“Now That We Found Love” by Third World
A 1978 remake of an O’Jays track that became an instant Jamaican classic. Third World’s smooth melding of reggae rhythms with disco beats catapulted them to international stardom, demonstrating on the global stage the Jamaican penchant for absorbing opposing forces — both internal and external — and recasting them into something entirely our own. Third World is folksy and old-timey and foundational, much like the folklorist Miss Lou and her retellings of the millenia-old Anancy stories that form the thematic backbone of Broughtupsy
“Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy
Because truly, no Jamaican playlist is complete without this golden oldie. Since its debut in 1982, this song has been sampled over a hundred times by everyone from Seth Rogen to Jay Z, lionizing Jamaica’s ability to influence — and not just be
influenced — on a global scale. To me, the easy swing of the melody with the languid thrum of the bass guitar sounds like a hazy afternoon at Doctor’s Cave Beach, bodies pressed close in a drunken slow dance. This tune is open, easy, no hard edges or vocal complications. I imagine Broughtupsy
’s protagonist Akúa hearing it on Jamaican radio as a child, running in her backyard or jumping on her bed — the leaden difficulties of migration a few years away still.
“Blessed (feat. Damian Marley)” by Wizkid, Damian Marley
This is as close as I’m going to get to including a Bob Marley song on this playlist — not because I dislike Bob Marley, but I’ve just heard all his hits too many damn times. I’m not particularly a fan of any of his children, but I do love this song in particular. The pulsating bass with saxophone screeching in blends beautifully with Wizkid’s Afro rapping amid Marley’s reggae singing. It’s moody and atmospheric in its cultural cross-pollination — the same vibe I (hopefully) attained through the immersive quality of Broughtupsy
“Forever” by Labrinth
This one’s just straight ~*vibes*~
. No lyrics here, just rhythmic humming and what can best be described as a melodious oh-oh-ooh
. Throughout the song, the humming and oh-oohs
continually loop as they build on the bass, the synth piano, and cymbals clashing through in cacophonous ecstasy. This song was a crucial bridge that took me out of the vexations of my life and into the consciousnesses on the page. On a particularly good writing day, I’d listen to this track on repeat, sometimes for hours, in something I can only describe as a deep imaginative trance. If I had to choose any one track as the theme song for all of Broughtupsy
, it would be this one. As the kids say, “the vibes here are immaculate.”
“Better” by Banks
This song is yearning, it’s melancholic, it’s reverberating with round bass and operatic chords — the perfect soundtrack for twenty-year-old queer love. In this track, Banks’s full-throated bellowing accentuated by a tinge of vocal strain encapsulates the fraught romantic tension between Broughtupsy
’s (Black, Jamaican) protagonist Akúa and her (white, Texan) college love. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the central refrain repeated throughout this song is, “I can love you better than she can.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide, after reading, who’s the “she” in this situation.
“So Mi Like It” by Spice
This song takes us to the other end of the romantic spectrum: it’s raucous and dirty and brimming with female sexual desire. Enter Jayda, the young Jamaican stripper who — to borrow from the modern parlance — turns Akúa out with her erotic dominance and imperious femme allure. Their entanglement proves electrifying, a tinderbox of carnal and cultural sparks that leaves them both happily spent. Listen to this track while reading the second club scene, trust me.
“Dumpling (Remix)” by Stylo G, Sean Paul, Spice
This track is the closest we’ve gotten to closing the longstanding divide between Jamaican and queer culture: historically speaking, putting Jamaican
next to queer
is often met with vehement (and sometimes violent) refusal. With lines like, “Bad gyal, step out an’ stuntin’” invoking unapologetic femme dominance and, “We out an’ bad!” intimating being proudly out and bad
as in badass
, it’s no wonder that this song has become a bit of an underground anthem for Jamaican queers the world over. In terms of Broughtupsy
, this song takes us inside the rapturous though fragile equilibrium Akúa fosters while home in Jamaica. She wraps herself in the lovely contentment of being queer in Kingston, but only if she knows how to keep it hush-hush and in check.
“NTWFL” by Sam Dew
Here we are, back where we started but re-made anew. Dew’s thumping R&B remake of Third World’s “Now That We Found Love” teems with soulful melancholy and deep sexual yearning. “I’d slow that down, I’d take my time like good,” Dew croons over a hypnotic bassline that steadily pulls us in like an emotive magnet. Dew’s chorus still carries a heavy reggae inflection, though the verses depart into his own psychic space — much like Broughtupsy
’s Akúa who, over the course of the novel, reckons with herself as Jamaican, and an immigrant, and queer, and the new psychic spaces those wily combinations provide. As the novel closes, the question then becomes: what will she do with it? What will Akúa do with all those ways to love?
Bonus song: “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” by Panic! At The Disco
This song has nothing to do with the themes or tone or characters of Broughtupsy
and everything to do with me, its author. I spent thirteen years working on this novel. It took me two Master’s degrees, two agents, and seventy-two rejections for this project to become the finished thing you now hold in your hands. Reader, I am so damn tired — but I’m also elated. It’s been a long and arduous road but I’m here, it’s done, Broughtupsy
has found its way to you so pardon me while I rejoice. Hey look, ma, I made it!
÷ ÷ ÷
Christina Cooke’s writing has previously appeared in The Caribbean Writer, Prairie Schooner, PRISM international, Epiphany
, and elsewhere. A MacDowell Fellow and Journey Prize winner, she holds a MA from the University of New Brunswick and a MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut novel Broughtupsy
has been highlighted as a "Most Anticipated" title by ELLE, Ms. Magazine, Cosmopolitan UK, NYLON, Electric Literature, Chicago Review of Books, Literary Hub
, and others. Born in Jamaica, Christina is now a Canadian citizen who lives and writes in New York City.