On Jamaican MC Terry Lynn ’s beloved yet beleaguered island, dancehall is king. But this Kingston queen shines a light on her ghetto community of Waterhouse through an electro filter. On Lynn’s astonishing debut album, Kingstonlogic 2.0, synth stabs build urgency, techno beats ricochet and achingly raw lyrics suck you in. It’s the result of a long collaboration and “a whole heap of phone cards” with Zurich-based Canadian producer Phred. “He would push me,” she tells us via email, “introducing me to new sounds and helping me carve my ideas into it.”
Set against a backdrop of the Jamaican charts – awash with the formulaic sounds of Elephant Man and Vybz Cartel – it’s even more thrilling. “I feel like it kinda stuck,” she’s says of the local dancehall scene. “With 10, 15 artists on a riddim it don’t really give new talent too much room to express themselves with something fresh.”
Breaking through isn’t just a popularity contest. Jamaican artists also have to battle the payola system, the illegal but widely practised play-for-play manipulation of the airwaves. Something that Lynn neatly sidestepped by giving away copies of Kingstonlogic 2.0 for free, forcing the stations to take notice: “It was funny to watch radio jump in to support it, and somehow call me Jamaica’s new Cinderella or something.”
Another inevitable but lazy gender-based comparison would be MIA. However, Terry Lynn’s electric dreams are closer to Sheffield’s Toddla T or Switzerland’s Wildlife , who’s fingerprints are all over album stand-out tracks IMF, Streetlife, System and Screaming In The Night. Then there’s title track and single Kingstonlogic, which borrows the driving techno beats and conveyor belt delivery of Daft Punk’s Technologic. What first seems like an incongruous pairing makes sense when you begin to see island life through Lynn’s eyes. “Kingston streets is arithmetic,” she sings, a finger pointed at the poverty and politics that add up to a cyclic system of crime, corruption and fractured community.
But can you dance to it? God yes. Lynn’s rhymes about the daily grind of survival are made to wind to. And with the thumbs up from Diplo , Kingstonlogic 2.0 looks set to blow up dancefloors – and open doors – the world over. But how will Jamaica itself respond? Only time will tell. Here’s hoping that Lynn is the woman to shake up the system.
Kingston Logic is out on 6th April