Five great Benjamin Zephaniah collaborations you’ve probably never heard before | Juno Daily

Mala, Bomb The Bass and more worked with the departed bard of Birmingham

When the death of Benjamin Zephaniah was announced yesterday, we lost the country’s premier poet and one of the sharpest political activist and communicators around.

Like other leading poets to emerge during the era of punk rock – see also John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwezi Johnson – Zephaniah had his rhymes set to music and released albums on reggae label Ariwa and key indie outlet One Little Indian. But what’s less well known is that his involvement with the music scene went much further and deeper than that of his contemporaries, hooking up with key underground names and some of the biggest stars around alike.

Here, from the Juno vaults, we bring you five great Benjamin Zephaniah collaborations you may well have missed…

I Have A Dream with LD Dub Corps aka Luke Slater

Zephaniah and Slater teamed up on several tracks – the broken beat workout ‘Take A Ride’ is well worth a listen too – but it’s this uniquely British spin on Martin Luther King’s most famous speech that stands out most memorably.

Word & Sound with Natty & Mala

“We must not cease the struggle, until the struggle is won” says Zephaniah on this hand stamped 12″ from 2019, with king of dubstep Mala adding some unusually restrained and reflective beats with a strong Rastafarian flavour.

Slow Motion with Rodney P

This follow up to Zephaniah’s Naked album for One Little Indian features a whole extra CD of tracks made in collaboration with the UK rap legend.

Message To All with Earl 16

Zephaniah peppers the verses with thoughtful street philosophy, Earl 16 provides the sweetness of the chorus, all over a bed of headnodding reggae, gunshots and what might just be a zither.

Empire with Bomb The Bass and Sinead O’Connor

It’s not hard to see the common ground tirelesss anti racist campaigner Zephaniah – who famously turned down an MBE – and O’Connor, a frequent critic of the British Empire’s past behaviour in Ireland, would have shared, so the subject matter when they got together on the second Bomb The Bass album Clear in 1995 was a shoe in. Skip to track C3 on this early Best Of comp to hear the results.