Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Exception: A Review of Project Groundation's Down In The Ghetto - The Mixtape Album by Various Artists

I can’t even begin to tell you just how many albums that I get in any given year from a ton of different people boasting it to do something such as “stepping up the levels” , “taking it to a different place” or my personal favourite , “changing the game”. Most of these albums, despite maybe being decent, or having potential to be at least decent, never reach those lofty goals (although if you do send me albums, I do appreciate it and please do continue to do so J). But that number of albums I receive, whatever number it may be, PALES in comparison to the number of mixtapes I receive claiming to do the same thing. Especially with Caribbean geared music, such as within the scopes of Reggae, Dancehall or Soca (and even Zouk these days really, also) you see such an INCREDIBLE number of mixtapes put out from so many sources that it’s just ridiculous. They’re seriously running out of tracks and should you get more than two or so at any one given time which claim to be ‘new’ then rest assured you’ll more than one which are pretty much EXACTLY the same. Take with this the fact that, for the most part, I don’t like mixtapes. I’m a well spoiled and downright JADED Reggae head at this point and in most situations, I just want to hear the ENTIRE song which is something you certainly wouldn’t look forward to seeing in a mixtape (I do like them when I’m working out however). On top of that I have a very lengthy list of the common mistakes and things I just don’t like hearing or seeing when it comes to Reggae mixtapes and even Soca mixtapes, all of which seem to be very popular unfortunately: The first and biggest complaint being when the mixer/producer chooses to try and make him/her self the star of the show by TALKING so much over the tune and yelling and adding entirely too much of themselves when the real star of the mixtape is supposed to be the music itself (duh). Another of my big dislikes is when you find one loaded with tunes and artists who are very familiar to you and you spin it only to discover that those songs aren’t the ones you actually like but are instead bastardized versions of those tunes and have the same song over some CRAZY riddim and is virtually rubbish throughout (and of course they don’t say that on the cover). And lastly, as someone who listens to a great deal of music, when you load up a mixtape with nothing but stuff that not only I’ve heard, but AM LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW and thus taking away from any type of ‘exclusivity’ you may have on your project, it may not be so cool in the overall quality of your mixtape. And, as I said, I like to hear the entire song most times. But also as I said, I’m not a person who likes mixtapes. Right?

Thankfully there are exceptions to every rule, however. Also thankfully, the only real CONSISTENT exception to my ‘don’t like mixtapes’ rule has been mixtapes coming via one Californian based operation, Project Groundation Massive which I believe is headed by one DJ Child. My first interaction with Project Groundation would have been way back in 2004 when they released the AWESOME mixtape, Calling All Jah Children (which is listed as Mixtape Vol. One on it’s cover). That piece was largely culled together from some other material which I had been listening to at around the same time from one of my still favourite international labels, Lustre Kings Productions. That mixtape, Calling All Jah Children was simply a work of art and as much as I say I don’t like when someone takes so many tunes that I’m already so well familiar with, that one, in my opinion did exactly that but succeeded by using tunes which weren’t exactly dominating at the time and genuinely did what so many people assume to be the ‘real’ purpose of a mixtape: The promote the music. Since then, after seemingly disappearing for a few years on my radars (they hadn’t disappeared at all actually, they just weren’t releasing mixtapes through the same obviously very viable channels as Calling All Jah Children) Project Groundation has become one of the most CONSISTENTLY GOOD producers of Roots Reggae mixtapes and has really become the only label that I usually check for. In the face of very familiar and popular names like DJ Rondon and the likes, I’ll almost always draw in favour of a PG release. Through the years they’ve release very strong material working with some of my favourite lesser known artists, particularly Lutan Fyah for whom they released a WONDERFUL mixtape (which was actually more like an album if you ask me) by the name of Underground to Overground and they have often shown support to the Spanish Town chanter who just happens to be one of my favourite artists going right now (and another name I pretty much stumbled upon listening to Lustre Kings Productions, much like Project Groundation itself). They have also worked extensively alongside artists like Sizzla Kalonji, Natty King, Perfect, Pressure Busspipe and Messenjah Selah all of whom have acted as unofficial ‘hosts’ to PG mixtapes and they even ran a BIG mix for St. Thomas singer/chanter NiyoRah which was very well done and released through Niyo’s base label, I-Grade just a couple of years ago. So, I ALWAYS stay up on what’s coming good from Project Groundation, therefore when I saw they had put out yet another release, Down In The Ghetto I definitely put it on my list of ‘things to pick up’ but I quickly discovered that I wouldn’t have to necessarily resort to my usual Californian based contact as Project Groundation had FINALLY decided to return themselves back to the ways of the Calling All Jah Children piece, by once again going international with a release, their latest installment, Down In The Ghetto. This one, touted as Mixtape/Album features a few conscious hip-hop artists (which isn’t an odd thing from PG releases) alongside the typically more than SOLID cache of well known and up and coming Reggae artists. And for a release chosen to re-kick open the doors internationally for Project Groundation, maybe they couldn’t have picked a more well done all around project than Down In The Ghetto.

Down In The Ghetto doesn’t actually have a host. I have found myself to be quite fond of that format given that Project Groundation generally chooses TOP NOTCH artists to host their equally top notch productions (and I say that to go against my complaint of talking too much on a mixtape: I don’t think I even know how DJ Child sounds, if I’ve ever even heard him at all). Who I have heard are so many of the nice artists on his latest mixtape Down In The Ghetto and after the obligatory Intro - Interlude start which Child seems so fond of we get into the first segment of the project, the Down In The Ghetto Riddim which was done by Child and Project Groundation. This segment features the BIG title track (duh) from Noble Society’s Jah Dan and it MASTERFULLY infuses the original vocals from Eek-A-Mouse’s tune to take it to even higher heights before Jah Dan, just as masterfully, launches into his always dependable delivery. The first US rapper to chime in is M1 from the Dead Prez group and although I don’t listen much hip-hop AT ALL, I’ve always appreciated listening to it spiced in here and there and this format is PERFECT for something like that. I do have to say that in this segment, the ‘King Of The VI’ De Apostle arguably steals the show, spliced in between the second portion of the title track (another staple of Child’s, to actually give you the entire song, but split in parts). Mistah F.A.B. (whoever he is) is less appealing than M1, to my ears but definitely not too far off point before handing it over to VERY IMPRESSIVE Dutchie Winstrong to bridge the gap between the first and second segments and doing a very nice job of it.

