We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
When we checked in with Born Jamericans earlier this year, the duo had just performed its first Kilimanjaro gig (opening for Supercat), and released a demo tape. Since then, things have gone pretty well: The still D.C.-based Jamericans went to LA for a month, “just to get familiar with the record companies out there,” and one of those labels, Delicious Vinyl, signed them in March.
“Boom Shak A-Tack,” the first single by the BJs (as their publicist is, unfortunately, wont to call them), was released last month. Though it hasn’t dented any Billboard charts yet, the SoundScan rankings that appear in the Washington Post Weekend section recently listed it as the 11th-best-selling single in D.C.; it’s also been getting plenty of airplay here.
The Jamericans’ success thus far is hardly surprising; after all, both of these first-generation Americans came up in a reggae world. Edley Shine (nee Horace Payne) is the nephew of Super Freddy, who runs the Emperor Hi-Power sound system here; Notch’s dad played bass in Premier International, a Maryland-based reggae band. Shine and Notch, both 19, met while hanging out at Jamaican music stores in Langley Park (Music Box and Tri Lynx) in September 1990, and they got their start with the Emperor sound—“Emperor,” says Shine, “is where all my inspiration comes from.”
The Jamericans’ Delicious album is due out in March; until then, fans will have to content themselves with “Boom Shak A-Tack.” The single, produced by Chuckie Thompson, opens with a sample from jazz saxophonist Lou Donaldson and also borrows from Clement Dodd’s “The Real Dub.” Shine handles the rapping, and Notch the singing part. “Reggae music round the world/We respect that/’Cause every time we touch the mike/They screaming, “Boom Shaak A-Tack,’ ” raps Shine, who explains the song’s title: “ “Boom Shak A-Tack’ is about the vibe of the dance hall, the feeling that you get when you hear bop-bop-bop, and they wheel—they’re stopping the music. It’s a different feel from any other music that’s out there.”
“Boom Shak A-Tack” does locate the Jamericans as D.C.: “BornJamericans is the group from the streets of Washington/Where nuff people smoke crack and dreads fire theM-1.” That line, says Shine, “describes the type of environment where we’re coming from and the obstacles we’re faced with. We overcame all that to get to where we are right now.”
Shine also provides an explanation for his partner’s obsessive name-changing: Notch, who is still being referred to by Delicious as “Natch,” has already gone through “Newly Designed,” and “Mister Natchulous”; he was born Norman Howell. “I always used to tease him, “Oh, that sounds corny, man,’ ” says Shine. “But I think this one is permanent, because it’s stuck with him for a while.”
Born Jamericans play at the University of District of Columbia Auditorium Oct. 31 with Shabba Ranks, Mad Cobra, Lady Patra, and the Rough Cut Band. That same night, they appear on Fox- TV’s The Robert Townsend Show.