After showcasing Ellen G’s artwork at Art in the Dancehall this summer (pictured above with fellow My Lord selector Ranking Levy & Johnny Osbourne at the exhibition launch), we thought we’d ask her to tell us about her 10 favourite dancehall covers and works from dancehall history that have inspired her in her work.
Lone Ranger – Badda Dan Dem
The beauty of Jamaal Pete’s art is the fine balance of creating a scene that looks like a comic book visual, yet keeping it realistic and vivid and not two-dimensional. The cover of this album really reflects its content – Scientist at the control and Ranger riding the riddims unto space.
Nicodemus – She Love It In The Morning
Jamaal Pete choice again – the perspective is kind of an awkward fish eyed lens before it was trendy. We like the amount of detailed technical mixing gear per inch, and the way the late great Nicodemus AKA Mr. Fabulous is portrayed really reflects his character – cool and deadly.
Jimmy Cliff – Struggling Man
This brilliant cover is made by an artist that is not recognized as a reggae orientated one. His name is David Dragon, who used to work for EMI back in the day. Deep realistic lithographic type lines, sharp accurate, slightly dark, grim, everyday scene with small situations taking place, people with some blank expressions, a panoramic street view that continues to the back of the sleeve. And of course a Yorkshire terrier that eats something of the floor is always welcomed in its unpredictability.
Lee Van Cliff- Rock it to me twice
Jamaal Pete takes us to the Wild West with a Jamaican filter/ point of view. The Cowboys are dreadlocked men wearing beaver felts. This cover reflects the long dialogue that Jamaicans have with western movies, which runs so deep that some sociologists would say that their infatuation with the genre effected the mentality of certain people, who would beoame Rudeboys and Shottas.
Scientist encounters Pac-man
It’s always great to see the main artist get eaten by a huge metal Pac-man while a bunch of horror characters cheer. The tributes to the rest of Scientist’s discography hang on the wall – it’s a great self homage to the series. One of the best (of many) by the great Tony Mcdermott.
King Stereograph Vs King Ataurus – Live at the Fishworld Club
This cover can on one hand be described as maybe one of the worst covers ever. The choice of dark bubblegum pink is absurd, and his imperial majesty Emperor Haile Sellasie had known better portraits of himself. The placing of the text is off balance and the two royal pillars holding the text are not so very royal. But maybe all the reasons that make it the worst is what makes it a raw, minimalist artwork of perfection that was perhaps unintended (by the unknown artist). The result still caught our attention, and the session on this LP is one of the best ever pressed on vinyl.
UK Dancehall scene- 12″ Greensleeves By Tony Mcdermott [image courtesy of Al Fingers]
The choice of technique on this piece is stunning, the choice to draw it negative, white on black/red/green. So lively, so poetic and reflects perfectly the atmosphere of real dancehall in session. one of Ellen’s personal favorite McDermott works.
Toyan – Hot Bubblegum
Made by the godfather of Jamaican comics – Limonious. We actually chose to show the back cover that is magnificent as the front. The fonts reflect the title – in an accurate way. His one line technique creates belly cracking funny scenarios, and carry the original Rub a dub vibes. It’s minimal and just the right visual manifestation of the musical era. The front cover presents a perfect balance between the album title and a photograph of the real couple riding a Honda bike.
One tends to think that Reggae is all about shining dreadlocks smiling on a sunny beach with coconuts around them. Labels like this “Mummy Label” show a different side to the music and how producers in the island chose to market and represent them selves. It’s humoristic and dark, and so unobvious and unusual.
Early B- Ghost Buster
Speaking of dark humoristic covers again, we can’t forget the masterpiece made by Limonious. Portraying the Early B “The Doc” slewing vampires in a coffin, whilst two john-crows on a tree reacting to the situation gruesomely- saying –”Mi nah rump fi nyam meat”. This theme has deep connotations within the Jamaican society related to Voodoo or commonly known as obeah, while Early B is fighting against “duppies”- ghosts but still tackles the subject with a wink of an eye and in a jokefied manner.