Big respect for Down In The Ghetto has to go to Studio 340 as well as they are tapped twice for segments on the project, the Pure Life and the Flames. Of course, its not so much the segment themselves, but who the label brings with them, namely one Revalation (and another guy you may know named Pressure or something like that). The Pure Life features the BRILLIANT Spread Your Love from the young singer from out of St. Thomas (which frustratingly missed his WICKED debut album Serious Matters from last year, check that as well) before he makes way for that guy Pressure who gives the riddim (and segment) its title track with pretty much standard HUGE vibes on which he is quickly becoming accustomed to giving (I don’t know if he could flop ANYTHING at this point, even if he tried). And not to overlook Spla-I-Jah who starts the segment with his nice tune No Place. He’s definitely an artist to keep an eye on for the future, also from out of St. Thomas I believe. Later on Revalation returns for what is my single favourite tune on the project altogether (and should be yours), the MAMMOTH Flames On. I haven’t gone a week without hearing this tune since the very first time I heard it roughly a year ago now and I LOVE the fact that he’s present on this piece because it’s certain that someone will go and check his album just because of what they hear here who didn’t know the artist before. And rounding out that segment is De Apostle and Revalation again with the big Evil Doers which also appears on his album. A couple of other names I was very happy to see enlisted for Project Groundation’s Down In The Ghetto: Trini Royal Dainties who is sandwiched between the two parts of Humble, a tune from another nice artist, Sizzla clone Gounz Man (another Trini and sans his much better half), in one of the middle segments, Freedom Riddim. Gounz Man definitely impresses but Royal Dainties, a very good friend of Marlon Asher’s, (and Nadia Batson) well steals the show with his tune One Aim and I’m WAITING until he himself pulls an album for the masses as well. There’s also Cruzan Roots princess Lady Passion who makes the best of her single appearance with the smooth by EDGY Chasing You on the final segment. I keep waiting for Passion to just STOP PLAYING, she’s far more talented than she generally lets on and if/when she does eventually choose to maximize herself (or is given that opportunity) the results could be SHOCKING. Chasing You isn’t anywhere near her best but it’s rather easily one of the shining lights down the stretch of Down In The Ghetto. And also, I’ll re-mention Winstrong, whose yet to disappoint and doesn’t start on his uplifting tune Freedom in that same segment. And of course there are the big names hauling in as well. Lutan Fyah is all over Down In The Ghetto. Besides essentially running the intro he also gets three tunes, two of which comprise an entire segment, The Africa Section. That section is basically just a shout to his own recent album release the MASSIVE double album Africa as it features What A Woe and the combination with Vaughn Benjamin, No Matter What The Crisis from hat album. He outdoes both of those very nice tunes, however, with his later tune, Crush Dem, which actually ends DITG (as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end). I get tired of telling people how lyrically ON POINT the man is and I will gladly stop as soon as he proves me wrong. He DEFINITELY doesn’t do that on the MONSTER that is Crush Dem. If Fyah’s name isn’t big enough then certainly Sizzla’s will do. He comes in on three tracks, most notably on the somewhat awkward Ghetto Soul segment where his two portions of Best In Life sandwich another big name in Gyptian with Crazy World. I also HAVE TO mention the Remix Section (naturally my least favourite of the lot) which does actually go wayyyy back and taps Sizzla’s tune Crush Dem Out (now renamed Evacuate The) for Lustre Kings Productions which appeared on the now CLASSIC Culture Dem compilation and chasing that one is Capleton’s tune from the same riddim, Cyan Even See Dem (now renamed Ton A). And lastly I’ll mention the Garrison Section segment which features a well PACKED VI Medley which features the previously unseen Batch, Army and even NiyoRah amongst others (like Pressure again) before handing it off to a still very impressive M1 whose haunting tune Angel EASILY becomes the finest piece of hip-hop you’ll hear on DITG and just as easily one of it’s best tunes altogether.

Overall, did I mention that I don’t like mixtapes? Take that well into consideration when I tell you that I nearly LOVE Down In The Ghetto from Project Groundation and I generally feel that way about most of their releases. What’s different here is that it replaces what you would get from a typical album or a compilation with MOOD. DITG kind of tells a story to the listener using news clips throughout and even one from Malcolm X, as is DJ Child’s WONDERFUL ‘twist’ in his output. You’ll hear a similar type of things from others but this isn’t that CORNY or OUT OF PLACE type of thing here. Down In The Ghetto is a very nice re-introduction to the international world to what is quite simply in my opinion the best Roots Reggae mixtapes available anywhere. HOPEFULLY PG will make available their entire catalogue of solid mixes. Thus maybe, ACTUALLY “changing the game”. Very well done.

Rated 4.5/5 stars
Project Groundation Massive / SEED
2009



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Loving You Through The Years: A Review of Rebelution by Yami Bolo

Despite the fact that I keep albums in my players rotating in and out at an almost ridiculous pace, there have been and continues to be a few here and there which manage to, for one reason or another, stay not too far from my reach and thus, one of the eternal answers to that oft-asked question, “What are you listening to right now?”. Well, RIGHT NOW I happen to be listening to a whole heap of pieces. Not surprisingly at all you’ll find relatively new releases such as Ziggi’s sublime sophomore album, In Transit; you’ll also find a Lutan Fyah’s EPIC double release Africa (currently waiting on his new album, African Be Proud); Daweh Congo’s Ghetto Skyline is in there as well as is, perhaps most fittingly in this case, the constantly ‘improving’ Breaking Babylon Curse from Messenjah Selah which I enjoy more and more each time that I spin it. In the tangible sense, all of those albums would make perfect sense to be spinning right now: They all were released within the last four to five months or so and are definitely BIG albums in their own right. And, even to take it a step further, were I to say that I was that I was currently listening to something like Sizzla’s Black Woman & Child or Capleton’s More Fire, despite both being either more than or just less than a decade old, they too would make sense because they are widely held as being two of the best of all time. That being said I also have a few albums which are kind of ‘stuck’ in terms of time being around three to ten years old or so and they didn’t do a ton of damage and were relatively either decently received or, in some cases, even negatively received when they initially were pushed out. For example, should you check what’s currently playing on my speakers at this very moment and it’s been there for quite awhile, you might be surprised that its another Sizzla album which wasn’t too well regarded when it reached and still isn’t, Rastafari Teach I Everything from all the way back in 2001. I know people who will literally call RTIE a BAD album, but to me, it’s a sleeper as one the August Town Wizard’s lower level better albums and just a BEAUTIFUL piece when you really sit down and take a note of it. Another very good example from that same year (and same label actually) would curiously be [General] Degree’s WICKED Yeah Man. That PACKED album, in my opinion, was one of the best PURE Dancehall releases from the past decade and although it definitely didn’t get the attention it deserved, it has continued through the years to retain a very welcome spot in my players. Other examples would be albums like Lyricson’s Born 2 Go High from 2004, Chezidek’s at times AMAZING debut album Harvest time which reached in 2002 and probably ALL of Peter Broggs’ catalogue which unfortunately tends to go under noticed. These albums aren’t necessarily the GREATEST actually but for some reason they’ve managed to stick with me over time and are still sticking.

But there is undoubtedly something VERY ODD going on with the things that I am CURRENTLY listening to, with three in particular standing out. The first would be the aforementioned Breaking Babylon Curse by Messenjah Selah which I reviewed and rated four stars. I may someday rank BBC as high as five (EASILY) because that album really takes a while to grow on you and you definitely need to take a more MATURE approach to it to be able to appreciate it. The second would be an album by the name of Holding Firm by wicked Virgin Islands chanter Ras Attitude from back in 2005 (I THINK) which came and went in my collection before I actually gave it a proper spin and discovered that it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. That album almost single-handedly made me recognize that my tastes were changing and I had become a much ‘older’ listener than I was before. Now, fittingly, is the third album, Yami Bolo’s Rebelution from back in 2003 originally which has FINALLY gone digital courtesy of a label based in Florida in the States, Zion High Productions. If Holding Firm made me take notice that my tastes were changing in Reggae music, Rebelution CONFIRMED those thoughts as I not only LOVE this album, but it made me go back and take a look at Yami Bolo’s ENTIRE career and catalogue and you know what? I ultimately gained a new appreciation of that material as well. Of course the odd bit of ‘coincidence’ here is that all three albums, Breaking Babylon Curse, Holding Firm and Rebelution are primarily Zion High Productions albums which kind of is a weird quality that their albums have (as if the slogan might be, “You’ll love this stuff. . . In a couple of years) and they can lay claim to putting out the best ‘time delayed’ material in Reggae altogether. After that time period passes, however, and you take another look at all of these albums what you’ll find is CRISP and very MATURE work between the three, particularly in Holding Firm and now with BBC and as I find new and very interesting things (especially lyrically) in that album almost everyday. I do feel, however, that Rebelution is the best of that lot. This album is one of my favourites of Yami Bolo’s entire overlooked career. For years he has been on the outside of a very select lot of singers which has, primarily, included the likes of Luciano and now with the up and coming Roots Reggae singers like Jah Cure and I-Wayne, he figures to get even more pushed aside, ranking alongside CRIMINALLY underappreciated artists of similar ilk such as Everton Blender, the aforementioned Daweh Congo and maybe even someone like former Xterminator artists Mikey General and Prince Malachi would also fit into that list. And even amongst that VERY STRONG list of artists, Bolo may just be underappreciated as well and it’s really a shame that so much of his music goes unnoticed, especially locally speaking, because really and truly there haven’t been too many more consistent names than Yami Bolo since he first entered the business, if TRULY any at all. Thus, it isn’t too difficult for me to say that if you have been amongst the masses sleeping on the singer, Rebelution would be an EXCELLENT starting point for you to make up for lost time.

