We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
D.C.’s reggae scene (S.T.O.R.M. is pictured) has always been relegated to the U Street circuit: Branch out too far from Ellington’s old swinging grounds and you get Marley impersonators or white boys with floppy hats. And the real stuff has always been a bit insularthe clubs that feel like trenches, the fights between Rastas and blacks, the sound systems always on the brink of shorting out. Feel the fucking love, man. So the local Reggae Music Awards are a curiositya glitzy year-capper that brings the musicians out of the woodwork (and the wars) for one big jam. For three years running, Willie Paul has picked up the trophy for Best Male Reggae Singer, and the two years before that he won for Best Reggae Singer. He’s also a virtual lock for this year’s award. Paul must be a miracleit seems every weed-eater, spinner, and mike master can agree on his talent. Even after five years at the top, Paul still looks on the experience not with a vet’s cool apathy but with something more like awe: “It’s like all them big awards on TV,” he says. “A lot of people. Big people in the business. That is like a step to a big level, you know what I’m sayin’?” Not really: The award show gives out nominations in categories that include Best Reggae Food Caterer, and this year’s lifetime-achievement award will go to Air Jamaica. Still, aren’t you wondering about Willie Paul? Expect surprises and real love at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Zanzibar on the Waterfront, 700 Water St. SW. $15. (202) 554-9100. (Jason Cherkis)