BIG YOUTH is one of the legendary figures in Jamaica, a deejay rapper who also contributed the phrase "natty dread" to the reggae vocabulary. His strength is lighthearted catchphrases strung together over dense, compelling rhythms. "Live at Reggae Sunsplash," recorded at the 1982 festival, finds him in outstanding form, expounding his Rasta beliefs over the earthy roots rock backing of the Archangels.
Not surprisingly, this concert evolved into a basic hits package, beginning with a Rasta anthem, "I Pray Thee/Satta Amasagana," and moving through the pridefully assertive "Every Nigger Is a Star" and "Jim Squeechy," a celebration of motorbiking ("S90 Skank") and a passionate denunciation of police violence ("Green Bay Killing"). There's also a good deal of Rasta philosophizing on "Ten Against One"; Jah-consciousness is central to all of Big Youth's music.
A storyteller, newscaster, poet and musician wrapped into one single energy, Big Youth also shows a baseline humor with one of the oddest yet endearing versions of "Hit the Road Jack" ever recorded (it actually segues into "Hell Is for Heroes"). "All killer, no filler," the album claims, and it's close to the truth. BIG YOUTH -- "Live at Reggae Sunsplash" (Sunsplash Records RS8905); appearing Sunday at Kilimanjaro.