Notable instruments: Oberheim DMX, Drum machine, Electronic keyboard, Sequencer


10 years ago I was driving through Boston listening to one of the reggae mix shows on WERS (i think). A riddim came on which nearly made me stop the car. It was Steely & Clevie’s Street Sweeper. A strident minimal percussion pattern, little fragments of guitar washing in & out. A string flourish there, a whistle sound here, a vocal snippet. I’d been following dancehall for awhile and was used to surprises, but Street Sweeper floored me. As a DJ, producer, and listener.


[Wycliffe ‘Steely’ Johnson]

It was possibility and emphatic silence as much as it was a song. To clarify: Steely and Clevie built the Street Sweeper riddim, which a few dozen vocalists transformed into songs, riffing on the beat’s undeniable power to deliver some top-notch chatting. Here’s a youtube medley of the popular versions:

Wycliffe ‘Steely’ Johnson passed away in New York City & the world is poorer without him. Street Sweeper cracked things open for me; they had countless other hits but it was these moments of skullcrushing genius economy that made this riddim one of my all-time favorite pieces of music.

3 thoughts on “PON DA STREET SWEEPER”

  1. oh man this one was too much.. i used to play it with a bad company tune that was out on the edrush+optical virus imprint… china cup i think it was called – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fX0r4ZJdQck makes more sense at 1:45 or so.

    I read somewhere that mr vegas had a falling out w/ sean paul over their version on this – right before sean peezie hit his mainstream superstar stride – and vegas deleted his number or whatever. no!

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