Imagine that there were some type of experiment, going on in some lab somewhere in Kingston, where the goal was to ’simply’ construct a Reggae artist as close to perfect as possible. If you were going to helm such an aspiring project, what qualities might you give this person? What type of look might he have? How would he sound? What type of a figure might he cast? And would he even be a ‘he’ at all? Me? Well, personally the first thing I’d think to do would be to make a Woman before coming to my senses and realizing that She already exists (her name is Etana). The artist I would make would be one who might have a fairly modern, yet traditional look. The type of an individual who non fans of Reggae may not IMMEDIATELY know is a Reggae artist, but when they learn that he is, they’re not all that surprised. He would, likewise, have a sound which might ‘match’ the look as his vibes would clearly be those born post 1990, although he would definitely have an overstanding of the music in its more traditional form and that would often come through in his output. He would be able to chant and sing and also have a noticeable EDGE to him at times and have a skill level which would allow him to enter a studio and deliver effectively over almost any type of riddim. He would also be not too young, but relatively fresh and still close to years which were full of the curious youthful exuberance, which would also come across in his music. Actually, the artist who I think I would ultimately come to create wouldn’t be too different from consistently OUTSTANDING Cruzan chanter Ras Attitude. Attitude (alongside his good friend Batch as well) has been an artist who has so often exemplified what I feel is a STRONG and accurate representation of modern Reggae music. Of course, there are others such as Lutan Fyah and definitely Tarrus Riley these days. However, Fyah has never been the overall artist in terms of singing as Attitude and, by contrast, although Riley does have an edge to him, I think we’re still waiting to see the results of what he might do should he approach a tune and just LOST IT, a little. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say that Ras Attitude would exist as a type of a ‘bridge’ between the two Jamaican stars as his vibes, in my opinion, incorporate a bit of both of them. Ras Attitude is also the type of artist who, at his best, listening to him makes him sound better. His music tends to come with a very MATURE vibes is what I mean to say and because that, although he may not be as IMMEDIATE as some of his peers, there’s a fairly good chance that some of (and perhaps even quite a bit) his music may not grow to be as appreciated as it should be for several years. Trust me I Know.
So, with such lofty accolades laid upon him fans should be able to ‘ask for’ and expect a bit more in terms of the quality of Ras Attitude’s music shouldn’t we? And I’m not asking for the second coming of ‘Til Shiloh or Black Woman & Child, but wanting him to deliver GOOD and sometimes GREAT material consistently and regularly isn’t asking too much in my opinion. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to be too much in Attitude’s opinion either as after five studio albums (not including this release) to his credit, Ras Attitude has showcased himself to be simply one of the ‘best’ artists on the scene. In reviewing his work, I’ve used terms like ‘the potential next big thing’, ‘royal (musically speaking, of course)’, and ‘simply brilliant’ and he’s shown himself (again, musically speaking) to be all of those things at times, but something still seems to be missing doesn’t it? It isn’t the attention from a wider audience who may not have been exposed to Ras Attitude’s music, nor is it the same lack of exposure and in my opinion respect for the DOMINANT and IMPORTANT musical genre of Roots Reggae in which he participates. What I think has been missing from Ras Attitude’s career (especially considering the way he makes music in terms of how it is released to the general public, as he doesn’t seem to focus so much on singles, like his Jamaican peers) is that one BIG album that separates him from ‘himself’ to a degree. Wonderfully, however, he’s gotten very close and done so almost sequentially more and more in his releases. Save from the very first time anyone might’ve heard of the chanter/singer which was on his debut album, 2001’s Happiness which found him in a full on developmental stage, Ras Attitude’s albums, Love Life, Holding Firm, Royal Lionage and Trodding Home have been almost increasingly MASSIVE, in retrospect. Thus, his next album, whatever it may be, has to be looked upon and anticipated as potentially not only his best, but one of that given year’s best also. Meet I-Meditation! The three weeks or so between finding out that I-Meditation actually existed and getting my hands on it has been interesting to say the least as hearing bits and clips from it, I simply HAD TO HAVE IT. I-Meditation is borderline SPECTACULAR! I knew it before I even ripped off the plastic covering (violently) and sifted through the wonderfully presented project: I was dealing with something SERIOUS. I-Meditation comes via the California based Universal Balance Entertainment, which I only know because they also released chanter Ishi Dube’s solid recent album, Lion Camp. Dube, incidentally, is apparently a player in UBE and he, rather surprisingly, takes an Executive Producer’s credit, as well as a technical Producer’s credit as well (and that’s well surprising to me as someone who just heard Ishi Dube’s name within the last year or so for the very first time). Listening to the results of Dube’s and Ras Attitude’s combination on I-Mediation, however, I can’t help but wonder now, what may have taken them so long to do such a thing as the chemistry the two have is COMPLETELY obvious from the very first tune, throughout. The only question now is how quickly we can get it again as I hold very little in the way of conditions when I say that I-Meditation is the BEST Ras Attitude album I’ve ever heard.
