Scritti Politti are a British band, originally formed in 1977 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, by the Welsh singer-songwriter Green Gartside. He is the only member of the band to have remained throughout the group's history.
Beginning as part of a Leftist post-punk collective fronted by art student Gartside, Scritti Politti transitioned into a mainstream pop music project in the early to mid-1980s, enjoying significant success in the record charts in the UK and the US.
They were alongside other groups of what has been termed the DIY ethic or movement (notably the Desperate Bicycles and Steve Treatment, the latter being associated with the Swell Maps), Scritti Politti released a DIY record titled "Skank Bloc Bologna" on their own St. Pancras label in 1978.
The band exhibited an explicit do-it-yourself attitude, which manifested itself in their hand-made record sleeves with detailed breakdowns of production costs, including addresses and phone numbers of record pressing plants, and their own Camden squat address for feedback. They even produced a booklet called "How To Make A Record", and aimed to be a comprehensive guide to recording and releasing a record.
To the raw energy of punk, Scritti Politti added a creative spontaneity and a mock-philosophical intelligence in their lyrics, with allusions to intellectual figures such as Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Lacan.
The name Scritti Politti was chosen as a homage to the Italian Marxist writer and political theorist Antonio Gramsci. The correct spelling in Italian to refer to "Political Writings" would have produced "Scritti Politici".
Antonio Gramsci and Jacques Derrida both spoke in depth about Traces. Derrida understands the trace as the most minimal form of ‘life’, which for Derrida is the constitution and repetition (preservation) of meaning/identity (this is a phenomenological conception).
And Gramsci wrote from his prison cell, "To criticize one's own conception of the world means to make it a coherent unity and to raise it to the level reached by the most advanced thought in the world, the starting-point of critical elaboration is the product of the historical process to date which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory." In other words, critical thinking about our own thinking process can move us toward our own coherent philosophy when we begin to trace the origins of our most deeply held beliefs.
Gartside had always been influenced by the Beatles and one time in the back pages of NME, they had pictures of the Beatles going to an art gallery or standing with the Maharishi. Seeing this inspired Gartside to drive to the only bookshop in town where he found a book on Buddhism. The book happened to be next to Language, Truth and Logic by A.J. Ayer which ended up being the first philosophy book he read. From there on his world was opened and by the time he was 14 he had joined the Young Communist and was well on his way to a life of auto didacticism and ruin, thanks to the Beatles.
In the early ‘90s, Scritti Politti recorded three covers with the British Electric Foundation, a group that featured Martyn Ware and Craig Marsh of the Human League and Heaven 17. One being “She’s a Woman,” which transforms the original Beatles song into a kind of living helix, all twisting, interlocking vectors, over which dancehall artist Shabba Ranks raps in hysterical clusters.
Shabba Ranks is a Jamaican dancehall musician. Ranks was born in Sturgetown, St. Ann, Jamaica. He gained his fame mainly by toasting (or rapping) rather than singing, like some of his dancehall contemporaries in Jamaica. He was a protégé of deejay Josey Wales. His international career started in the late 1980s, along with a number of fellow Jamaicans.
He’s said that the name Shabba was taken from an African king, possibly a corruption of Shaka Zulu, and given to him by his schoolmates for his looks. A title of black royalty transformed into a playground taunt and then, with the addition of Ranks, transformed back into a title of black royalty.
If there’s anything to be said about the calculated crossover nature of Shabba’s numerous chart hits, it’s this: they fooled the rap-detectors of new jack radio just long enough to smuggle onto mainstream airplay the Nietzschean essence of dancehall, which at bottom is a ritual assertion of the will to power—displayed through muscle grip, stamina, sexual prowess, verbal dexterity, lung capacity and charisma—asserted by precisely those people who have been assigned the roles of the powerless.
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