Black History Month has been off to a rough start. But we’re not here to rehash the news. We’d rather smoke it, and take heart in the innumerable instances of resilience, courage, and transformation.
What is Lovers Rock?
Lovers Rock is a sugary sweet section of Reggae that centers around – you guessed it – love. Born in late 60s Britain, Lovers Rock is claimed to have the sonic power to soften the toughest dudes to tender gentlemen. What makes the subgenre significant to us, is the way it confronted violence and turned it into love.
The early development of this music was an intimate affair. Sound systems were constructed at home. Folks performed live at house parties. Popular moves were the rub and scrub.
While romance takes the lead, dub aspects are undoubtedly present. Expect an emphasized bassline that can rattle your ribcage, paired up with dreamy echoes and reverb. The parties of Lovers Rock past was an intentional space, where young people could work out their most intense emotions amid raging hormones and an increasingly hostile justice system.
A Product of the Soundsystem
Small Axe is a 5-episode film anthology directed by Steve McQueen. The second episode, “Lovers Rock” follows an approximate 24hr day and the houseparty that took place in that span. It’s a heady movie in all the best ways. Delightful for anyone who loves weed, reggae, or a sapphic surprise.
Society aside, there are two major antagonists. One in particular, Clifton, undergoes a complete shift in character with almost zero dialogue.
When he was pissed, he wouldn’t shut up. Projecting anger into any outlet available. Eventually resorting to drunkenly thrashing around the dancefloor, wigging everyone out. Either out of boredom or one too many side-eyes, he meanders to the amplifier to be blasted by sound. Something in his demeanor changes. He’s handed a joint – now seems even further grounded. Eventually handed the microphone, “BABYLON!” he belts out.
Next opens the most graceful moshpit you’ll ever behold.
Falling to the floor. Resurrecting. A physical surrender to what you can’t control and embracing what you can, fully.
Branches in Popular Culture
By the early 2000’s there was a rising J-Pop off-shoot of the genre. The “Relaxin’ With Japanese Lovers” discography is currently 7 volumes deep. Sade, The Clash, TV Girl, and a lot of others have offered their odes to the romantic reggae variety.
Our NTS Favorites
Our Lovers Rock mix isn’t strict. We included songs with adjacent vibes. Similarly, we would like to point you to a couple of pals we love to listen to on NTS Radio.
This rec is perfectly suited for the theme of love. Senay Kenfe’s Quiet Storm spans R&B, Soul, Slow Jams, Funk, and Hip Hop.
Have a lovely February pals.