The vibes on Rebelution, unsurprisingly, are VERY much on the spiritual side which should be nothing new for longtime Yami Bolo fans. And for new fans, I’ll also mention that vocally Bolo probably falls into that same line of singers like Mykal Rose and the likes with the kind of WAILING sound that he employs so often, but there is a REFINED bit in his voice at times also, sounding more like Everton Blender to my ears than most would say. Of course now that I trumped up the spiritual nature of Rebelution, Yami Bolo begins the album with a love song (DUH!). This love song, the very nice Empress I Love You definitely has quite a bit of spiritual and conscious connotations to it, so it more than fits in (and you KNEW one would be on the album) on the project and, despite being on the lower end in terms of overall songs quality, it’s still a very nice opener to get things started. The far more expected Pray is up next for Rebelution and it certainly lifts the album to the stratosphere and proves to be one of it’s best tunes altogether in it’s time. The song is just DIVINE and is so without using really any type of ‘tricks’ in terms of taking the music or the vibes or the lyrics in any type of radical direction. Instead, Bolo simply pushes a message that times are well hard and we definitely need to pray for the better. Agreed! And you’ll agree that the tune is near magic. Bridging the gap between the opening tracks and the body of the album is the arguably even stronger Good Must Conquer Evil over a very familiar minimalist riddim from Zion High (which develops into a ‘complexly vacant’ beautiful composition). This tune is full of knowledge gives the listener about as strong of an example of what to expect with the balance of Rebelution as anything on the album’s opening.

Despite the fact that Yami Bolo makes a few combinations with big artists it’s SPECIFICALLY the tunes which feature him and him alone which stand out and have stood up to me the most obvious representing the power of Rebelution. The PRIME example of this and ultimately the finest tune on Rebelution to my opinion is the AWESOME tune Accident. Livicated to the well famous case of Mumia Abu Jamal, I can particularly recall when this tune HIT me and when it did it brought tears, it brought crazy emotions as I tuned in and heard him directly say, “Babylon is like an accident!”. POWERFUL! Trust me, definitely not to be missed a real microcosm of the entire album and perhaps even all of ZHP’s pieces as it builds and builds until it finally has you. Accident begins a very powerful string of tunes which ultimately send out Rebelution as, after it, there are nothing but WINNING tunes. Do No Evil is a very easy and bouncing tune which encourages all to do exactly what the title says (its kind of the changeup here, if that role doesn’t belong to Accident). Following Do No Evil is the sole combination on the second half of the album and DEFINITELY one of the best tunes on Rebelution in full, the very inspirational and HEAVY Hail The Conquering Lion which features Bolo alongside the legendary Ras Michael. This tune is for the Rastafarian crowd FAR AND AWAY. Now, should you follow that path in life (and I do) then this tune will speak to you on so many different levels than probably any tune up until this point on Rebelution altogether. It well remains that way, however, for a very short period of time as, in keeping with that vibes, the next tune, Crownation Glory, is an even larger step up. CROWNATION GLORY is MAMMOTH! To no exaggeration this tune, probably even more so than Accident, has been the one which has stuck so closely with me. I play this song for my plants in my house! It’s just a wonderfully big vibes in praise of His Majesty before ‘ascending’ into a sweet sweet ending definitely not to be missed. Still on a similar vibes is the next tune, Safe Guard, which, although not as strong as the two tunes immediately preceding it, has a ‘bigger’ sound to it which is the attraction on the surface before you get into that wonderful message of the people really needing to protect ourselves from just the evil and corrupt system (Safe Guard may be the best WRITTEN tune on Rebelution altogether). Binghi is just what it sounds like, the obligatory nyah drum backed tune on the album and, as usual because I love these songs, it’s a real winner, just a nice chanting vibes for His Imperial Majesty (I might have preferred it as the closer though). And it sets the stage for the actual finisher on Rebelution, the rather understated Y Mas Gan which rolls in on a Spanish/Acoustic sound and doesn’t really develop much but may just be the most personally sang tune on the album and in such a reflective nature you can’t argue with it’s choice for the album in full and not even with it’s placement as the closer. Going backwards to check on the combinations: Ithiopia is BIG. Yami Bolo sings SO sweet on the hook there alongside my not so favourite Al Pancho and Prince Bob of all people (+3 to anyone who knew Prince Bob) that he well outshines his friends on the tune even before checking in later on with his own full verse which just wraps things so nicely. Liberation is the highest profile combination on Rebelution as it reunites Bolo with Capleton and does so, so wonderfully to my ears as they infuse the same riddim which backed Turbulence’s MASSIVE tune We Need Liberation (alongside Digital Ancient). And Talk About Slavery links Bolo with both underrated Bunny Mystic and General Jah Mikey (who is WICKED). This may be the finest combination outside of Hail The Conquering Lion and however you place them, they’re all very well done and impeccable on an equally impeccable album.

(oh! And check the HEAVY Sanctify Yourself Rebelution’s second best written tune)

Overall, I do feel the need not to OVERRATE Yami Bolo’s Rebelution. I don’t give it five stars because it simply isn’t a five star album. It’s not the best album I’ve ever heard (it probably isn’t even in the top twenty or so actually) and I don’t want to make you think it is. HOWEVER, Rebelution is an album which simply just struck me on SO MANY levels as having a very ‘familiar’ and ‘comforting’ vibes that, even in spite of the nature of Roots Reggae which can paint a very bleak picture at times, still managed to be uplifting throughout. This album has a very natural ‘human appeal’ to it and like I said, if you can take a step back and listen to the entire album and meditate on it a bit and then listen it again. You, you already well indoctrinated roots Reggae fan (newer fans I don’t recommend this one for you), will find the same thing I found in Yami Bolo’s Rebelution: It’s not the greatest, not even close, but it is one of my favourite albums of all time. Period.

Rated 4.25/5 stars
Zion High Productions
2003 [re-released 2009]


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lyrics to African Bless by Messenjah Selah

Things will get better
Only if we learn to love ourselves
Break the curse!

They want to suppress your Afrikaness.
Don’t you fall into their mess.
You’re Afrikan Blessed.
Don’t you down press your Afrikan flesh.
You’re nothing less than the best.
You’re Afrikan Blessed.

Slave master taught me to shoot down you.
You try to move up and I’ll put down you.
Slave master taught me to snitch on you.
You’ve got a problem, I put the snitch on you.

