The Meaning of Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie”

One of the all-time classic weed smoking anthems is British-Jamaican group Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie”. Released in 1982 as a single from the group’s debut album The Youth of Today, the track was a massive hit upon release, reaching number one in the UK and number ten in the U.S.A, and today it lives on in throwback playlists and hip-hop samples.

Interestingly, “Pass the Dutchie”, while generally assumed to be about marijuana, actually does not specifically mention marijuana in the lyrics.

Those familiar with the practice of smoking a blunt will recognize the word “Dutchie” as a reference to the Dutch Master brand of cigar. However the lyrics are actually a bowdlerization of lyrics from the song “Pass the Kouchie” by the Mighty Diamonds, and thus the “Dutchie” from “Pass the Dutchie” is supposedly a reference to a type of dutch oven cooking pot.

“Kouchie” is a Jamaican slang term for a marijuana pipe, and “Pass the Kouchie” is a song that is directly about weed, with the lyrics being about passing the pipe around in a circle.

Since the members of Musical Youth were children at the time of recording, the producers decided to censor the lyrics so as to not make children sing a song about drugs. The result is a song about being poor and hungry, that is also kind of about weed.

“Pass the Dutchie” is a combination “Pass the Kouchie” and U Brown’s “Gimme the Music”. Additionally, the lyrics in the introduction are an altered version of the chant from U Roy’s “Rule The Nation”.

Let’s dig into these lyrics and see what they’re all about, starting with the introduction:

This generation
Rules di nation
With version
Music happen to be the food of love
Sounds to really make you rub an’ scrub

Intro to “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth.

In the intro, the Musical Youth introduce themselves as the new generation that will take over the nation. They will use the power of music, the “food of love”, to ease the hunger of all who listen. This lyric was taken from the opening lines of U Brown’s “Gimme the Music”.

Musical Youth, 1982. Photo by Michael Putland / Getty Images.

U Brown’s original lyric was inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will, which opens with the iconic line: “If music be the food of love, play on.”

They waste no time after the intro, and dive straight into the chorus:

Pass di Dutchie ‘pon di left hand side (I say)
Pass di Dutchie ‘pon di left hand side
It are go bun, give me di music, make mi jump an’ prance
It are go dun, give mi di music, make mi rockin’ at di dance
Jah know!

Chorus to “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth.

Here, Musical Youth sing about passing the pot of food to the left, although to many listeners it sounds like he is saying to pass the blunt to the left. When smoking with friends, it is common practice to pass to the person on your left after you have taken your two drags.

Pass the Kouchie, 1981.

The lyrics “it are go bun” and “it are go dun”, were taken from “Pass the Kouchie” and are Jamaican patois for “it will burn” and “it will go down”, bringing to mind the image of a burning joint getting smaller and smaller as it goes around the circle.

Next up, we bounce into the first verse:

It was a cool an’ lonely breezy afternoon
How does it feel when you’ve got no food?
You could feel it ’cause it was the month of June
How does it feel when you’ve got no food?
So I left my gate an’ went out for a walk
How does it feel when you’ve got no food?
As I pass the dreadlocks’ camp I heard them say
How does it feel when you’ve got no food?

First verse to “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth.

This verse was taken almost verbatim from “Pass the Kouchie”, except instead of the repeated phrase “How does it feel when you’ve got no herb?”, Musical Youth say “How does it feel when you’ve got no food?”.

In this way, the verse is transformed from a cool, lonely, breezy afternoon in June when you’re out of herb, to the much more serious predicament of being out of food. As Musical Youth sing, the only thing left to do is go out walking.

Then, we pass a “dreadlocks’ camp”, or a group of Rastas before rolling back into the chorus, followed by the second verse:

So I stopped to find out what was going on
How does it feel when you’ve got no food?
‘Cause the spirit of Jah, you know he leads you on
How does it feel when you’ve got no food?
There was a ring of dreads an’ a session was there in swing
How does it feel when you’ve got no food?
You could feel the chill as I seen an’ heard them say
How does it feel when you’ve got no food?

Second verse to “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth.

The Musical Youth stop at this Rasta camp to see what’s happening, still looking for food. He follows the spirit of “Jah”, or the spirit of God, and notices the dreadlocks sitting in a ring, fully immersed in a session. This part was not altered from the original, and it’s easy to imagine what these Rastas might be doing in this circle.

Apparently, these gentlemen are also discussing the troubles of going hungry, and perhaps they have some food to share with our young singer. As the chorus says, the Rastas are more than happy to “Pass the Dutchie”.

The next hit of the chorus is followed by the first bridge, which is all about hearing the music and letting your body move:

Now mi say listen to di drum, an’ mi say listen to di bass
Give mi little music, make mi wind up mi waist
Mi say, listen to di drum, an’ mi say listen to di bass
Give mi little music, make mi wind up mi waist (I say)

Bridge one to “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth.

Then, we have another chorus before the second bridge, which again discusses the music and where you might hear “Pass the Dutchie”:

You play it on the radio
An’ so mi say, we are go hear it on the stereo
An’ so mi know, we are go play it on the disco
An’ so mi say, we are go hear it on the stereo (Bow)

Bridge two to “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth.

The second bridge is followed by another chorus before the Musical Youth close out the rotation with the outro:

Cah mi say, say east, say west, say north an’ south
This is gonna really make we jump an’ shout

Outro to “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth.

With these closing lyrics, Musical Youth sing about projecting their music all around the world, bringing the “food of love” to the people of every nation. They know they’ve got a bop, too, because they admit that it’s really going to make people jump and shout.

Watch the music video for “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth below. Listen to “Pass the Kouchie” and “Gimme the Music” below that.

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