Album Review: 'A Message To...' by Rudebwoy Face

Patrick Varine

Japanese dancehall – yeah, I said it.

We truly live in a global culture. It’s a testament to international capitalism and the Internet that Jamaican dancehall music, already a genre within a genre after shooting off the reggae tree, would make its way to the Far East.

The only other Japanese reggae disc I’d ever heard was from a college friend, and he was actually from Japan, otherwise I’d probably have never heard it.

Enter Rudebwoy Face, whose "A Message To" is a hyperspeed love note to the skittery, twitchy riddims of dancehall and the driving deejay tunes of Nicodemus and Barrington Levy that has its heart in the right place, even if its production is stuck in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Aside from the opener, “Rumbo,” which pounds with a distorted guitar as its base, the music uses a lot of dated instrumentation, and honestly, there’s no need for a reggae cover of “Lovin’ You,” complete with the “la la la la laaaa” chorus and vocal swoops.

There are several cuts that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tenor Saw or Super Cat album, but where you might expect this unlikely combination to be a sort of East-meets-West-Indies blend of instrumentation, you get what sort of just sounds like really good karaoke covers of dancehall tunes.

Really, "A Message To" is ultimately only appealing to the reggae completist. To an average listener, it’s notable mainly for Rudebwoy Face’s light-speed blend of Japanese and Jamaican patois, which can be entertaining, but doesn’t really sustain interest over an entire album.

But hey, every Asian reggae artist can’t be Mikey Chung. Besides, he had Peter Tosh fronting his band.