East fighting against the West.
They fail to practice they love they possess
North fighting against the South.
They think its their only way out.
Children of the melanin,
Stop practice the slave master’s teachin, or you’re gonna get a beating.
Children of the melanin,
Why you despise the royal teachin?
YOU ARE EVERYTHING THAT YOU’RE SEEKING!

They want to suppress your Afrikaness.
Don’t you fall into their mess.
You’re Afrikan Blessed.
Don’t you down press your Afrikan flesh.
You’re nothing less than the best.
You’re Afrikan Blessed.

Process your hair, straighten your nose.
Bleach out your skin, then you’re welcome in.
We must love you and hate ourselves.
Who can save us?
None but ourselves.
Them say everything Black is cursed, its bad and its negative.
And them say everything white is good and its right,
And its positive.
Willie Lynch caan test, give the judgment an inch, puppet master the fire caan quench.
Keep your insecurities, caan bribe me with your cheese, BURN OUT YOUR MIND DISEASE!

They want to suppress your Afrikaness.
Don’t you fall into their mess.
You’re Afrikan Blessed.
Don’t you oppress your Afrikan flesh.
You’re nothing less than the best.
You’re Afrikan Blessed.

Don’t you suppress your Afrikaness.
Don’t you fall in their mess.
You’re Afrikan Blessed
Don’t you oppress your Afrikan flesh.
You’re nothing less. . .


Taken from Messenjah Selah's album Breaking Babylon Curse.


{note: I know I've done this album before. But I'm LOVING it at this moment and I hope to someday do this same thing for every tune on the album. 2 down, 16 to go}

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Most Talented Vol. 1: Stephen Marley

Can you be mainstream and yet 'behind the scenes' at the same time? If you can be then that's exactly what may be the best way to describe Stephen Marley who is, in my opinion, the most talented current member of the Marley clan. I find it very interesting that Stephen has been on board for SO MANY wonderful projects (and for proof of that one need only pick up either of his brother Damian's last two albums, Welcome To Jamrock or Halfway Tree and turn them over to reveal the "Executive Producer: Stephen Marley" tag and of course, both of those albums won Grammy awards) and yet his name definitely wouldn't be considered a household one. HOWEVER, let that change in the next few years as in 2007, Stephen checked in with his long awaited solo debut, Mind Control (which also, incidentally (not quite at those point) won a Grammy).


Well. Last year Stephen, in order to "promote my guitar" dropped Mind Control's technical follow-up, which was a BEAUTIFUL acoustic version of the album which, arguably, gives the original a run for it's money in terms of quality.

The album is available DIGITALLY only on places like iTunes

& Amazon

Check the former single, Traffic Jam, acoustic style & still featuring Jr. Gong

"Are you smoking marijuana?" and I said "Yes I am."

A Look Back: A Review of Best Of The Best Soca Hits 09 by Various Artists

In St. Maarten, the 40th Anniversary Carnival Season has begun and has actually been quite impressive if I do say so myself. To my opinion, the real STRENGTH of SxM’s Carnival has always been the undeniable level of diversity. Besides what you’d expect to see in any Caribbean Carnival, in the way of Soca artists and the likes, you also get to see a VERY healthy mix of artists from other genres as well. From Mavado and Anthony B to a whole heap of Reggaeton performers who I’ve never heard of are just a taste of those who drop by during a St. Maarten Carnival. And next weekend, for the second week in a row, we’ll be treated to a Soca show headlined by the INCOMPARABLE Destra Garcia which is where I’ll be! Yet, there’s also a Zouk bill which features the DIVINE Fanny and even Jessye Belleval and, were that not enough (and it was) a mixed bill headlined by American hip-hoppers Omarion and Rick Ross. Like I said, in St. Maarten, it’s all about DIVERSITY in the vibes and I’d definitely recommend stopping by one year should you get the opportunity. I would say that’s the case for Carnivals all over the region which just leaves a particular impression on you, regardless of how informed/uninformed you may be and, if it’s a good one, should leave you with a memory/ies that you’ll never forget. In so many cases I would say (and definitely in my own personal situation) I think that in terms of Caribbean Carnivals what most often helps DEFINE a particular season is the music which comes from a certain region or island and matching that up with a given year. For example, take any well known artist like woman of the moment Faye-Ann Lyons: You (“you” meaning you, Soca head) can go through her recent catalogue and align it with particular moments you may recall. 2008 will definitely go down in your memory as a special one if you’ve been paying attention to Faye-Ann’s career as she was full on ROBBED from taking her first Soca Monarch crown with Get On and, almost like a response to that act, she overwhelmingly claimed her second Road March crown, ending the reign of Soca superstar Machel Montano HD, AND doing so while my wife was having our first baby! 2007? What do you remember about M.A.S.? That song was definitely underrated and, in my opinion, may have been as good or even better than any tune which she has had since then. In ‘Mr. Faye-Ann’s’ recent history you’ll find even more interesting as his years are almost UNIVERSALLY tied to amazing performances just as much as the music itself but it all falls into that category. Destra, Machel, Shurwayne Winchester and now Blaxx, they all have their certain sides of the vibes which, for the really ‘touched’ by Soca, can draw up all sorts of wonderful and interesting memories.

So what type of memories will this year bring? Well undoubtedly (literally this time), the person of the moment and of the Carnival YEAR is to be Faye-Ann Lyons. Having finally taken that Monarch crown, taken a Groovy title, a People’s Choice award and her third in total and second consecutive Road March title (with her husband having already predicted that in 2010, she’ll take another) (of course, he’s wrong, because Destra will take her first instead). Anyone in any other place trying to outdo Mrs. Garlin in terms of capturing the moment will simply undertaking a lost cause (the closest is likely to be Claudette Peters from out Antigua who will be attempting to capture both the island’s Party (Power) and Groovy Soca Monarch titles for the THIRD consecutive year). But they can outdo her musically which is why we’re here today. With Trinidad Carnival having packed up and gone international until next year, now comes the business of going international in a much more indirect manner, through the releasing of albums. Already we’ve seen artists like Destra, KMC, Crazy and most recently Shurwayne Winchester break out with their typical seasonal recaps of albums which they push every year and going forward now we can expect the BIG compilations to start reaching the masses as much more and more tunes are released. Of course, the class of the Soca compilations (in terms of popularity and generally speaking in terms of quality as well) is VP Records’ HUGE Soca Gold which is simply the most popular THING branding the name Soca on the planet. VP has always stuck well in promoting the music, they may, also later bring a next installment of their more laid back and always very well done D’Soca Zone compilation as well and with their stable of artists (currently officially including both Bunji Garlin and Bajan superstar Edwin Yearwood, as well as the late great Byron Lee) who knows what else. But they aren’t the only game in town. Bajan super producers D Red Boyz will definitely bring a compilation sometime around Crop Over, just as they have solidly for the past three seasons. Trini super producer Mastermind has already launched his piece for 2009, the decent Da Mastamind Project 4. And you can also expect Ragga Ragga Soca to appear as well which is the compilation which essentially recaps a particular year’s Vincy Mas and a whole heap of others as well. That being said, the compilation in particular for which we are here today is quite EASILY the most CONSISTENT Soca compilation you will hear ANYWHERE. The Best Of The Best Soca Hits compilation from JW Productions is basically a compilation which, minus a few big tunes, is a recap of Trinidad’s Carnival POWER season. So, what that means is this: If you scored with ANY big Soca tune in Trinidad’s Carnival season, there’s a very good chance you’re song will appear on Best Of The Best. The exceptions being only one Iwer George who has his own compilation, Soca 91.9 FM Trini Bashment Soca Compilation (which has already released for 2009) and those artists who choose to keep the exclusivity going with their own albums (Machel every year and I GUESS Destra and Shurwayne this year in particular). EVERYONE else is pretty fair game and as this one has come at least three months before SG2009, if you REALLY don’t feel like waiting for the BIG comp, like every year, you can’t go wrong with this Best Of The Best.

