You can tell this song is old because they’re agitating for the freedom of Nelson Mandela. Black Uhuru’s highly political album Now! came out in 1990, the same year Mandela was released from prison. The fight against apartheid was a hot-button issue, and Duckie Simpson was understating it when he sang “the world is displeased.” Now Mandela has become something akin to a secular Dalai Lama, but in 1990 it was far from a sure thing that he would be free or even survive to carry on his mission. In the hindsight of history it’s easy to think that of course the good guys won. But the good guys winning is never a certainty (and sometimes one of the good guys turns out to be Josef Stalin). Protest songs might seem like an inconsequential part of historical struggle, but they reflect people’s passionate feelings better than dry textbook accounts do. Sometimes the passion and desire to communicate a point gets in the way of making a good song, but Black Uhuru can protest the situation in South Africa without resorting to bombast. And sometimes rock stars with good intentions can make themselves look like self-righteous dipsticks when they start talking about serious world issues. But reggae, misleadingly relaxing as it is, has always been inherently political. It’s a musical culture of which standing up and speaking out is the backbone. Sure, there’s reggae songs about love and sinsemilla and chilling out, but reggae is a vehicle of political expression before all that.