Late reggae singer John Holt’s Police in Helicopter has been re-imagined for today’s generation.
The move was undertaken by roots-reggae singer Jah9 and producer Yaadcore and Subatomic Sound System. The remake sees Jah9 singing the iconic chorus of the 1982 track, and Yaadman adding new verses to reflect the ongoing systemic fight faced by Rastafarians and small farmers, as it relates to using, producing and commercialising marijuana beyond law restrictions.
In a promotional post, Jah9 described the song as one of her all-time favourites, adding, “I could do a whole lecture on what this song means to me… Still a long way to go before we truly unleash all the holistic and economic potential of this magical plant. But we celebrate the small victories.”
Holt’s song emerged in an era where marijuana was deemed problematic and contributory to the drug epidemic sweeping North America. In 1974, pressure from United States President Richard Nixon engendered Operation Buccaneer in Jamaica where local police teamed up with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and US military to rid marijuana islandwide. This mission continued into the 80s with Ronald Reagan’s presidency, which saw the religious burning of marijuana farms five days per week. Holt’s song was both timely and cautionary as he told police that “if you continue to burn down the herb, we gonna burn down the cane fields.” The Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes record was a hit in Jamaica and England, and saw the introduction of social consciousness in Holt’s music.
Jamaica began decriminalising marijuana in 2015, allowing the free use of up to two ounces of the plant for personal, therapeutic, religious and medical reasons. The move came a year after Holt died in England from cancer at age 69.