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Act Ghetto Priest

Ghetto Priest
Ghetto Priest (Photo: On.U Sound)

With On-U Sound's revival in the early 00s, both live and on record, came a new figurehead for the label's future - Ghetto Priest:

Throughout the history of On-U Sound its hallmark has always been one of originality and distinctiveness. Since its inception there have been several philosophies that Adrian Sherwood has always held close to his heart. Whilst gathering a core of multi-talented singers and players around him in his continuous musical experimentation, he has always striven to help establish these artists in their own right and to nurture new talents that join his fold. Ghetto Priest is one such talent.

Known for some time now as a member of the On-U Sound family and collective and a former football hooligan turned Rastafarian preacher, Ghetto Priest is the latest Adrian Sherwood protégé to headline on his label.

He ran with the Arsenal crew, before making the move into grown-up crime and getting arrested. In prison he turned to Rastafarianism, began writing lyrics, and after his release became part of Sherwood's African Head Charge collective and started MC-ing on the producer's live DJ sets.

As a talented singer Asian Dub Foundation invited him to take on the vocals for the opening track of their "Enemy Of The Enemy" album in 2003. More or lesser known artists like the Underwolves, Sinéad O'Connor, Groove Armada, James Hardway (aka David Harrow) and Little Axe have also flavoured their releases with his guest vocals.

The 'Vulture Culture' LP
The "Vulture Culture" LP

In time-honoured On-U tradition, his "Vulture Culture" (ON-U LP 1003) album is a full-on listening experience taking on board reggae, ragga and dub elements with a production style that is uniquely Sherwood’s. Sly & Robbie, Jazzwad, Style Scott (Dub Syndicate), Keith LeBlanc and Skip McDonald are amongst the players providing the rock solid rhythms. Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie and Crucial Tony were also brought back on-ship to provide a turbulent bass vibration and textured guitar patterns.

Ghetto Priest takes centre stage on most of the album but there is plenty of scope for other voices to add to the mix, amongst them the gravel edged vocals of Simon Bogle and the incendiary Irish MC-ing of Ri Ra, as well as contributions from Omar Perry, Junior Delgado and Denise Sherwood, Adrian's daughter.

There is a dizzying apocalyptic air to many of the tracks, testaments to inner city neuroses. Dub funk grooves are in abundance amongst a blend of righteous incitements and damning indictments of Babylonian establishment. Some tracks even seem to invoke some Golem-like creature or inner-city shamanic spirit. The result is as spiky and infectious a call to arms as has been heard in quite some while. It's a powerful and compelling sound in which Skip McDonald really comes into his own, adding disorienting, searing and abrasive guitar edges to the sound constructions.

The 'Dungeon' 7-inch single
The "Dungeon" 7" single

Of interest to On-U Sound historians is the set's opening track (and the subject of single SB004), a version of the Wailing Souls' "Dungeon" [Rhythm 14], which was also covered over 20 years previously by the Singers And Players - On-U's own master reggae collective of the era. The new version still retains all the poignancy, compassion and deep sadness of On-U's 'original' version and samples Prince Far I's vocal to moving effect.

After his On-U Sound debut, Ghetto Priest branched away and recorded under his own name for a number of other labels, especially Reggae On Top and Conscious Sounds, putting out a follow-up album called 'Beyond Flesh' late in 2006 and working on an EP with The Process in 2010. But like so many acts before him, him loyalty to On-U has endured, insuring that his name has continued to appear from time-to-time on the label's production credits. In 2011, Ghetto Priest joined forces with Lucid Mover in a project called Screaming Soul. This resulted in the album 'Ghost Inna Shell' and in 2012 an Adrian Sherwood and Nick Coplowe (aka Mutant Hi-Fi)-remixed companion 'Ghost Inna Dub'. 2012 also promises a new On-U Sound-produced Ghetto Priest album called 'Sacred Ground': watch this space.

Here then is a welcome reminder that the UK roots-reggae scene has not been entirely washed away by the tide of dancehall slackness and bling-obsessed garage. Listening to Ghetto Priest's raw primal energies and forces, one gets the distinct feeling that this is just the beginning. Ghetto Priest: Keep watching this man.

(Compiled mainly from material formally on On-U Sound's own website and an article that appeared on in early 2004)

2 Badcard
Adrian Sherwood
African Head Charge
Andy Fairley
Annie Anxiety / Little Annie
Audio Active
Barmy Army
Bim Sherman
Charlie "Eskimo Fox"
Creation Rebel
Deadly Headley
Doug Wimbish
Dub Syndicate
Gary Clail
Ghetto Priest
    . Biography
Harry Beckett
Jeb Loy Nichols
Jesse Rae
Judy Nylon
Junior Delgado / Jux
Keith LeBlanc
Lee "Scratch" Perry
Little Axe / Skip McDonald
Little Roy
London Underground
Mark Stewart / Maffia
Missing Brazilians
New Age Steppers
Noah House Of Dread
Revolutionary Dub Warriors
Samia Farah
Singers And Players
Strange Parcels
Tackhead / Fats Comet
The Circuit
Tribal Drift
Voice Of Authority

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