Reggae stalwarts Yaadcore, Jah 9 and Subatomic Sound System have shared the video for “Police in Helicopter,” a re-imagining of John Holt’s defiant 1982 ganja anthem. Watch the video, which premiered today via High Times, HERE.
Recorded at the height of the Jamaican government’s CIA-backed marijuana eradication efforts in the 1980s, Holt’s original “Police in Helicopter” is a certified reggae classic, celebrated equally for its hard-edged sound and lyrics. The new version pairs vocals from Jamaican DJ-turned-artist Yaadcore (“Ready Now”) and modern reggae royalty Jah9 (“Note to Self”) with a heavy, bass-forward riddim from Subatomic Sound, the New York-based dub outfit best known for their work with the late Lee “Scratch” Perry.
The track, which appeared on Yaadcore’s just-released debut album, Reggaeland (12 Yaad/Delicious Vinyl Island), was originally released in April 2021 as a one-off single on Houston-based Yard Birdz Records. While the plan was always to film a video, logistics proved difficult with the acts literally spread across the world amidst a global pandemic.
With each act filming scenes from their respective locations, the video was conceived and directed by Emch of Subatomic Sound with edits and animation by Miguel Hernandez — whose work includes Rihanna’s Malina Matsoukas-directed “Rude Boy” video as well as recent work for Ozzy Osbourne.
One of reggae music’s quintessential protest songs and outlaw anthems, John Holt’s lyrics addressed the CIA-funded campaign by Jamaican police to set fire to ganja fields from the air. Recorded in 1982 with the Roots Radics at Jamaica’s legendary Channel One studio, the track reintroduced Holt, a star of Jamaica’s rocksteady era known for tender love ballads like “The Tide is High,” as a conscious firebrand.
Subatomic Sound System recreated the original riddim with 21st century sub bass and drums, and plenty of dubwise smoke and fire. The result is a heavyweight, bass-forward riddim in the future dubwise style of Subatomic’s acclaimed Super Ape Returns to Conquer album with Lee Perry, and on their new collaboration with Black Uhuru’s Mykal Rose.
Yaadcore, who surprised the reggae world recently by re-introducing himself as a vocalist after a run as one of Jamaica’s most influential reggae selectors, turns up the heat with all-new verses addressing today’s cannabis industry in a style that connects foundation deejays like Yellowman and U-Roy to today’s dancehall era.
Jah9, who recorded her “Police in Helicopter” vocals from her new home in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, brings new vibes to Holt’s original lyrics, with her signature vocal style that evokes the deep, powerful tone of Nina Simone or Lauryn Hill. Known for her own poetic protest music, Jah9’s performance demonstrates why her unique sound has paved the way for a new generation of women in reggae.
Subatomic percussionist and Jamaican legend Larry McDonald, 85 years young, brings a lifetime of heritage as a reggae originator having worked with everyone from Count Ossie to Bob Marley. He plays congas, nyabinghi drums, and percussion on the track, adding new African rhythms absent from the original tune.
“The chorus of this song has been a battle cry in my heart since I first heard it,” Jah9 says. “As someone intimately involved with the use of this herb as a symbol of defiance but more importantly as a powerful tool for healing, I’m honored to add my voice to bringing it forward to a new generation.”
YAADCORE first emerged a decade ago as the essential DJ, or selector, of Jamaica’s reggae revival scene, a status that earned him recognition in outlets from Vice to Vogue. After helping carry the movement worldwide as the tour DJ for Protoje and co-founder of multinational reggae party Dubwise Jamaica, he turned his attention to making his own music, beginning with breakthrough track “Ready Now” in 2019. A veritable ganja icon, YAADCORE hosts Jamaica’s first weed strain review series, “Spliff A Light Spliff,” for Kingston dispensary Itopia Life. Reggaeland (12 Yaad Records/Delicious Vinyl Island) his debut album, dropped in March.
Inspired by the open spaces in the instrumental dub of 1970s Jamaica, Jah9’s core philosophy is balance, which she delivers through a distinct style she’s named Jazz on Dub. Her latest album Note To Self has received critical acclaim from The New Yorker, The FADER, Billboard, High Times and more. A certified yoga instructor trained in Kemetic, Ashtanga and Iyengar methods, Jah9 has been known to compel her audiences to pause and breathe deeply during her live performances. As a way to intimately engage with her fan base, she also curates an organic rhythm-based yoga experience called ‘Yoga on Dub.’
For two decades, NYC-based band and production outfit Subatomic Sound System has forged a ‘future foundation’ style built on the bass-heavy soundscapes of classic 1970s Jamaican dub and conscious reggae music. In 2022, Subatomic has launched a new collaboration with Grammy-winning singer Mykal Rose of Black Uhuru. Spearheaded by producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Emch, the core Subatomic band includes Jamaican percussion legend Larry McDonald (Peter Tosh, Gil Scott Heron) and Troy Shaka Simms on sax. From 2009 through 2020, Subatomic toured with Lee “Scratch” Perry as his go-to band, re-inventing his Black Ark Studio sound live on stage. In 2017, Perry and Subatomic released Super Ape Returns to Conquer, a re-imagining of Perry’s 1976 classic that became the music icon’s highest-charting album to date. Other Subatomic releases feature reggae/dancehall artists Anthony B, Elephant Man and Screechy Dan, while the Subatomic Sound label has issued collaborations with filmmaker David Lynch and the late Ari Up of The Slits.