Black Music Month: Richie Spice

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 25th, Rockers is highlighting Richie Spice.

For tonight’s Black Music Month artist, I decided to choose contemporary reggae great Richie Spice. Born in 1971, Spice is a prominent member of a newer generation of reggae stars, including his brothers Pliers and Spanner Banner. While many of his contemporaries have adopted a strong dancehall style, Spice — while having some dancehall influence in some of his music as well — falls back upon a more roots oriented flow in the majority of his songs. While the style is familiar, the sound is fresh and energetic, earning him fans from different ends of the reggae fan base.

After starting to release singles in the 90s, starting with his debut “Killing a Sound”, Spice gigged and toured extensively, making appearances across Jamaica at festivals like Reggae Sunsplash. He then toured over in the states with acts such as Chaka Demus and Rita Marley. In 2000, Spice released his first full-length record titled Universal. His debut was a dancehall-heavy record with the exception of single “Earth Run a Red”, which would become one of his best-known tracks. Also on the record, the single “Grooving My Girl” made him quite popular in his Jamaican home. Since then he has consistently released new material, including his best known album Spice In Your Life. Released in 2006, this record cemented Spice’s ability to craft impressive songs, and also his socially conscience and productive style of art.

While many other reggae artists — dancehall artists in particular — tend to talk about violence, drugs, and other vices and destructive behaviors (called the Slackness) in their lyrics, Spice decided to take a different lyrical direction. Richie Spice often writes songs with a social purpose and conscience to them that can be scare from a lot of modern reggae and hip hop artists. Topics range from combating racism, the police, helping the community, and religion. Spice’s intense devotion to Rastafari shapes his songs dramatically as well. His new record entitled The Book of Job has overt religious messages and imagery on it, and while not everyone may be in line with all of his beliefs, much of what he preaches through his songs are strongly positive messages. Spice sees many of the world’s problems first hand and instead of removing himself through his success and music, he chooses to meet the problems through his music and spread his message. In some ways, the fact that he has managed to find such an audience for his music says something hopeful about the music industry. With so many artists prodded to sing exclusively about money and violence from their record companies, it’s encouraging to find those who manage to escape that type of path for their music and still gain a following. While Spice’s career has flowered over the past decade, he shows no signs of stopping. Spice continues to tour and record, racking up numerous nominations and awards as he goes along. For making such quality music with a positive message in the modern reggae scene, WERS would like to honor Richie Spice for this year’s Black Music Month.

By Steve Cameron

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