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Rootstep by Zacharri and Roommate

Rootstep by Zacharri and Roommate

Rootstep by Zacharri and Roommate

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San Francisco and Jamaica unite with reggae and dubstep.


San Francisco has long been fertile ground for both reggae and dubstep. Reggae dance nights like Club Dread and Dub Mission have proffered roots vibes for decades, while producers like DJG, Djunya and Babylon System made their mark internationally early in dubstep’s evolution with essential, bass-heavy plates. So it’s easy to see why San Francisco’s Justin “Roommate” McCauley’s new album with Jamaica’s Ras Zacharri came together so seamlessly.

Zacharri and Roommate - RootstepMcCauley, one half of dubstep production team Babylon System, has been releasing reggae-influenced tracks like Dancing Shoes and Rudeboy Shuffle since 2007 in addition to recording Jamaican artists such as Bushman, Lutan Fyah and Brother Culture at studios in SF and London. He linked with Jamaican singjay Ras Zacharri in 2011 and quickly recorded a dozen tracks that comprise 'Rootstep', which also features vocals from Junior Kelly, Chezidek and lovers rock legend Susan Cadogan.

The strength of 'Rootstep' is how smoothly its reggae foundation meshes with the album’s modern bass sounds. True to its title, traditional roots elements (lhorn flourishes, guitar chops, keyboard and organ stabs) are laid over weighty deep-frequency bass riffs and an undulating, 70-beats-per-minute dubstep groove.

Zacharri’s vocal approach is gruff and resolute, similar to Capleton, Buju or Mega Banton, with a wholly conscious lyrical concern. Songs like Jah Rule and Sting Dem make it clear that only Selassie-I guides Zacharri’s decisions. One of the highlights, Gather Your Strength, is sprinkled with organ licks, fiery brass, studio effects and an enormous steam-rolling bass pattern that will put speaker boxes to the test, with Zacharri’s militant but righteous chants leading the charge. The album is not just a step but a leap forward.

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