Johnny Osbourne is one of my favourite dancehall singers. What’s more, he cut his teeth in the era where dancehall was emerging, and the sound retained a lot of reggae elements, but still had a swagger, and was more obviously dance music.
“Trickster” was released in 1988 on Music Works Records in Jamaica and the U.S, and Greensleeves Records in the U.K. The record was produced by Gussie Clarke, hence the polished dancehall sound.
Osbourne attended the Alpha Boys School, which produced some of Jamaica’s biggest stars, including fellow dancehall toaster Yellowman.
The song has an easy going flow to the lyrics, with the drums swinging over that heavy marching bassline. It has moved beyond reggae in many ways, but it still has that slow skanking flavour, unlike the modern dancehall which emerged in the 90s.
Osbourne is one of those rare vocalists who can switch between straight singing and rhythmic toasting without blinking, making him a lethal weapon on the mic. In many ways that dancehall style is replicated by today’s British Afro-swing stars like J Hus.