Best Of The Best Soca Hits 09 is one of a pair. The same label also releases Best Of The Best Soca Grooves which, obviously, deals with the Groovy hits. Therefore, what you need to do before picking this one up is know that even if they’re tunes here which you don’t know they’re far more likely to be of the HEAVY road marching/jump and wave type of song than the cool and sexy type. The same two artists who started Best Of The Best Soca Hits 08 take the honours for 09’s edition (showing the rather ‘streaky’ nature of jump up Soca in my opinion, which I’ve spoken of before) but in reverse as this was so much more of a NO BRAINER in 2009. Faye-Ann Lyons’ ode to her father, Meet Super Blue, absolutely routed the competition wherever it found any. The tune which took both Road March (by more than quadrupling it’s closest competitor) and Power Soca Monarch wasn’t quite as big as her Get On from last year in my opinion, but it was absolute MAGIC. However, it has finally found a title it can’t take: The Best tune on BotB 09. HUGE start still. That honour doesn’t go to Blaxx either who also, in my opinion, took a step down in terms of the quality of his tune with Tusty following the downright BRILLIANCE that was Breathless from 2008. Still, Tusty was HUGE and if you talk about WINDING and winding alone, there was no greater masterpiece than Tusty in 2009 and beyond (and I’m already willing to bet that after being Breathless and Tusty, Blaxx will be HUNGRY in 2010 and may just take a crown because of it). Ending the opening of Best Of The Best Soca Hits ‘09 is the equally addictive and ANNOYING Stabby from Stabby De Guard. If there is the SLIGHTEST of Soca twitches in your bones Stabby will find it and it will not let you go. You will get tired as HELL of singing this one GUARANTEED, but you will not be able to stop. Very reminiscent of recent tunes like Pressure Boom although even more annoying, Stabby is destined to be one of the most memorable tunes of the past two seasons having left mentally WORN people in it’s wake, every island it has touched so far. All in all, a big ass addictive piece of an opening.

What’s very weird here is that, despite 2009 CLEARLY being a step (or two) below 2008 in terms of musical quality for TnT’s Carnival, BotB 09 is a step (or two) ahead of the 08 edition with NOTHING really striking me as a BAD song actually (unless you count when I’m hating Stabby). One of the real reasons why this edition is better than 08’s is DEFINITELY due to the presence of one of my favourite tunes of all time, the UTTER RIDICULOUSNESS that was Traffic by Berbice. This tune is actually two years old now having taken 2007’s Road March crown for Grenada and he used it to qualify for Power Soca Monarch finals as well where Berbice represented himself very well. Traffic is all but PEERLESS in my opinion and I’m still not tired of it so it’s the best tune on this album and pretty much every album you’ll see it on. Another older tune here was one which literally caught fire in Trinidad the time we were there, Skinny Fabulous’ LARGE Head Bad which won him 2008’s Soca Monarch for St. Vincy (and should have won him a placing in TnT’s show) (he was robbed). This tune is another of the real highlights on the album and simply one of the best jump up Soca tunes of the past couple of years and I’m quite wondering if it’ll make it on the Soca Gold album as well as it will look very good there also. Keeping going veteran Nadia Batson (who’s also been to SxM Carnival I believe) checks in with the best of her offerings from 2009, the WICKED Play Mas. Batson is always solid and I’m pretty sure that this will make it to Soca Gold (or Bumpers Rule, her Groovy tune). Play Mas was a very VIBRANT and just feel good type of tune, a noticeable step down from 08’s My Posse but definitely a real winner still. Mr. Faye-Ann himself Bunji Garlin comes off of what I think had to be one of his most deceptively strong seasons in recent years with his LIGHTENING tune Clear D Road. I went from being completely neutral, to disliking and finally to liking this tune in all of about two weeks or so. Clear D Road is SERIOUS! And hopefully Bunji will deliver an album as well in 2009 (to make up for that mess which was the Fiery album). Faye-Ann and Bunji good friend Benjai checks in also alongside his Asylum mates (or is it still HD these days?) with another tune which grew on me, Whole Day. The spotlight wasn’t on this tune for the most part (it was on the alcoholic’s anthem Drunk Again) this season but of ANYTHING I heard from Benjai in 2009, Whole Day was king. Right after Benjai’s Whole Day is another tune which I felt was overlooked, On D Road from Surface leader Tony Prescott. To me, this one is a BIG tune but I didn’t like the reaction I saw so many people giving it through calling it ‘mediocre’ and such. I’m not claiming it a SPECIAL tune by any means but On D Road was a COOL jump up tune that deserves it’s respect. Going back, briefly, there’s a tune by Blazer by the name of Jumpie which is another crazy ADDICTIVE tune which is damn near frustrating as it’s an Soca tune disguised as an R&B tune. The roof CONSTANTLY threatens to blow off several times before it does and even when it does, you feel that it could have even gone madder. It’s a veteran show rounding out Best Of The Best Soca Hits ‘09 as Giselle ‘Di Wassi One’, brings her very nice tune Do It So; Ghetto Flex checks in with the album’s worst tune altogether, the very forgettable Double Up (and even that one isn’t HORRIBLE) and even Lord Nelson himself comes with the road mix of La La alongside Devon Matthews. I wasn’t high on the original tune there and I hardly ever like road mixes, this time no exception, but altogether you won’t find me complaining too much of the final two given the power of the eleven preceding them.

Overall, this one can definitely serve two purposes: The first is that if you are a Soca head, there’s a good chance that RIGHT NOW you probably don’t have any OFFICIAL album with several of these tunes on it (you probably have DOZENS of mixtapes with them however) and some of them may fall through the cracks and never appear on any other album; and the second is that if you are a new fan then you’ll absolutely love Best Of The Best Soca Hits 09. As a Soca head myself (yay me!) most of these songs I’ve WELL spun and although I’m not tired of all of them yet, I’m probably well headed there (except Traffic of course) so, in the case of this one, probably the sooner the better. However, that being said, just as I said before, most of this music is music that you can relate to a particular moment or memory. So, should you want to rewind time just a couple of months and get the jump on Soca Gold 2009, definitely pick up The Best Of The Best Soca Hits 09. It doesn’t take too many chances in it’s song selection, but in doing so it probably makes itself the first BIG Soca compilation of 2009.

Rated 4/5 stars
JW Productions
2009


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Best of The Should Have Been King

Do you remember when Turbulence was good? As the days past it seems more and more likely that the ENORMOUSLY talented 'second coming of Sizzla Kalonji' that he was when he arrived on the scene in 2000-2001 will never return. From so many years now it seems as if the edgy and REVOLUTIONARY Turbulence has left the scene in favour of an artist who routinely makes hellaciously average Roots tunes alongside the occasional lover's hit. But there sure were great days and we can remember can't we? Thus, I submit for your approval, the best of the should be king. The 5 best albums of Turbulence, 'The Future'.


