Black To The Roots

by R.A. Ptahsen-Shabazz 


Black/Caribbean/African American Studies/

Music/Theology/Black Heritage

Since the 1970s, the reggae lyricist/poet has been

arguably the most significant collective voice of

awakening in the Pan-African world. But in 1981,

immediately following the tragic passing of reggae

king Bob Marley, an obvious change took place

in the reggae music genre. Reggae’s classical

roots form, characterized by its cultural-political

incisiveness, would only gain limited access in the

emerging commercial market thus contributing to

reggae devolving into a greatly compromised music

with only glimpses of its original roots style gaining


A music genre once defined by its commitment

to articulating the realities of the world from the

perspective of the awakening African masses,

degenerated into a music promoting internecine

factionalism and violence, materialism, sexism,

and vanity. This book critically examines the

1980s-90s decline in the politically and socially

relevant themes and artists that once defined the

reggae music genre in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The text focuses on the subtle processes by which

the content, production and distribution of reggae

became transformed and co-opted. The analysis

concludes by examining the resurgence of the

traditional roots themes in the music, and the

current market pressures that continue to impact

on reggae production.

R.A. Ptahsen-Shabazz is a Black Studies educator/

humanities professor who received his Ph.D. in

African American Studies.