20/04/2021: “The System” by Michigan and Smiley

Vocal duos were fairly common in dancehall during the 80s. Think “Uptown Top Ranking” by Althea and Donna.

Papa Michigan and General Smiley were the best example. Their natural cadence and flow works brilliantly. They play off each other like strawberries and cream, and take you through the track like a rubber ring on a lazy river.

The duos’ call and response is best exemplified on ‘Diseases’, which remains their most famous track.

Lyrically, it’s righteous stuff on the oppression of Jamaicans by ‘The System’. Everyone is ensnared in the web.

‘The System’ uses a variation of the chilled out Pretty Looks riddim, originally popularised by The Heptones, using a smooth bassline and laidback horns.

You can hear Michigan and Smiley’s version on 1983’s Sugar Daddy.

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