This month, we will honor Rebirth Brass Band co-founder and writer of "It's
Later Than You Think" Kermit Ruffins. Born and raised in New Orleans,
Ruffins took to jazz trumpet at the young age of 10 and continues to
play to this day. He possesses exquisite control of the extreme upper
range of the instrument, and styles his playing similarly to Louis
Armstrong and Louis Jordan. Despite having left Rebirth in the early '90s to embark on a solo career, Ruffins maintains a close relationship with the band and continues to collaborate with them, including on the song "It's Later Than You Think."
The rhythms of this song's melody are inspired by Jamaican mento* and
Trinidadian calypso music, with heavy emphasis on eighth note triplets
and offbeat sixteenth notes. Both mento and calypso trace their origins
to traditional West African music, which was brought to the Caribbean
by enslaved musicians. These genres feature songs of protest and social
commentary styled and delivered in a playful, light-hearted, and
The lyrics of "It's Later Than You Think" (written and performed by Ruffins) follow the mento and calypso tradition of social commentary in a light-hearted way, as they bring
light to the violence that has plagued the New Orleans community and
call for people to put aside violence and focus on having a good time:
"Expect the best, respect the rest.
Don't worry, be happy, it's later than you think.
Make love all night, don't fight, be nice.
Don't worry, be happy, it's later than you think."
Much thanks to Kermit “Mr. Tremé” Ruffins for all your work to preserve
New Orleans culture and for giving the world such a playful yet
heartfelt song about the importance of coming together for a party at
the second line!
*Outside of the Caribbean, mento is often confused for calypso, despite the two genres having distinct rhythmic styles and developing on different islands. Mento emphasizes the sixteenth and eighth note offbeats (e-and-a), while calypso emphasizes the main beat and the sixteenth note offbeats (1-e a). Mento is also notable for giving rise to the genre of ska.
It's Later Than You Think (YouTube)