Monday, May 2, 2011

King Kong - Rub-A-Dub Man

Jamaican deejay/singer King Kong was born Dennis Anthony Thomas in Kingston, 1964. He initially started out under the name of Junior Kong and recorded his debut single "Pink Eye" at Tuff Gong in 1982.

He then worked with GT and formed his own Love Bunch Sound System, before recording for King Tubby's Firehouse label. Here his early recordings for Tubby were over fledgling digital rhythms, and included songs such as "AIDS" and "Babylon", which established him as a popular artist. His first album release, Two Big Bull Inna One Pen issued on Firehouse in 1986, was a split with another of Tubby's singers, Anthony Red Rose and featured musicians Dwight Pickney and Bingy Bunny on guitars, Flabba Holt bass, the drums of Cleveland Brownie and Steelie Johnson on keys. The success of this album brought him work with one of Jamaica's top producers of the time King Jammy. It was here that he scored his biggest hits including "Trouble Again" on the ‘Death in the Arena’ riddim, which was also the title track from his Jammy-produced debut solo album that featured a backing band of Steely & Clevie & The Super Power All Stars. Lyrically a lot of his songs were typical in content of the era, but several of them also leaned towards political and cultural themes.
At the latter end of the ‘80’s he relocated to New York, and then to Canada where he released material occasionally on his Conscious Music label. The death of close ally Tenor Saw in 1988 prompted King Kong to release "He Was a Friend" as a tribute, before in 1989 he moved again, this time to England where he reportedly teamed up with Mafia & Fluxy, a riddim section and production team consisting of brothers Leroy (bass) and David Heywood (drums) and engineer Gussie P. I am however unable to find any release details on this partnering so any info anyone has would be much appreciated. The last confirmed sighting I have of Kong was back in 2005 with the release of "Rumble, Jumble Life" on Massive B records and produced by Bobby Konders.

King Kong is a bit of a forgotten name when it comes to dancehall with luminaries Nitty Gritty and Tenor Saw seemingly taking all the plaudits and for me this may be down to the fact that his singing style is so much like Tenor Saw that his songs probably have struggled to stand up on their own merits. This is a shame because Trouble Again is a really good album; ok a couple of synth heavy tracks like “Mix Up” may not have stood the test of time well, but songs like ‘Follow Me’ on the ‘Rub-A-Dub Man’ riddim and the ‘Cuss Cuss’ riddim driven “Legal We Legal” are excellent examples of ‘80s digi dancehall. If only perhaps he had had kept to the delivery style of opener “Mash It Up Already”, which is the least Tenor sounding, he may have cut more of a niche for himself.

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