ic Reeves‘ lightning impression ofJazzie B happened in a ﬂash. with only the aid of a pineapple. but the joke hit home at the same moment as the realisation that the figurehead ofSoul II Soul had become almost a household name in the space of a year; pulled up by his own sound business sense. some excellent music and the faith of those around him. But unlike most. he wasn‘t going to vanish again as quickly.
Jazzie B presides over Soul II Soul with a bearing approaching the regal. and it’s impossible to separate him from the ‘Funki Dred‘ image that is their logo. so dominant and ubiquitous is the 28-year-old‘s presence. Yet he believes that the set-up is so well established now. so much bigger than any single individual. that it would continue running without him. or the rest of the select group that comprises its core. And. even though their records sell out as quickly as they can be pressed. he still doesn‘t consider himselfa musician. l lis role in the 20-piece Soul II Soul group that is currently touring Japan. Australia. America and Europe is fundamentally the same as when he began as [)Jing the Soul II Soul sound system in the early 80s: spreading good times and preaching love and unity.
That‘s why it would be foolish to tie in the rise of Soul II Soul purely with the entrepreneurial mood ofthe ‘80s. however tempting it might be to pick Jazzie B as the perfect example of Thatcherism in action. For what we see in the truckloads of records and garments bearing the Funki Dred is enterprise not purely for its own sake. but one with a very definite cultural purpose as well.
Earlier this year. Jazzie observed ofthe mammoth Soul II Soul hit ‘Keep on Movin”. ‘For the first time in my life I was able to see a Number One from this country that was a product ofmy environment.‘ ()fcourse. in the last twelve months. the charts have been shuffled like a deck ofcards; the old rules no longer apply. But ofall the records that have emerged ready to reap the rewards of a whole decade spent establishing
dance music. club culture and a DJ network as a viable commercial force. ‘Keep on Movin“ is one of the most significant.
Jazzie B. or Beresford Romeo. grew up in Finsbury Park of Antiguan parents. Growing up black in Britain. the only role model he had was West Ham's Clyde Best. who was so much more real and closer to home than the usual heroes. like James Brown or Bob Marley. Jazzie started DJing while still at school and. at 18. putting a British stamp on to his sound system by using tracks with the vocal of his cousin Marcie (now one of Soul II Soul‘s distinguished line-up of singers).
Now 28. he started putting on warehouse parties in the early part ofthe last decade. in partnership with Philip ‘Daddae’ Harvey (now as central a figure in the Soul II Soul operation as B himself) under the Soul II Soul title. and hiring out the sound system and its PA. On one of these nights. in Bristol. he found that the client had no intention of availing himself of the DJs‘ skills and wanted to do it himself. Fisticuffs nearly ensued before Jazzie and Nellee llooper. a West Country rapper himself. sat down to talk it through. Hooper too was adopted into the growing core of the operation and has stayed there ever since. assuming more and more responsibility as Soul ll Soul has evolved into an octopus-like business working from a North London HQ.
The next step after the countless illegal warehouse parties was the sound systems Sunday night stint at the Africa Centre in (‘ovent (iarden — a residency which has reached such mythical proportions already that its threatens to swamp the early days of The Roxy or Blitz.
All this time. Jazzie had been selling merchandise from a market stall. In a move which is perfectly in keeping with his confident. sweeping style. he shut it down and opened a shop in Camden selling clothing. records and jewellery. Not only was it a success. but last year another shop opened up in Tottenham (‘ourt Road. this year one in Japan. and there are branches scheduled to open in New York and Los
The dazzling Soul II Soul show visits Glasgow on Tuesday 25 September. Alastair Mabbott takes a brief look at the life of the group‘s leader. JAZZIE B. and decides that they’re one ofthe most significant British groups for many years.
BTh-c list 1-1 — i7 Scptc—‘mb—er 1‘7)”