#5. Nah Sell Out [aka Born For This] - JetStar/2006

The most recent album you’ll find on this list, Nah Sell Out comes as very much an underappreciated ‘sleeper’ of an album. If you have been sleeping on it, I can’t say that I blame you exactly because, after all, it does come from that rubbish bin of a label in Charm/JetStar which was notorious for placing out pirated garbage. So it may also stand as the last good thing that they did as well. The album itself was edgy but very much ‘keyed’ in an older school type of record from Turbulence. Think of it as what the Notorious album should have been, only fitting as Nah Sell Out, the song, was billed as Notorious Pt. 2.


#4. The Future - JetStar/2003

Released in what would prove to be a big year for Turbulence (as he released four albums in full, three of which appear on this list), The Future, in retrospect, has stood up VERY well to the test of time. With damn near FLAWLESS production coming from Digital Ancient and the Lustre Kings Productions camp, The Future featured big tunes throughout it’s fifteen in full such as Music Is Life, Revolution Pon Di Wicked and the album’s finest moment, the MASSIVE We Need Liberation. All of which still remain quite crucial and some of Turbulence’s best work to date altogether.


#3. Hail To The King - VP Records/2003

This was the big and high profile release in a year which featured so many different versions of Turbulence, all of which saw him working on different things and TANGIBLY developing his skills. Hail To The King featured the singer going all across the board in its STUFFED sixteen tracks for home base Xterminator producer, the legendary Phillip ‘Fattis’ Burrell. This one was typical Xterminator material with old school tinged works of art alongside LUSH anthem-like productions. That with an intro which is absolutely TIMELESS has helped Hail To The King rise near the top of this list, despite more than one or two obvious missteps.


#2. Join Us - Bogalusa Records/2003

From a purely TECHNICAL aspect, Join Us probably doesn’t belong anywhere near this list (and in the place of it’s absence, I’d probably replace it with Turbulence’s self titled debut) but from a purely IMPACT aspect, it may belong at the top of it for me, personally. Join Us is an album which has stuck with me so deep since the very first time that I heard it that I continue to find myself spinning through it quite frequently, more than a half decade after it’s release. The strange thing here is, however, from what I’ve seen and heard, most people don’t hold it in such high esteem. BUT I have ‘converted’ more than one unsuspecting listener to realizing it’s DOMINANCE and if you REALLY dig into Join Us, you’ll join us: The few who recognize that this album, produced by then up and coming but future MASTER Kemar McGregor, was damn near perfect.


#1. Rising - VP Records/2001

A CLASSIC! In retrospect, as much as I LOVE Join Us and fully expected to crown it as the king of this list, a bit of a different category has to be allotted to Rising. This album essentially introduced young Turbulence to an international audience (myself included at the time) and with it, an artist who could obviously string together winning tunes at such a high quality that he, even at that point, had so many, including your’s truly, labeling him the next Sizzla Kalonji. From Give Her Weh She Want, Make Sure She Clean, Friends Like These, Mamma Is Here and the DIVINE Love Can Make A Difference, Rising was a master class in just Turbulence’s second album. It was also and remains the best album he has ever done. Period.


Lyrics to Shackles & Chains by Ziggi

Can’t stem the fire we a blaze.
Tell them fi free up Demself.
Clean heart and a clear conscience is the way to go yo!

Shackles and chains, can’t stop the fire we a blaze.
Babylon you must get erase
Sorrows and pains, all of them will fade away
Tomorrow will be a better day

Shackles and chains, can’t stop the fire we a blaze.
Babylon you must get erase
Sorrows and pains, all of them will fade away
Tomorrow will be a better day

Tell dem no bodda get inna di way when di youths dem a revolute
Nah bow to dem a di almighty weh we salute
Youth dem a get educate so you can’t pollute dem mind no more, and that’s for sure.
Eyes on the prize, youths dem full a ambition
Ready now to rise cause di youths have a vision.
And right now your days are numbered.
So get ready for the judgment now.

Shackles and chains, can’t stop the fire we a blaze.
Babylon you must get erase
Sorrows and pains, all of them will fade away
Tomorrow will be a better day

Shackles and chains, can’t stop the fire we a blaze.
Babylon you must get erase
Sorrows and pains, all of them will fade away
Tomorrow will be a better day

Don’t let them get you down.
Stay positive and never wear a frown.
Negative vibes we ahgo bun dem down.
Tell dem say no tek dis ya bwoy fi clown
Mr. Babylon its plain to see
Nowadays a mental slavery
Dat have di youths dem inna bondage.
But we breaking free
So we come fi tell di whole a dem now.

Shackles and chains, can’t stop the fire we a blaze.
Babylon you must get erase
Sorrows and pains, all of them will fade away
Tomorrow will be a better day

Shackles and chains, can’t stop the fire we a blaze.
Babylon you must get erase
Sorrows and pains, all of them will fade away
Tomorrow will be a better day

Gotta keep trodding on to Zion Way
So free up yuh mind mi say fi follow me
Gotta keep trodding on to Zion Way
So free up yuh mind and hear mi say
Tell dem no bodda get inna di way when di youths dem a revolute
Nah bow to dem a di almighty weh we salute
Youth dem a get educate so you can’t pollute dem mind no more, and that’s for sure.
Eyes on the prize, youths dem full a ambition
Ready now to rise cause di youths have a vision.
And right now your days are numbered.
So get ready for the judgment now.

Shackles and chains, can’t stop the fire we a blaze.
Babylon you must get erase
Sorrows and pains, all of them will fade away
Tomorrow will be a better day

Shackles and chains, can’t stop the fire we a blaze.
Babylon you must get erase
Sorrows and pains, all of them will fade away
Tomorrow will be a better day

Don’t let them get you down.
Stay positive and never wear a frown.
Negative vibes we ahgo bun dem down.
Tell dem say no tek dis ya bwoy fi clown
Mr. Babylon its plain to see
Nowadays a mental slavery
Dat have di youths dem inna bondage.
But we breaking free. . .




Taken from Ziggi's album In Transit

Lyrics to Don & Dupes by Buju Banton featuring Pinchers

Don & Dupes!

[Pinchers]
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?

[Buju]
Must be dem a couldn’t Buju Banton lawd

Nuff a dem a hype
And know dem name no call round yah
Dem a gang an a plan up
But I am a bawn loner
Who set di pace?
Trendsetter try bless
Girls drop inna frenzy when dem see wi pon stage.
Ahh!
Irrefutable.
Solid and mateable
Get mi out and get mi pass
I take it on another level
Intelligence man a use over irritable
Caan be a mange.
You must be accountable!

[Pinchers]
I’m Don and who is a Donovan? (Hear dat!)
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?


[Buju]
Got to be dem a couldn’t Buju Banton.
Pinchers!

[Pinchers]
I’m Don and who is a Donovan? (unuh hear dat?)
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?

[Buju]
Must be dem a couldn’t Buju Banton

An if dem want a war tell dem wi ready fi dat
Dis yah bakkle!
Yuh caan check they nose an get to si dat
Run di corner but wi have di city lock
An membah!
Di corner is a quarter of a city block.
So fool!
When you si wi a step through
Unnuh betta step aside
Yuh betta know say respect due
You a know di size of di gang
An a di size of di crew
Every man a man so yuh haffi know who a who!
Eedyat!

[Pinchers]
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan? (One Don, One Don!)
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?

[Buju]
Must be dem a couldn’t Buju Banton.
Pinchers!

[Pinchers]
I’m Don and who is a Donovan? (Lawd a mercy)
I’m Don and who is a Donovan? (Want all di girl see)
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?

[Buju]
Hear dis man! Hear dis man!

