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Critic's Choice

Linton Kwesi Johnson, with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band and the Heavyweight Dub Band, Tuesday, October 26, at the Fox Theatre, is known as a dub poet -- a seemingly contradictory term, given that dub is a fascinating form of studio-manipulated reggae that's frequently instrumental. But the label fits Johnson, who since the Seventies has mated wise, passionate verse with sounds that generally begin where ordinary reggae leaves off. Born in Jamaica, he moved to England at age eleven, and by the time he'd reached his early twenties, he was both a published poet and a proudly militant voice against the racism that continued to ripple through his adopted country. Poetry readings he conducted while backed by a drum group called Rasta Love soon developed into the proto-rap musical style that distinguishes his first album, 1978's Dread Beat an' Blood. Since then, Johnson has remained adamantly political, refusing to dumb down his themes for short-term commercial success. But relax: His music is as trippy as his politics are astute. The combination is thoroughly, well, Jah-dropping. -- Michael Roberts


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