With the Jamaica Boys, bassist and producer Marcus Miller (who worked with Miles Davis and wrote a wildly successful dance hit, ”Da Butt”) could be trying to create his own black supergroup, much as producer Teddy Riley created his successful supergroup, Guy.
The comparison isn’t quite accurate, though. The Jamaica Boys weren’t lucky with their first album; now they’re launching their second try for success. Their sound (developed not in the Caribbean but in a Queens, N.Y., neighborhood called Jamaica) is far closer to the street than Guy’s, and at the same time more innocent. It’s rare to hear a group that scrambles such rough-edged funk and at the same time seems so sexually innocent. There’s barely an innuendo in their lyrics. They sound all but guileless, both when they sail peacefully through ”You’ve Got A Friend” (a 1971 hit for both James Taylor and Roberta Flack) and in a rap-like song called ”That’s Deep,” in which they warn their community to stay away from drugs and crime.
But still their current single, ”Shake It Up” — from the movie House Party, for which Miller and his Jamaica Boy collaborator Lenny White wrote the soundtrack — pops and bounces with certifiably commercial rhythm. It’s rising on the black charts. Maybe this time the Jamaica Boys will find the success they deserve — and call their next album Virtue Rewarded. B+