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Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records

Breaker celebrates the power of reggae by releasing the film Rudeboy: The Story Of Trojan Records directed by Nicolas Jack Davies about the legacy of Trojan Records, along with the label’s iconic catalogue on its eponymous entertainment distribution platform. Ahead of the film’s October 15 release date, music legend Don Letts, featured in RUDEBOY, will present the film at exclusive screenings at the Brooklyn Museum (Sept 26) and Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (Sept 28).

Combining archive footage, interview and drama RUDEBOY chronicles the story of Trojan Records as part of the cultural revolution that unfolded on the dancefloors of late ‘60s and early ‘70s Britain. Featuring legendary artists Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Neville Staple, Marcia Griffiths, Dandy Livingstone, Lloyd Coxsone, and Pauline Black the film shows how that period of immigration and innovation transformed popular culture. Director Nicolas Jack Davies (UK) is a passionate storyteller who won a Grammy Award in 2014 for Best Music Film with The Road to Red Rocks. He adapted his Channel Four documentary Payday to an award-winning series for Viceland.

“As a blockchain-powered distribution application empowering artists and evolving the entertainment industry, we were attracted to this film and Trojan Records’ commitment to their artist community,” says Breaker Co-founder and President of Entertainment Kim Jackson. “We are very proud to have RUDEBOY and Trojan Records, now owned by BMG, on the platform.”

Part of second-generation, British-born Jamaican scene in the late ‘70s, Don Letts had grown up with reggae. His father ran a reggae sound system in London and he grew up immersed in reggae and sound system culture. The genre’s politicized 70s militancy struck a chord in economically depressed, right-wing Britain, where the people’s outrage was ready to spawn punk rock. As a DJ Don single-handedly turned a whole generation of punks onto reggae, even influencing Bob Marley (whom Don knew well) to write “Punky Reggae Party”.

His work as a filmmaker and author has been exhibited in The Kitchen N.Y.C, The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and the National Film Theatre in London. In March 2003 he won a Grammy for his documentary Westway to the World. In the mid ‘80s he formed the group Big Audio Dynamite with Mick Jones (ex-Clash). He went on to perform and co-write four albums with B.A.D, achieving several hits on both sides of the Atlantic including the top ten hit “E=Mc2”. 

Rudeboys and rudegirls grew out of the ‘60s Jamaican ska scene, taking style elements from American gangsters and cowboys to empower themselves as disruptive outlaws in a world that didn’t provide many paths forward. “In a conservative culture that feels like punk never happened, the time is right for the return of the rudeboy,” comments Letts, who is featured in the film.

Don Letts was an integral part of the subsequent cultural movement in Britain through the late ‘70s. Trojan Records was launched in 1968 by London-based, Jamaican expats Lee Gopthal and Chris Blackwell. Initially formed as a UK outlet for sound system pioneer Duke Reid’s releases, the label went on to bring the likes of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Desmond Dekker, The Pioneers, Bob Marley, Prince Buster and Jimmy Cliff to a mainstream audience.

As the Brooklyn Museum’s Director of Public Programs Lauren Zelaya comments, “New York City, and Brooklyn in particular, has long been a home to one of the world’s most thriving and diverse populations of Caribbean people. As an art institution located in the heart of Brooklyn, it’s important for us to amplify the global creativity of the diaspora. This film is about the cross-cultural exchange of art and ideas and the innovation of musical genres that has been globally influential. The music and culture that is central to the story in RUDEBOY resonates locally in Brooklyn too–the film shares the genesis and distribution of so much of the music people continue to love and listen to today.”

“Here in Detroit we feel a very strong kinship with reggae music and Trojan Records,” notes Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s special events manager Leto Rankine. “Much like Detroit soul and the sounds of Motown, the music that came out of Jamaica and the records that Trojan released have influenced all genres of modern popular music, whether you know it or not. In partnership with Third Man Records, we want to share that with our town!”

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