La Long)" they'd already been in the game 20 years. And now they're coming to a club near you, Culture Room, with Spred the Dub, Wraps N Kush, and Bushwood. Here's what founding bass player Ian Lewis said about how the band first met Jacob Miller, making music, and legalizing marijuana.
New Times: Awesome new video for that new song with Chronixx.
Ian Lewis: Taking over the world man.
How'd that song come about?
Through mutual friends. Don Corleone. He's a producer who produced all that Elephant Man stuff, and he also did Sean Paul's "Give It Up to Me" with Keyshia Cole. He introduced us, and the rest is history. It's crazy the response; we're getting so much love. It's like the number-one most requested song in Jamaica right now. It's been awhile since that happened. We've been number one in every country in the world, but in Jamaica right now, really we're dropping hard.
But you've been doing that since 1968, right?
Everybody always says '68, but it's really more the '70s. The early years when you're a kid, you don't know what you wanna be or do, but from when Jakes [Jacob Miller] came in the band is when we really started writing our own songs. Till then, we used to play everyone else's music.
How did you first meet him?
Jacob Miller was everywhere that we used to play. He used to stand outside the venue and say he was the greatest singer in all the land. There's only someone like him every 50 or a hundred years. He was something else. A great heart. A great soul. He is music personified.
He was called "The man with the bionic voice." There's a song by the Stylistics called "You Make Me Feel Brand New." He sang all five parts by himself. Made me say, "Bloodclot, where he come from?!" He grew up without boundaries. Without thinking, he would just do it.
How can people experience that?
It's all 'bout Culture Room! The people need to come out and experience reggae vibes.
What's "Tenement Yard" about?
It's a song about living in the projects. That's what they call them in Jamaica. Everybody inna da yard busy watching your house. It's the same thing all over the world. People just call it different names.
Today it's known as a classic; how was the response when it first came out?
We killed the whole country! Little country, and we sold 80,000 in Jamaica alone. Everybody wanted that record. "Too much watchy watchy watchy. Dreadlocks can't live in peace." So many people related to that record. Now it's 30 years later and it's come back alive with Chronixx and "News Carrying Dread."
New truth, on same old story. People can't keep their mouth shut. Don't trouble with what don't trouble you. Leave it alone.
You're doing a Florida tour with shows in Estero, Tampa, and Culture Room. What else you got lined up?
Gotta go back to Jamaica. We're getting an award. Jacob deserves to get that Order of Distinction, ya know?
What do you think abotu Buju Banton still locked up here?
I don't know why they set him up; why they even wanted to get a case on him is still mind-blowing to me. All that informer shit costs money to set up. Why would they want to bust a reggae figure? I don't know what the scenario was, but once you rub the wrong people the wrong way, you got a problem. They come after you.
Did you vote to legalize medical marijuana in Florida?
I didn't vote 'cause I thought it was gonna pass easy.
Working on any new music?
We have an idea to do something with Scarface from Geto Boys. A reggae version of "Mind Playing Tricks on Me." We finished the track already.
Any message for the people before the Culture Room show?
The Inner Circle bring the heat from the sunshine of Jamaica straight to Florida. We gonna give them that Jamaica heat.
Inner Circle with Wraps and Kush, Spred the Dub, and Bushwood, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 4, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $15 plus fees. Visit cultureroom.net.
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