Down in Florida City, Rasta Rick used to live in an air conditioned tree house, serve bricks of good outdoor ganja, and jam reggae tapes all day.
Dade County is both a downtrodden Babylon, and a Rasta's paradise. And many of the world's greatest reggae artists, bands, and performers can be found right here in Miami, Florida.
From pioneers who helped write and record some of reggae's first hits to the youth of today that's learning from the legends, the genre is still as active, exciting, and infectious as when it appeared on the world's stage in the late 1960s.
Here are Miami's ten best reggae acts of 2014.
See also: Miami's Ten Best Ska Bands of All Time
10. The Resolvers
Percolating with a big-band confluence of island riddims and Storyville jazz, the Resolvers pack a walloping sound that hits right in the hips and keeps everyone dancing all night. Brother and sister co-founders, Ojay and Sahara Smith, are the progeny of international reggae superstar Ernie Smith, and it shows in their high-concept originals and straight-up jams that keep the swing in your step.
9. Inna Sense
Based on cash flow alone, Mango's Tropical Café on Ocean Drive is one of the top venues for reggae music in America, and it's the Miami Beach spot where Inna Sense has sharpened its stage skills for the last 15 years. Band leaders Jimi Dred and Vibert Chang know how to read and rock a crowd so well, they can spot the inner freak in a Pasadena soccer mom from a mile away. Three songs into their show, she's up and singing to every word. And before it's done, the rest of the audience is too.
8. 4th Dimension
Si te gusta tu reggae con sabor Latino, 4th Dimension is the band for you. With English and Spanish lyrics, emphatic instrumental breaks, Marley-style guitar solos, and catchy singable lyrics, this outfit's originals sound like classics. Maybe that's why the band has shared the stage with the likes of Bob Dylan, UB40, and James Brown. But you can still catch 4th Dimension for next to nothing at least three times a week on South Florida stages.
Where have the mighty Jahfe been? This group has been around the world, from the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and Kasumama in Austria to everywhere in between. The band's reggae incorporates the sounds of hip-hop, voudou, and modern pop to create a wholly unique hybrid that resonates with any crowd. Leading the charge of original reggae in Miami today, Jahfe has inspired countless musicians to take up the call of social justice with its conscious yet dance-ready style.
6. Johnny Dread
You can't tell everything about a dread by the length of their hair, but Johnny Dread's 'locks show that he's been at it since 1987, when he started the band Copacetic with Julian Marley. Over the years, he's continued honing his craft, and when Tobacco Road turned 100 years old, Johnny Dread is the man that Miami's oldest bar called. Though he started out life as a Cuban Catholic playing basketball at Columbus High, he's fully embraced his Rastafarian self for decades and continues to espouse his beliefs through his music, which has taken him around the world.
5. The Marleys
Marley Yard, Marleyville, Marley Town, Marley Compound, whatever you wanna call it. Somewhere in the Pinecrest area, there's a place populated with a tribe of Bob Marley's kids and grandkids. Many of them are actively pursuing musical careers, recording, booking shows, and touring. Other members of the clan live elsewhere in South Florida and they are doing the same thing. Look out for Ky-Mani Marley, Stephen Marley, Jo Mersa Marley, Daniel Bambaata Marley, and many more.
4. Freddie McGregor
This reggae legend began his recording career at the age of 7 in 1963. As a kid, he recorded as Little Freddie for the pioneering Studio One label and Clement "Coxsone" Dodd. SInce then, he's created at least 37 albums, appeared on many compilations, and been a top spokesman for the culture. He has lived in South Florida for years. In 2013, McGregor was presented with a Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies.
3. Derrick Morgan
Instrumental to the birth and popularity of ska, rocksteady, and reggae music, Derrick Morgan was a leading role model for Bob Marley's earliest musical experiments. Songs like "Moon Hop" have gone around the world and found fans in every generation, from ratchet-carrying rudies, to anti-racist skinheads with zero cuts, boots, and braces. This part-time South Florida resident is still king of the rudebwoys.
2. King Sporty
Noel "King Sporty" Williams didn't just co-write "Buffalo Soldier" with Bob Marley at Henry Stone's TK Studios in Hialeah. He also produced some of the funkiest electro-fied dance cuts to come out of Miami, ever. By the 1970s, this musical visionary developed a knack for business that many others never do. Now with his own record label, publishing company, and catalog, Sporty is a reggae pioneer and an independent music maverick too.
1. Inner Circle
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Ever since accompanying Eric Donaldson on "Cherry Oh Baby," his Jamaican national songwriting contest winning entry for 1968, Inner Circle has been the hottest crew out of Jamaica. Today, that riddim has been covered more than any other in that riddim-crazy nation. The group spent all of 1971 visiting every big city and tiny town in Jamaica as Bob Marley's official band; and they did the same for other chart-topping artists of the time. This was eventual Prime Minister Michael Manley's Bandwagon Tour, the first instance of popular music being used for political purposes in the country. Later, the crew picked up a singer by the name of Jacob "Killer" Miller, scored a big record deal, and seemed set to take over the world before he died in a car crash. By the time the band moved to Miami in the early 1990s, Inner Circle had already enjoyed an enormously successful career. And then came the songs "Bad Boys" and "Sweat (A La La La La Long)." In 2015, the outfit continues to tour the world while simultaneously running one of the music industry's hottest studios, Circle House and Circle Village, in North Miami.
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