Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records-Review

Review by Lauren Atkins, Founder, NYC Web Fest

It is almost unfathomable how influential the “little” island of Jamaica has been on the music industry.  

Even in the midst of quarantine it’s presence is felt.  Memorial Day Weekend saw Dancehall Reggae singers Beenie Man and Bounty Killer “battle” each other on Instagram Live in front of an audience of 500,000 people. Afterwards, the two artists earned the best streaming days of 2020 according to Billboard.

A selection from the BFI London Film Festival, Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records, takes us on a musical journey.  During the late ’60s and early ’70s, a multicultural revolution took place on the dancefloor in Britain, and it couldn’t have happened without Trojan Records. The iconic London-based label had its finger on the pulse of the country’s new wave of Jamaican immigrants, and as quickly as they signed top acts like the Upsetters and Jimmy Cliff, they made their mark on the British youth culture by kicking off a new craze for reggae, dub, rocksteady, and ska.

Combining archival footage with new interviews with legendary artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Neville Staple, Marcia Griffiths, Dandy Livingstone, Lloyd Coxsone, and Pauline Black, Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records unveils as-yet untold stories behind this fateful period in music history. As director Nicolas Jack Davies charts the rise of the label, he collectively celebrates how this period of immigration and innovation transformed British popular culture and diversified their music.

Over a dozen people were interviewed in this film, and the story of Trojan Records is unveiled through these conversations. With reenactments, and archived footage, this could have been a scattered mess. Instead, we’re treated to a documentary that’s clearly told, well edited, and beautifully shot.

Davies has been nominated for several MTV VMAs and a Grammy for his film work with musicians, and in Rudeboy we see why. Everyone interviewed in the film speaks with ease and comfort, even while confronting painful memories of struggle and racism after immigrating from Jamaica to England.  

We learn how these collective experiences of violence, discrimination and determination help to shape the music and the culture. Editor Chris Duveen does a fantastic job of telling the story seamlessly, a history lesson in under 90 minutes. What the viewer gets is a nuanced look at a moment in time told from several points of view.      

What’s great about Rudeboy is that we see the direct correlation between Trojan Records history and its impact today. It’s hard to imagine the pop music landscape without this influence on The Police, The Specials, Soul II Soul, Blondie, No Doubt, and many more.  Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records will be playing on the We Are One YouTube page for the duration of the Festival. This film is highly recommended for music fans who love a good documentary.  

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