Nuff a dem gang up and nuff dem a plan
Some a dem confuse and don’t know where dem stand
Yuh waan, clash wid di general and run up inna di Don
Yu tink a uzi alone a caliber like M1?
Yu tink a talk alone well is ah ready for action
Yu tink a one bagga man but a di general one
Come wi come to give dem inna style and pattern
Buju Banton, Pinchers a weh yuh get di one yah from?
Tell dem!

[Pinchers]
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?

Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey.

[Pinchers]
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?
I’m Don and who is a Donovan?

Hey. Hey. Hey.






Taken from Buju Banton's album Too Bad.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Coming Soon: The Odd Man Out

Of all the sons of the King of Reggae Music, Bob Marley, who is your favourite?

  • -Historically speaking it seems as if the most likely answer to that question would be Grammy winning singer Ziggy, who is probably still the most popular and through recent years has seen his popularity in urban areas grow more and more. The former leader of Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers continues to be one of the most well known Reggae acts on the planet.
  • -Ky-Mani? Probably best known for his thespian pursuits rather than his work in the studio, the musically GIFTED Ky-Mani Marley has remained a present figure most recently due to his 2007 release Radio which so many people enjoyed as well. Not bad for an actor!
  • -Maybe you favour the man behind the scenes, Stephen Marley. It’s very interesting that as soon as Stephen steps from behind the scenes (a role which earned him production Grammys for work with his family including Ziggy and the next individual on this list) his reward is yet another Grammy as the madness which was Mind Control earned him the honours in 2007 and apparently we liked it so much that he gave it to us again in 2008, this time in an acoustic stylee.
  • - If you follow modern Reggae or Dancehall apart from the Marleys then your favourite might be Jr. Gong, Damian Marley who has easily been the one pack whose style has most closely resembled that of his Jamaican based non-Marley peers. The two time Grammy winner recently announced plans to do a full album with legendary hip-hopper Nas setting his sights, perhaps, on even bigger audiences worldwide.
No?
None of them?
Well whose left?

Oh maybe it’s the other one! What’s his name? JULIAN!

With credits like MULTIPLE TIME GRAMMY WINNER adorning almost all of your brothers (and even Ky-Mani was nominated for one and never mention the awards he’s received for his acting work) it’s easy to see how Julian, aka JuJu, might get somewhat lost in the shuffle. He also has the distinction, amongst his musical brothers, of being the only one born across the pond and just has remained, seemingly, on a much lower profile.



BUT! You might not know that Julian, with his coming release, will have just as many solo albums as both Damian and Ziggy (with Ziggy’s own forthcoming release). His previous two albums, Lion In The Morning (1996) and Time & Place (2003) have been largely well received and earned ‘JuJu’ some of the most oddly dedicated of fans. My experience with Julian Marley fans (reminiscent of fans of singer Daweh Congo) is that they will fully and unconditionally proclaim him one of the BEST and thus, most ‘slept on’ and underrated in the game.

Well if you’ve been sleeping on Julian Marley, meet your opportunity to stop. Awake.

His brand new album from Universal Republic. The album, produced by Julian and his brothers Damian and Stephen is set to be released on May 26th and may just prove to be one of the sleepers of the year. The album features combinations with brothers Stephen and Damian as well as a combination with longtime Marleys spar Mr. Cheeks.

Check the KNOCKING first single, herbalist tune Boom Draw.

(The bass on this one is better than you are)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Vault Reviews: Giddimani by Perfect

So, you’re an up and coming Roots Reggae artist in Jamaica and you’re trying to find a way to get your name out to the masses and make yourself stand out from the well crowded pack of your peers. What can you possibly do to make you saying ‘Praise Jah Rastafari’ and ‘Bun dung Babylon’ seem better and more marketable than everyone else saying it? A few things. The first thing you can do is to not say that stuff but under the condition that you’re a Roots Reggae artist, it pretty much comes within the job description. Therefore, what you can do is what people like Sizzla and Lutan Fyah have done and, if you are so SUPREMELY talented (and you probably aren’t) and can lyrically dissect ANYTHING, then your ability will inevitably allow you to come with creative wordplay strong enough which will give you the edge to say the exact same thing, but say it in such a form that has never been said before. Another thing you can do, and something which is easily the most popular form of busting a new artist (even as ridiculous as that may sound), you can get LUCKY. You can make a song, be it incredibly GOOD, or incredibly GIMMICKY and have that tune strike a chord with masses for any variety of reasons and, on the strength of that song, begin to gain acceptance, of course you somewhat may run the risk of becoming a ‘one hit wonder’ of sorts, but in Reggae, ultimately speaking, such things are rare. The third thing you can do is to simply SOUND DIFFERENT. Think about this, how many Roots Reggae artists, in specific, can you think of that have a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT sound from something that you’ve heard before? Who are you listening to these days that is doing something which doesn’t SOUND like it’s derivative of ‘this’ artist or ‘that’ artist. In Dancehall, things are a bit different because the refusal of that subgenre to stay stagnant (or consistent, depending on how you’re looking at it) so you’ll see artists such as Vybz Kartel or Mavado or especially Aidonia who either have styles which exist as completely NEW or styles which exist as marriages of styles of so many other artists (in a completely unrelated sense) to the point where the resulting style is something someone has never heard before. Or, as in the case of both Mavado and Aidonia, simply take something someone else did and exaggerate it to such a degree that, again, what you get is something almost entirely unheard of. But what of Roots Reggae? As much as I’ll champion artists like the aforementioned Sizzla and Lutan Fyah and others like Jah Mason and even someone like Etana. I can’t exactly say that what Sizzla does isn’t similar to what artists like Capleton and Buju Banton did before him, the same thing of Fyah and Mason and while Etana is definitely blazing the trail for female Roots artists, there’s a tangible reason why people were referring to her as ‘the female Luciano’ on her rise to prominence. In terms of STYLE, complete originality is a very rare trait indeed in the spectrum of Roots Reggae music.

But there are some who definitely have it in bits and pieces or in wagonloads. For example, if not the man himself then you who would you say is the father of the style which Midnite front man Vaughn Benjamin displays? The same question could be asked for someone like Chezidek whose ‘style’ may not be so original but you’ll NEVER confuse a Chezidek release with one of another artist, guaranteed. Also, to my ears and yours if they are most discerning, an artist like Natural Black, with the way he very subtly adds PERSONALITY to his music keeps him from being, in my opinion, the Buju Banton clone he was once designated as. So it does exist both in terms of complete style and definitely sound as well (and in terms of strictly sound, we would have to add Jah Cure to that list wouldn’t we? What does that voice sound like!). Now, speaking of a unique sound and, at times, style, think of one former Mr. Perfect. Now dubbed simply as Perfect (a much better name), the chanter has always held somewhat of a special place for me because he comes from the same St. Ann parish that I do (and apparently he still lives there) and not too far from where I’m from either (BIG UP BROWN’S TOWN EVERY TIME!) in a very nice place by the name of Bamboo (where I lived for quite awhile as well). Now that’s the man (Greg Rose), the music, however, is something different. Perfect’s style of chanting is something that can only be described as one of a kind. He ‘chants’ in the very technical sense of the word, but a more appropriate of a description would be to say that he YELLS! Perfect, somewhat like Jah Mason (although less so) can be very MOODY on the microphone, but even if he is feeling at ease if you are at a Perfect show, you aren’t very far away from being yelled at, trust me. This style has worked for him (almost to perfection you might say) as he has acquired a very rare type of standing in Reggae music, one which is typically allocated for artists like Sizzla and Capleton who are much more popular than he is: He is well appreciated both locally and foreign, particularly in Europe and, BELIEVE ME, that is a status, in having audiences on both sides of the pond, which can keep an artist RELEVANT for an indefinite amount of time. Now, in terms of releasing materials, he has had a steady stream of singles since he bust in the business, back in 2003-’04, and he also has three albums to his name, most notably his most recent release from 2008, the ‘concept album’ Born Dead With Life for Austrian based Irie Vibrations. But that wasn’t his first Austrian venture, back in 2006 there was this release, Giddimani, named after his once common call phrase (there was also an album named Rasta Rebel which is very similar to Giddimani, which I believe was little more than a glorified promo) and was released via DHF Records originally (which is the version I‘m reviewing, also from out of Austria). The album was also put into the North American and Caribbean bloodstream via Tad’s (with a DVD) and has since even gone digital on this side of the pond via Perfect’s own Chalice Palace Muzic. This album attracted SO MUCH attention when it was release and was called one of the albums of the year by so many, but was it really that good?

