• Shinehead
  • Rough and Rugged (African Love Music) 1986 
  • Unity (African Love/Elektra) 1988 
  • The Real Rock (African Love/Elektra) 1990 

Born in Jamaica, Shinehead (Edmund Carl Aiken) grew up in the Bronx, combining his two cultural heritages to become one of the first roots-rock-rappers. As a member of the early-’80s African Love Soundsystem, he surprised New Yorkers with his wacky, superb lyrical content and performance. Now signed to a major label, he has thus far endured the transition from turntable jamming to full-fledged concert tours without any compromise in his quirky vision of reality.

Shinehead’s first album, released on producer Claude Evans’ label, showcases a talented young rapper versatile enough to mix his musical metaphors into reggae rap (“Rough & Rugged”), American soul (“Good Love Tonight”) and hybrid NYC-JA MC-style (the reggae-biographical “Hello Y’All”). From socially conscious lyrics (“Who the Cap Fits”) to outright comedy, Rough and Rugged is a brilliant LP with something for everyone.

New York’s raggamuffin roughneck continues to mix yankee hip-hop and yardee MC on Unity (which includes remixes of tracks like “Know How Fe Chat,” “Hello Y’All” and “Who the Cap Fits” from the first album). With Run — DMC’s Jam Master Jay producing three cuts (the “Come Together” Beatles rewrite of “Unity,” the Sam Cooke-styled “Chain Gang” and “Truth”), and members of Roots Radics laying down musical rhythms, Shinehead rocks the house from Jamaica, Queens to Kingston, Jamaica.

The music on The Real Rock is more sophisticated in terms of technology and styling, but the songs are hit-and-miss. In the winning column, Shinehead does an impressive reworked version of Sly Stone’s “Family Affair,” flashes his rapid-fire lyrical style (as well as his sense of humor) on “Cigarette Breath,” clings to his Jamaican birthright with “Musical Madness,” delivers an inspiring sermon in “Strive” and lands a dose of reality on the title track.

[Amy Wachtel]