Tucson reggae artist DJ Jahmar Anthony has made a lot of friends in high places in the music world.
So when he decided to take advantage of his COVID-19 downtime last year and finally record his debut album, “Zona Riddim,” he picked up the phone.
He tapped the American-Jamaican rapper Safaree from the VH1 reality show “Love & Hip Hop;” Anthony tours with the artist as his official DJ. He reached out to the Jamaican reggae artist Ginjah, who signed on as did Brooklyn-born, Jamaican-raised reggae DJ Chuck Fenda and Wailers lead singer Josh David Barrett.
Former New Kingston guitarist Stephen Suckarie, Grammy-winning reggae singer-songwriter Patexx, vocalist Kemis-3, New York singer-songwriter Denzel White, the Bay Area hip-hop duo Los Rakas and reggae singer-songwriter Bobby Hustle, who is featured on the lead-off track “Tap In,” were all in.
“I’ve built good relationships,” said the Jamaica-born, Tucson-raised Anthony. “When I reached out to them, asked people, they all said yeah.”
The guest artists recorded their parts and emailed the digital tracks to Anthony, who shipped them off to a producer, who mastered the album.
“Thank God for technology. If COVID would have happened in the ’80s, that wouldn’t have happened,” said Anthony, 35.
“Zona Riddim” draws from Anthony’s love of old-school reggae, the family-friendly music that he grew up with in his dad’s Twelve Tribes Reggae Shop at 708 E. Ninth St. There is no explicit language or content warnings; it’s the kind of music Anthony said he would feel comfortable sharing with his six children.
“It’s something I can play with my daughter in the car and not worry,” he said. “Somebody could be proud to listen to it in front of their grandparents. I feel it’s something that everybody can listen to.”
Before last March, Anthony juggled a busy performance life — he DJ’ed five nights a week at a handful of local clubs including Mr. Head’s, the Hideout and the now-closed Chicago Bar, and toured with Safaree — in addition to running the shop that his father Papa Ranger opened in 1990.
“COVID gave me the time to focus on this right here. When things slowed down for me, I was like, well, what am I going to do?” Anthony said. “I wanted to do my own music, music that I believe in. This is the reggae I like here.”
Anthony released “Zona Riddim” in January through the reggae shop’s Twelve Tribes Entertainment, an entity that includes concert promotions. He said the response has been positive, including feedback he’s gotten from fans through Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud.
“I’m very happy with the way the album turned out,” he said. “At the end of the day … it’s about me having a product and being able to say I’m proud of having a project like this.”
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Starburch