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Album Showcase: DENM/Landon McNamara – “Slum Beach Posse Vol. 1”

A few months ago, while listening to a Rootfire Power Hour radio show on our Stationhead channel, I sent a song request to the host/selector, our general manager, Reid Foster. I asked him to play Landon McNamara, who I really dig, and within the context of my message, I pondered what Landon had been up to since it had been just over four years since his second LP had been released. I had been stoked about him as an up-and-coming reggae artist, and while he had released a few singles over the past several years, I wanted more.

Then again, I reasoned, maybe McNamara had been concentrating on his other pursuits instead, because in addition to being a super talented musician with a distinctive, raspy voice, he’s also a professional model and big wave surfer. Not only does McNamara write great songs like this incredibly moving and poignant song about gun violence called “Loss for Words,” but he can dauntlessly and skillfully shred giant rolling walls of water, a feat that only a few elite human beings can do. Essentially, the dude has striking good looks, huge cojones and multi-faceted talent for days.

Anyway, Reid responded to me that, as a matter of fact, McNamara had just released a new album in collaboration with rising reggae/hip-hop singer/producer DENM. Well, what a coincidence. Reid then proceeded to play the song, “Wild Trip,” which instantly intrigued me. I looked up the album on Spotify and quickly became hooked to Slum Beach Posse Vol. 1.

Landon McNamara (left) & DENM (right) Photo credit: Tanner Harvey

Not long after I started listening to Slum Beach regularly, I happened to come across a surfing documentary on HBO/Max called 100 Foot Wave. This 12-episode series chronicles the exploits of record-setting big wave surfer Garrett McNamara and his cronies as they chase and ride the largest waves ever surfed. It’s absolutely dumbfounding to watch these guys risk their necks as they make history. While I’m too chickenshit and uncoordinated to surf myself, I’ve always been awed by wave riders and hold them in the highest regard as world-class, fearless athletes.

While I wasn’t certain at first, I naturally assumed Garrett McNamara must be related to Landon in some way. It turns out, of course, that he is Landon’s uncle. I found all of this McNamara content hitting me at the same time to be serendipitous. I have always attributed deeper meaning to these moments of synchronicity, interpreting them as a sign that I am right where I am supposed to be according to the grand scheme of the universe. Not to say that I believe everything is pre-ordained, but more that I am meshing or vibing with the universe in its infinite wisdom.

Anyhow, enough about my personal connection to the McNamara family endeavors. Let’s hone in on the focus of this article, which is this amazing album from Landon McNamara and the wicked musical wizardry of DENM.

DENM chilling in his sleeping quarters. Photo credit: Tanner Harvey

DENM, a 6th generation Southern Californian who grew up in San Diego and Santa Barbara and now resides in Huntington Beach, grew up surfing and skating his whole life. These pursuits led to him befriending McNamara, and he described to me how they decided to cut a record together: “Lando is a good friend of mine. Wild charger in the water. We just hit it off when we met over at RVCA and just started kickin’ it. After a while we got to talking and we thought it would be really fun to make a project together. We respect each other and our vision for what we wanna accomplish with our lives and music, so with some homies we flew out to his house and we hit record. We just vibed out in Lando’s garage for the week. Kinda rainy weather so it worked out.”

According to DENM, a week later, Slum Peach Posse Vol. 1 was finished. Surely, that simplifies all the work that must have gone into making this album, especially with the studio sorcery DENM adds after recording.

As for the sound that they sought to create, DENM explained that they “just wanted to make something that felt like the sounds of where we were creating it,” which was the north shore of Oahu. DENM said that Hawaii has always been part of his life since his mom and stepfather both lived there. “I always grew up listening to stories about life in Hawaii, so, I just wanted to build a bridge between SoCal and Hawaii via our relationships and sounds,” he explained. “Music is a beautiful tool to do that. I just wanted it to feel and sound like Hawaii and make it feel like old school meets new school. Simple yet complex. Wanted it to be big rhythmic drums and thubby bass lines.”

Slum Beach Posse check the surf during a break from recording. Photo credit: Tanner Harvey

Regarding their creative process, DENM shared, “We just sat in that garage and started some funky stuff. Some would start from scratch. Some would already be a beat I had made on the way over and we hopped on that. Take a break, walk down, check the surf. Go body surfing. It was just reading the flow of the room and everyone and the synergy in the room was magic.”

