Because of the inclusion of his classic song “Draw Your Brakes” on the gazillion-selling soundtrack album to the iconic Jamaican film, The Harder They Come (starring the great Jimmy Cliff) many people have heard the music of reggae DJ David Scott, professionally known as Scotty, but they probably have no idea that he had several other records which were equally good. Like many reggae artists, Scotty had many hit singles on the island of Jamaica that were pretty much not heard anywhere else around the world, except on the turntables of the reggae fanatics. This began to change when labels like Trojan and Blood and Fire began to release deluxe CDs of music that had heretofore mostly existed on scratchy 45s (which was the case of most ‘70s roots-era reggae). Even though reggae collectors have always found a way to get the records they wanted, until the genre started to really get taken seriously in the 1990s (record heads had already plowed through easy listening, then free jazz, so reggae was the next obvious genre to plunder) it wasn’t all that easy to hear a lot of this music.
I discovered Scotty on various Trojan DJ collections I had (like the amazing High Explosion: DJ Sounds from 1970-1976 set) which included scorchers like “Riddle I This,” “Penny for Your Song,” “Salvation Train” and “Do I Worry.” When I finally got my hands on a used copy of a shoddily packaged—but awesome—Trojan comp called Unbelievable Sounds, which contained pretty much every song the guy ever recorded, I was thrilled to hear nearly two dozen stone classics. Many of his songs feature a kind of style known in reggae circles as “singjay.” There was a charming, childlike quality to Scotty’s raps (and persona). His voice was young sounding and he sang about Sesame Street. His melodies were A-B-C’s simple. (Kids tend to immediately respond to Scotty and it’s obvious why). I have read that he would often perform wearing short pants and a beanie. This makes sense!
Although I have a number of favorite Scotty songs, my top favorite has to be “Clean Race”—with a loose rap that would have Snoop gagging it’s so fucking good—delivered atop the riddim for Lloyd Charmer’s classic, “Save the People.” This was recorded in 1972. It’s often been said that Jamaican DJs like Big Youth and U-Roy were the originators of rap music—which is basically true—but I’d nominate Scotty for being the artist of that time period who most closely predicted the form rap would ultimate take. Listen to this amazing vocal performance and see if you agree (and listen for producer Derrick Harriott’s turn at the mike as he explains his concept of how a hit record is made!)
David Scott left Jamaica to set up a recording studio in in Florida in 1974, effectively ending his career as a DJ. Below is a video of him performing “Draw Your Brakes,” apparently sometime in the US during the 1980s. Scott died in 2003 at the age of 53.