A Message to You, Rudy: Where Does The Term "Rude Boy" Come From?

Posted in: Musicouching by MJ Sunderland on December 2nd, 2010 | 3 Comments

The singer Rihanna has recently released a single entitled Rude Boy, which also appears on her album, Rated R, but what is a rude boy and where does the term come from? Well, ‘ush up and I’ll explain.

The term ‘Rude boy’ began as a colloquial name for juvenile delinquents and criminals in 1950s Jamaica. Despite, or perhaps because of its notorious origins, the term entered popular culture and came to denote a Jamaican subculture revolving around ska music, an early form of reggae.

The first rude boys appeared in the 1950s, particularly within the poorer sections of Kingston. Highly conscious of fashion and music, they dressed in the latest styles on the streets and in dancehalls. The rude boy look consisted of sharp suits, thin ties and pork pie hats; sometimes a trilby was worn instead. The aesthetic was inspired by American gangster movies, jazz musicians and soul artists. In this period, the most popular forms of music among young Jamaican audiences were ska and rocksteady, and these helped to sustain the emerging rude boy culture.

As the name implies, rude boys had a bad reputation. In this period, it was common for disaffected Jamaican youths to obtain temporary employment as ‘dance crashers’. Sound system operators would pay them to disrupt competitors’ dances using violence and intimidation. The great ska artist Alton Ellis released a track called Dance Crasher in response to this trend. Street violence was integral to the rude boy lifestyle, and contributed to the rise of political gang violence in Jamaica. Troubled by these violent tendencies, some ska musicians produced songs that spoke directly to this faction and urged them to curb their activities. A key example was Dandy Livingstone’s 1967 track, A Message to You, Rudy, which was later covered by The Specials:

Stop your messing around

Better think of your future

Time you straighten right out

Creating problems in town

Rudy

A message to you, Rudy

A message to you

Stop your fooling around

Time you straighten right out

Better think of your future

Else you’ll wind up in jail

Rudy

A message to you, Rudy

A message to you

The United Kingdom experienced an influx of Jamaican immigrants during the 1960s and this greatly enriched British culture. In particular, the exotic rhythms of ska, reggae and rocksteady were assimilated into British popular music. Rude boy music and fashion became a strong influence on the skinhead movement, which was initially very different from the racist skinhead culture it became. This process is depicted in Shane Meadows’s film This Is England. The Jamaican influx led to a ska revival in England during the late-1970s. This movement was also known as 2 Tone, after 2 Tone Records, and also because groups like The Specials were racially-integrated. The terms rude boy and rude girl were used to describe UK fans of this music.

In the 21st century, the term rude boy is still in use, but has become a more general slang term referring to youths involved in street culture, similar to the word gangsta.  The name has recently been popularised by Rihanna’s single. 

 

3
Liked it
3 Responses to “A Message to You, Rudy: Where Does The Term "Rude Boy" Come From?”
  • Esoranna December 2nd, 2010 at 8:53 am

    its good to know about rude boy^^…nice

  • Francois Hagnere December 2nd, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Interesting review, thank you Michael.

  • Rabbi Weinberg January 31st, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    “Skinhead A Bash Them” is a song glorifying skinhead violence against Pakistanis. It’s not about youths being unfairly demonized. In the 1960’s a lot of the English skinheads listened to ska and reggae and often hung out with rudeboys, so ska bands made songs for them which related to their lifestyle. Rudies and skins beat up Pakistanis in England, Claudette cashed in on that by making a song.

Leave a Reply
comments powered by Disqus

 
 
Powered by Powered by Triond