The “homies” and “everyone” that DENM mentions above refer to friends that contribute vocals to the album, including Benny Ranks and Jesse James, both of whom bring refreshing new voices to the American reggae scene.

Slum Beach Vol. 1 kicks off with “More Love,” a wicked banger about getting busted for growing ganja. The tune opens with a Syndrum or a synth-driven effect that sounds like space lasers from a cheesy 1970s sci-fi film and continues to be featured throughout the song. Moments after the opening notes, the funky tones are joined by skanking keys and an electronic hip-hop drumbeat. We then hear some audio clips, one presumably from an old film, saying “You are seen as a man of many skills, a rare combination,” followed by a maniacal laugh. Its sonic elements combined with the message of the song altogether remind me as if Sublime had put together  a modern day version of John Holt’s 1983 banger,  “Police in Helicopter.”


Wake up in the morning they be knocking at my door

Coming for my garden ‘cause they want to keep me poor


Just a troubled mind posted up in paradise

Just another brudda out here tryna get it right

Do it for the love I don’t do it for the likes


The second track, “20 After 4,” begins with a sound effect that emulates the high-pitched frequency of a mosquito buzzing around your ear before some sprinkles of keys and a skanking guitar join the mix, soon followed by an explosion of drums. The hip-hop drumbeat combined with the acid-jazzy piano accents give the tune a trip-hop feel while McNamara delivers some wicked flow:


If you ain’t put the money in Lil’ Christ hand

Then you ‘bout to be talkin’ to a different kinda man

I’m a bruiser, marijuana user, alcohol abuser

Tryna be a cruiser, really I’m a loser

Everybody got their vices so careful how you choose ‘em


“20 After 4” also features a dope verse from singer Benny Ranks:


I been wilin’ out, you can tell cuz I’m swervin’

Gimme just a second and I’ll tell you what the word is talkin’

Good love, bangin’ on a boombox

Would if I could but I can’t so I won’t stop

I prolly wouldn’t if I could tho

1994 born, since then stay grown

Keep 10 toes on the ground at all time

Feet up on the curb with my head up in the sky like…


Next up, “Lose Myself” features acoustic guitar picking and skanks wed together with resounding sub-bass, a luscious combination. McNamara and Jesse James both contribute vocals to this dark number, which happens to be DENM’s favorite track on the album as he commented that it “just goes really hard” and he thinks “the bass line and drums are hypnotic.”

As the title suggests, the song describes the experience of someone slowly spiraling downward, and DENM cleverly conjures up a shrill synth effect for the latter portion of the song that somehow perfectly accentuates this concept, creating an overall eerie vibe.

My girl caught me talkin’ to myself again

Wondering just what goes on in my head

I told her that even if I could express

It all falls on def ears, I don’t waste my breath

I might just go do something stupid

Fly around town like I’m super human

Feeling like God, 10 foot tall

Then I come down, feelin’ oh so small

The mental anguish expressed in “Lose Myself” appears to continue with the fourth song, “Wild Trip,” which features a rumbling bass line, a steady skank and a rousing chorus sang together by the posse.

Since the dawn of time, or maybe when I wrote down this rhyme

I’ve been tryna find a little bit of peace of mind

Come to me my peace and rescue me

Life ain’t what it seems, got the best of me

This track, by far the most widely streamed on the album, opens with a memorable sound that threads throughout the song, providing its peculiar essence. Assuming it was a vocal sample that DENM fucked with, I asked him about how he created it, and he confirmed my hunch as correct but didn’t offer further insight, simply saying, “Just knowing how to make it sound the way I wanted…messed with it till it felt timeless to me.”

Bredren: Denny & Lando Photo credit: Tanner Harvey

Timeless, indeed. It’s a sound that you won’t likely forget, or hear anywhere else ever again, and this album is riddled with elements like this. This inventiveness is what makes DENM so dynamic and exciting to listen to.

The chorus in “Wild Trip” refers to looking back upon a life well-lived and this sentiment continues into the next track, “Along the Way,” which wistfully acknowledges the loss of a loved one. The track begins with melancholic whistling, before lurching into a straightforward reggae song with a gentle skank, acoustic guitar and another subwoofer-pleasing bassline.


