Yabby You Dread Prophecy review for Pitchfork. A new 3-disc box set is out now on Shanachie Records, the first US label to release Yabby You's music.
The new collection of Yabby You's great work during the 1970s and early 80s in Jamaica will hopefully shed more light on a cornerstone artist who has been vastly under-appreciated.
Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You
Jamaican reggae artist Yabby You’s epic new three-disc box set opens with "Deliver Me From My Enemies", a song where his vocals ache with conviction as he interprets verses from the Book of Psalms. It’s the sound of an artist who had suffered and was suffering still, physically and economically, but not spiritually. This disposition endeared him to his ghetto peers even as he faced rejection from wider society. Though Sly & Robbie, the Clash and the Wailers bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett revered his music, Yabby You remained obscure to most reggae fans.
The searing work on Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You showcases an artist who deserves recognition on par with Bob Marley, Augustus Pablo or Burning Spear and hopefully elevates his legacy from its outsider status. Sadly, during his life, Yabby You (born Vivian Jackson) was doubly shunned: For being a dreadlocked youth who lived among Rastafarians at a time when they were despised by middle class Jamaicans, and also as an ardent Christian who rejected his Rasta brethren’s veneration of Haile Selassie as God.
Jackson’s story is one of a poor and sickly man who recorded with legends like the Skatalites’ Tommy McCook and iconic dub engineer King Tubby. He also produced brilliant music by Big Youth, Wayne Wade and Michael Prophet, all while marginally employed and restricted to crutches from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis.
In a way, Jackson’s physical suffering echoed his music’s serious content. Songs like "Anti-Christ", "Warn the Nation" and "Jah Vengeance" are rife with apocalyptic references from the Book of Revelations and Jamaican proverbs, chastisements and moral teachings. Similarly, his vocal harmony group the Prophets embodied their name. They sermonized against lasciviousness ("Carnal Mind") and warned of the end days ("Babylon a Fall").
Read the rest on Pitchfork.