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By Emily Clingman
Many people who take the stage to entertain others are driven by dreams of fame and money. It’s less common to hear of musical artists who perform out of necessity. But it’s that very sense of accountability that compels Jamal Skinner to bring essential ideas to his audience.
Also known as Ras Ifficial, the front man for reggae band, Dubskin, Skinner takes a no holds barred approach to calling for social reformation.
“A lot of bands are writing songs for the pleasure of having fun, but I feel like there’s a responsibility we have as musicians to talk about things that are going on around the world and even in our own back yard,” Skinner said. “We can’t sit back any longer and hope for things to become better.”
Not that Dubskin is all gloom and doom but Skinner is concerned about a sense of apathy that people have.
“Sometimes they fear being targeted as someone who is anti-establishment or against the government so they stay quiet about issues that bother them.”
Skinner takes the lead in an area where he believes other people have not said enough. He stressed that knowledge is key in overcoming fear or anxiety about problems in our world. Becoming educated about the issues and the politics behind them can strengthen individuals and communities to be more proactive instead of disgruntled or hopeless.
“I have always approached music with a revolutionary attitude,” he said.
The youngest of nine kids raised in a three-bedroom home, Skinner was no stranger to social marginalization or community activism.
“I grew up poor,” he said, recalling incidences of racism and disparity. That only fueled his desire to make a difference. At age 13, he lead a division of the NAACP on Long Island. He also studied Swahili, became involved in a U.S. movement to end Apartheid in Africa and started a tutorial program for underprivileged youth in his neighborhood to prepare for the SAT test.
He then went on to be an investment banker on Wall Street and realized that a corrupt quest for money surrounded him and he wanted no part of it. He turned to music to make a positive difference in the world. Here in Fort Collins, Skinner chooses to encourage what he already sees going on.
“Fort Collins is a very conscious city about local issues, national issues and global issues,” he said. “If Dubskin can be another voice stirring up emotions and promoting change, then we’re doing our job.”
At the very least, Skinner hopes Dubskin’s music will encourage people to bring that positive energy back into their daily lives and live reflectively.
Dubskin’s latest album, Release From Fear, addresses the mental bondage that people can get caught up in as a result of years of experiencing or even witnessing social barriers and oppression.
“The song, ‘Lifts Me Up’ talks about where any system that is trying to take you down, there is something greater that lifts you up,” Skinner said.
“And even when they want to take me down, Jah lifts me up
No matter if they try to break me down, Jah lifts me up
Don’t ever let the devil take your ground, Jah lifts you up…”
When asked if he felt he’s too intense or offensive, he said not at all.
“People come up to us after every show and tell us how much our music inspires them,” he said. “I believe what I’m saying with all my heart and soul, and sometimes a truth can be offensive, but, ultimately all of our songs are about love.”
Dubskin is definitely reaching the hearts of fans locally and across the nation. The band has played Reggae on the Rocks twice and shared stages with countless reggae legends, including Burning Spear and Groundation, moments Skinner considers most memorable.
“We’re not just some party reggae band,” Skinner said. “The true strength of Dubskin lies in the actual music (which he describes as solid and rootsy, infused with their own contemporary panache). We are all leaders and we all follow each other. We have so much confidence in each other and passion for what we do.”
“If it was just about the money, I don’t think it would be as fun as it has been,” Skinner continued. “It is important that my intent in life is to be a greater good for everyone. A fight for one love for all people can’t be wrong.”
Release from Fear (along with the band’s first two albums and a new remix compilation) can be downloaded for free from www.dubskinmusic.com.
Dubskin will be performing at the Mishawaka amphitheater on June 16th with The Motet.