The selling point to this album was that it contained many of the singles on which Perfect built his name and you’ll notice than many of those initial pieces (especially the MAIN one are present; unfortunately so is a lot of other STUFF. But I digress. The ultimately pedestrian string driven Tyme is the song which gets Perfect’s album Giddimani off to a rocky start. Tyme isn’t very impressive in any sense of the word. It isn’t HORRIBLE but there isn’t really a definitive ‘shine’ to it in anyway and for all of Perfect’s DIFFERENT-NESS, sometimes things like this happen and the results are just downright WEIRD and unimpressive. Only slightly better is Market Place which is up next and really ONLY succeeds, in my opinion, because of the fact that is a very well WRITTEN tune, but listening through the ‘muck’ of the delivery in and of itself, definitely requires some work that you’re likely to feel like doing unless you’re a deep Reggae head. Strike two. Things take a much needed turn for the best as a downright CHARMING interlude steps in next and WONDERFULLY sets the stage for the following tune, the album’s finest moment and Perfect’s first BIG single to my memory, the lovely Handcart Bwoy. Just as the interlude does in its brevity, the tune relays a wonderful story of an uptown wealthy girl falling for a mere handcart boy (and a Rastafarian on top of that) in the marketplace selling his things. The song, for me, is every bit as powerful as songs like Isasha’s Don’t You Know and Warriour King’s Virtuous Woman as modern tunes which stand as undeniable lover’s rock CLASSICS. BIG tune and a BIG closer to a very small opening.

THANKFULLY things pick up a bit after the opening to Giddimani. And, besides Handcart Bwoy (and arguably Market Place which did some damage as well) most of the album’s well known tunes come near the middle. Check For Sure, which I don’t think that I’d heard prior to Giddimani’s release. This one definitely has some power, coming in over Down Sound’s Mad Mad riddim (same riddim backed Fantan Mojah’s Corruption). This one shows Perfect’s more aggressive side and does so very nicely and it floated a bit under the radar so definitely check it out here. Simply one of the best tunes you’ll find in Perfect’s entire catalogue, Amerimaka, is up next. This self produced near master class speaks of the difficulty Perfect himself once had in attaining a visa to go to the States so he could do his work. Only wanting to do his shows he states, “Mi nah live Amerimaka. Mi waan do mi wuk and come back yah”. EXCELLENCE Perfect. Excellence. 8 Gangsters is a tune which definitely isn’t one of my favourites but did attract quite a bit of attention as it was a tune about the G8 Summit, the meeting of the leaders of the most powerful country in the world whom Perfect dubbed the 8 Gangsters. For me, the LINE OF THE SONG is definitely, “. . . 8 Gangsters meet without a girl!”. You have a point Perfect. However, I think that should he rewrite this one it may sound different given no longer in charge of the US is ‘the little short boy from Merimaka’ as he puts it. Big tune. Jumping in at tune number nine is probably my second favourite Perfect tune altogether as he uses that crazy style to mine absolute gold on the Marcus Garvey tribute [Talk] Black Marcus. The song arguably gives Fantan Mojah’s EPIC Hail The King a run for its money as the Maroon’s riddim finest showing. Yes, it was that good and it had MELODY which is difficult given Perfect’s style and that one drop nyah drum backed riddim. BEAUTIFUL dedication from Perfect to St. Ann’s most well known citizen. After two very average lover’s tunes Love Has Found A Way (alongside Tony Curtis and the better of the two by far) and Cry Me A River (which is more of a jilted lover’s tune and CORNY AS HELL) the quality on Giddimani registers BIG again with three straight winners. The first, All I’ve Got, is the obligatory herbalist tune for the album. Perfect’s cut of the sugary SWEET Real Life riddim, All I’ve Got is about as impassioned plea on behalf of the herb as you’ll hear this side of Luciano’s Hard Herbs tune as Perfect designs an event of being stopped by an officer and simply (not so simple at all actually) YELLS to the top of his lungs, “MY HERBS IS ALL I’VE GOT!”. Hopefully he has more than just herbs but the tune is large nevertheless. Next is the title track from the aforementioned Rasta Rebel album which definitely took awhile to grow on me but in actuality it’s a very good song and is one of the few (and maybe the only) straight Rastafarian praising tunes on Giddimani and a song which definitely hit well for Perfect, from Irie Vibrations. The last of this small streak of three is certainly the best and simultaneously one of the best on the album altogether, the FIRE BREATHING Nuh Badda Mi. This song will club you over the head and make you like it! Given his style I’d suggest that not even the agitated versions of Sizzla and Jah Mason or even the always agitated Capleton could have sang this one better me as Perfect again yells to the top of his lungs to tell you to LEAVE HIM THE HELL ALONE! The results are downright MAGIC across Pure & Clean’s fittingly titled old school Dancehall tinged Sick riddim. To my opinions, THE Hip-Hop vibed Hit Dem is the last certifiably GOOD song on Giddimani. Following Nuh Badda Mi it definitely does good to keep the intensity going and Perfect evens drowns out the riddim itself. Its good enough to even make up for the (AWFUL) chorus. To my ears amongst the album’s final three pieces. Sersi-T, For Ma Family and Little Old Lady, only the very familiar and pretty delightful For Ma Family really stuck with me to any degree. Sersi-T is a song on which, SHOCKINGLY, I simply have no words for as it is WHOLLY average and Little Old Lady almost falls apart before it gets going and when it does get going it simply goes in far too many directions. Ultimately it goes to make an ending to Giddimani just about as inconsistent and uneven as it’s opening.

Overall, I have to call it overrated. UNFORTUNATELY much like Born Dead With Life which caught on with me quite quickly and fizzled out just as quickly, Giddimani just doesn’t hold up too well to the test of time. I’m not at all calling it a bad album but in order for me to recommend it to ANYONE, that person would have to be such a big fan already of the artist that he/she would probably already have it. With Perfect’s unusual style what I think he has shown is that it works for him under one of two situations: Firstly you put him in the studio and make him go to that level where pretty much only he can go. If you do that you’ll get something intense like Nuh Badda Mi. Or, should you mellow things out and make him actually FIGHT himself sort of to keep calm to effectively ride the riddim, you’ll get something like Handcart Bwoy or Black Marcus or two of his more recent pieces, Son Of Jamaica and 30 Pieces from Born Dead With Life because he will ultimately LOSE to himself and even the bits and pieces where he EXPLODES will be FUN for the track. Ultimately I don’t think that happens on Giddimani and I don’t think its happen on an album in his career at all yet. If/when it does (and he supposedly has a next one coming this year) the results will be much closer to Perfect than on Giddimani.

Rated 3/5 stars
DHF Records
2006