From the womb to the tomb, til the wheels fall off

It was me, it was you, up against all odds

You were here, now you’re gone, and I’m feeling lost

How we love then we lose, its kinda messed up

Getting used to this life without you

Something I never wanted to do


Brushing aside the bravado found within much of the album, its heartfelt lyrics instead display vulnerability that everyone can relate to.

Gone but not forgotten

Ashes on the coffin

We all gon’ face this problem someday

The time that we got

Tomorrow is not promised

This is the monster we face

Life’s just an adventure

One thing you must remember

Nothing says the same

Except for the love

Except for the love and pain


Wondering if “Along the Way” had been written about someone in particular or if it was more so inspired by the general emotion of loss, DENM clarified, “Ya, we have all lost somebody close to us, so it was just us tapping into that in our own ways with our own stories and blending them all together to make it work.”

Photo credit: Tanner Harvey

Similar to “Wild Trip,” the sixth song, “Medicine Man,” begins with a mysterious noise that also resurfaces at times later in the track, giving the tune its signature sound. It first appears to be

a vocal intonation but then seems to morph into what resembles an organ of some sort before the two tones are mashed together. Over a prominent drum beat and big tumbling bassline and lovely skanking keys, this bizarre timbre gives the song a somewhat creepy or haunting, trance-like feeling.

Once again trying to get DENM to reveal his secret recipe, he played it coyly.  “Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone,” he laughed, before offering a colorful explanation. “Just kidding – it’s just a vocal sample. Chopped it up, put some barbecue sauce on it, dipped in effects and served it rawww…”

Lyrically, the song reverts back to speaking of marijuana — in this case, the procurer of that sacred plant. McNamara’s singing is joined by the unmistakable voice of Kyle McDonald of Slightly Stoopid, which  is the absolute perfect fit.

Photo credit: Tanner Harvey

Finally, the album wraps up with the beautiful “Ke Nui,” which most closely resembles McNamara’s solo work. Big bouncy bass, organ bubbles, drum fills – classic reggae elements – together with acoustic guitar and McNamara’s amazing voice make this track soar.

To me, “Ke Nui” gives off different (i.e. almost cheerful) vibes than the rest of the tracks on Slum Beach — maybe because it mentions “sunshine” in the lyrics. Yet, then again, “sunshine” is followed by “broken dreams,” so that kind of kills my theory. Looking for further insight into the track, DENM offered that Ke Nui Rd is the main road along the North Shore of Oahu and that Landon’s lives right off of it.

Slum Beach Vol. 1 deserves mad props as a completely unique and engaging listening experience, reminiscent of the earlier days of Sublime, who DENM acknowledged is “always an inspiration.” My only gripe about this album which I have been obsessing over is that it’s only seven songs and a mere 23 minutes. Thankfully, as the “Vol. 1” in the title alludes to, DENM confirmed there is more to come from the Slum Beach Posse. In fact, the talented producer shared their plans to record in each person’s hometown next time, doing a week each on the North Shore, on Kauai, in Santa Barbara and in San Diego.

That is something to be stoked for, no doubt.

Photo credit: Tanner Harvey


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Ever since becoming deeply moved and then essentially obsessed with reggae music as a teenager, Dave has always strove to learn as much as possible about the history and culture of reggae music, Jamaica and Rastafari, the ideology and lifestyle intertwined with reggae. 

Over the years, he has interviewed many personalities throughout the reggae world including Ziggy Marley, Burning Spear, Lucky Dube, Bradley Nowell and many artists in the progressive roots scene.

Dave has also written and published a novel, “The Cosmic Burrito,” a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. He plays ice hockey weekly for a recreational team he founded and manages, Team Rasta.

Reggae music has filled his life with a richness for which he will forever be grateful, and he gives thanks to musicians far and wide, past and present, whether they perform roots, dub, dancehall, skinhead, rocksteady or ska, whether their tools are analog or digital, as well as the producers, promoters, soundsystems, selectors and the reggae massive at large who comprise the international reggae community.

You can follow Dave on Instagram at @rootsdude and Twitter at @ElCosmicBurrito.

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