Jams from Jamaica
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Jams from Jamaica

The roots and riddims of Pickout can be traced back to Kingston, Jamaica in 1987. Lloyd ‘Pickout’ Dennis founded the label out of a bare necessity: to be able to release his own reggae music. From there it evolved into a three-decades-long (and counting) run in covering all kinds of reggae—chiefly dancehall, lover’s rock, roots reggae, and dub.

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Back in 1973, Pickout founder Lloyd Dennis started his first label called Legal Light. “Later down the line, in 1986, I was in England and someone told me I had a number one song in Jamaica with 'True Love' together with Conrad Crystal ,” recalls Lloyd. “So, I went back to Jamaica to make some more riddims. I went into the studio with my friend Tinga Stewart and Ninjaman and recorded ‘Cover Me.’”

That song sparked the start of Pickout Records. A logical step, says Lloyd: “It’s just what you do in Jamaica. If you want to release music as a producer, you start your own label. Otherwise you don’t get the credit. If you release music on other people’s labels they get the credit. If I released my song ‘Cover Me’ on someone else’s label no one would know it was me. So I had to build Pickout to build my reputation. We already had Legal Light, but Pickout is my nickname everyone knew me by. So I decided to start a new label with that name to get it out there.”

“[Sampling] is a good thing. It helps to spread the music and introduce a new generation and audience to the music, while giving new life to the original creation.”

Lloyd Dennis
Mikey Don (left), Lloyd 'Pickout' Dennis (centre) & Chris Peckings (right) at Peckings Record Shop, London (UK)
Mikey Don (left), Lloyd 'Pickout' Dennis (centre) & Chris Peckings (right) at Peckings Record Shop, London (UK)

Over the course of thirty years, Pickout has released music by prolific reggae artists such as Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Wayne Wonder, Ninjaman, ChakaDemus and Pliers. Through Tracklib, Lloyd sees new ways to get the music out: “[Sampling] is a good thing. It helps to spread the music and introduce a new generation and audience to the music, while giving new life to the original creation.”

And to turn the tables, he’s got some sampling ideas up his sleeve: “I would sample ‘We Dem A Do’ by Bunny General. It’s a lively tune which would be nice to sample in a club track. Bunny General is one of those artists who—whenever the party is slow—comes up and wakes people up! I don’t know what it is exactly, but there is something about his voice that just gets people dancing…”

Another track full of reggae history is ‘Her Love Is Burning’ by Pliers, another favorite from Lloyd: “A friend of mine called Phantom introduced me to Pliers. Phantom was like the street A&R; he used to work at King Tubby’s. He always knew the young artists with talent—and as Pickout we’ve always stayed true to the grassroots while keeping up with the sounds of the street. Anyway, I asked him to go in the booth and sing a tune on a riddim. I didn’t ask him if he had any lyrics ready. The first few lyrics were “her love is burning…” I knew it was a hit straight away. And it was indeed: it reached #2 in the Jamaican charts...”


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