UNDERNEATH THE COVERS: U ROY "DREAD IN A BABYLON"
In the middle of the NFL’s college draft earlier this year, a video of star college football player Laremy Tunsil emerged on Twitter showing him smoking weed from a gas mask equipped with a bong. Tunsil was coveted by many NFL teams as an early pick, and the surprise video squelched some of the NFL’s lust for him, also triggering a huge media buzz (no pun intended) for about a week.
As this iconic album cover photo shows, Tunsil’s stunt seems like kid stuff when compared to Jamaica’s U Roy, the man who invented the modern DJ rap style back in the 70’s. U Roy didn’t need help from a gas mask (or other accessories) to unwind in a mushroom cloud of smoke.
When this 1975 album was released, U Roy was hardly a household name – but thanks to the many record store gawkers who got lost in the guilty pleasures portrayed on this album’s cover, U Roy’s music career rocketed forward.
Little is known about “Dread in a Babylon” cover photographer Eric Tello, whose cannabis shots are somehow glamorizing, smile inducing and off-putting all at the same time. And if Tello’s front cover photo left folks wide-eyed, things got even more “dread’ on the back cover.
But despite all the smoke that envelops him in the album photos, U Roy speaks with the voice of authority on this classic, ground-breaking reggae album, his rhymes free from fog or uncertainty. By the early 1980’s, U-Roy was one of Jamaica's biggest stars, also attracting significant acclaim in the U.K.
In 2007, U Roy was awarded a high civilian honor, the Order of Distinction in Jamaica...which perhaps opens the door for President Obama to consider a Medal of Freedom award for Snoop Dogg?
The Practice of Rapping Over Remixed Tracks Was Pioneered by U Roy