The Frightnrs: The Innovative New Face of NYC’s Old School Reggae Revival
The music world has seen a recent unearthing of past musical genres and styles now being incorporated into contemporary acts. Having grown up in Brooklyn as the son of a singer/guitarist in a locally respected Ska band, raised on the island sounds of 20th century Jamaica, I’m no stranger to the bass-driven, “upstroke on 2 and 4,” rhythms that have become increasingly incorporated into pop-tunes such as Magic’s “Rude” or Wild Belle’s “It’s Too Late”. As much as I’d love to flip the bird at the musically-appropriating hipsters I see too often both on Bucknell’s campus and at home, I cannot be anything but appreciative of the attention that the resurgence of Reggae themes in popular music has directed back towards the original genre itself. One of the greatest aspects of music is its ability to transcend time despite being causally linked to elements of the culture in which it was created. Politics, religion, and economics have often driven the creation of innovative music, and consequently these genres and styles are inherently reflective of these influences: the growing success of the global EDM scene has been facilitated by the growing global accessibility to the internet, which has allowed for music to span regional and cultural divides like never before; American rock has had a history of criticizing popular political movements and ideologies (eg. Dead Kennedys); hip-hop and rap was born of Black-American culture, which to this day still bears the weight of the enduring consequences of the Slavery and Jim Crow eras of American history: racism and discrimination.
Born in the 50’s in Jamaica, Reggae was just as much a product of a unique confluence of musical influences from all over the Northern Hemisphere and the Caribbean as it was the voice of the Jamaican people against powers of colonialism and racial segregation. The history of Reggae only be truly understood by considering, in addition, the role that the emerging religion of Rastafari played in the subject matter of the music, and the subsequent growth and acceptance of the genre throughout the world, especially in the Caribbean and Africa.
For my father and I, Reggae has been the everlasting genre that ties my teenage experience to that of his youth. Although my dad grew up in 1970/80’s Brooklyn, the soundtrack of his youth consisted largely of rock artists heavily influenced by Reggae and Ska, such as the Clash, as well as those influential artists themselves.
Bob Marley is the face of Reggae around the world; yet, there is a far wider breadth of musical diversity within the genre than what Bob & the Wailers played. Known as Roots-Reggae, Marley’s signature sound is one of many styles practiced in the Reggae community. Some other genres, of which most of the modern resurgence has borrowed from, include: Dub, Rockers, Lovers Rock, and Dancehall.
The Frightnrs, out of Queens, NYC, are one of the few groups in the small but dedicated NYC Ska/Reggae scene to be gaining popularity with crowds outside of its own. With two independently produced breakout albums in 2012, The Frightnrs have made a recent comeback with three 2015 albums.
The first of these is the single cover of the Etta James song “I’d Rather Go Blind,” released under Daptone Records, a Brooklyn-based soul-funk-Reggae label. “I’d Rather Go Blind” is a sweet love song with melodic vocals reminiscent of early 50-60’s rocksteady tunes.
The Frightnrs - "I'd Rather Go Blind"
Of the second two albums, there is the two song EP Admiration, which in turn is included in the other album, Inna Lovers Quarrel, a six song EP released under MAD DECENT. Inna Lovers Quarrel is a gem of contemporary Reggae and rocksteady for the simple fact that it sounds like nothing of the sort. The Frightnrs have crafted an album worthy of being called a modern classic, evocative of early Reggae standards and popular hits.
It is curious that an authentic Reggae band would sign to EDM producer Diplo’s MAD DECENT label, known for artists like Major Lazer and Jack Ü. Yet, when one takes a careful listen, it becomes clear that the move was not random. Reggae has seen such a recent resurgence because of its universality, and moreover, its applicability to so many other genres of music, of which EDM has been a big player. A handful of EDM genres, specifically Trap, and the aptly named Dubstep, have musical foundations in characteristics found almost uniquely in Reggae. In fact, Inna Lovers Quarrel finishes with a Jungle/D&B style Cadenza and Toddla T remix of the song “Admiration” on the album, and this song seems to be just a taste of what MAD DECENT sees as huge potential in The Frightnrs for not only original music production, but innovative remixes that span genres and captivate all sorts of audiences.
The Frightnrs - Admiration (Cadenza & Toddla T Remix) [Official Lyric Video]
The Frightnrs stay true to the Reggae’s roots with Inna Lovers Quarrel. This is an album that deserves to be enjoyed on vinyl, blasted over an open-air soundsystem like its musical ancestors were, but if you don’t have a turntable or the dough to buy the record, here’s the link to the album on Spotify:
Image via Blogspot.