I can tell you right now that if you have never heard a Ras Attitude tune and you’re thinking about picking up an album, I Meditation is the one for you as it introduces the listener to a WIDE variety of the talents he possesses. Introducing the same listener to Ras Attitude’s sixth studio album (by my count) is a very interesting brief intro with the cleverly titled ‘Brass Attitude‘. I’ll leave the lion’s share of it (all fifty-six second of it) to your ears, but the piece is a bit of a spoken word style which gets I-Meditation off to a FLYING start. It reaches new altitudes, however, with the next tune, the IMMACULATE ‘Disya Time’ which is ABSOLUTELY FLAWLESS. The tune is my choice as the best tune on I-Meditation altogether because it brings both heavy knowledge and such a SWEET vibes at the same time. The tune speaks of going through very difficult times and what is necessary to make it through such situations and, again, the song sounds LOVELY! I LOVE this song. Charged with keeping those vibes high (and succeeding) is the moving and similarly vibed ‘Ease the Pain’. This tune also ranks very high as one of the best on the album (get used to me saying that) and, as I alluded to, it follows Disya Time rather nice as it also speaks about the pains and the ills of the world and the people facing them and what we all need to do to COPE and ultimately overcome. I also get the feeling that Attitude was speaking about internal pain as well as the pain of the world which is a nice vibes and helps make the tune a real winner. And then, as if wanting to change the mood up a bit, there’s the oft-hilarious ‘Mi Woulda Vex’ which co-stars producer Ishi Dube alongside Ras Attitude. Dube takes center stage with Attitude on the tune (ESPECIALLY ON HIS FIRST VERSE), but both are in a good form and the vibes are on point and make sense, but they’re definitely done with a bit of humour which, at least in my opinion, make it sounds even better (and you have to hear what Ishi Dube says about Barrington Levy). All in all, a big opening here and I’m wondering what’s next.
Next for I-Meditation are combinations. Outside of Dube, there are a few other high profile combinations on I-Meditation as well. The first (and arguably highest profile) is ‘Whip Dem’ alongside the incomparable Everton Blender. Attitude (‘appropriately’ so in my opinion) uses the tune to give the first dosage of EDGE to his vibes and he sounds VERY STRONG alongside the Blender who is at his usual brilliance to my ears as he call upon His Majesty to punish the corrupt people and forces of the world. Jah Sun is the second of three artists ‘repaying’ the guesting favour (Attitude appears on the aforementioned Lion Camp release from Ishi Dube on a nice tune by the name of Taking Over) to Attitude as he and Lutan Fyah gave Jah Sun the best thing I’ve ever heard from him in the form of the WICKED ‘No Bonez, No Blood’ tune from his Height Of Light album. He appears on the SWEETLY vibed ‘Why’ which sounds so nice and if I weren’t very high on Jah Sun beforehand, I might need to go back and re-listen to a few things as his additions here are quite nice (and I love the vibes on this song. Norris Man does the same (Attitude was on ‘We Try’ from Norris’ Know the Road album) on the tune ‘Great God’ which is downright EPIC! The song is a praising vibes to His Majesty and it absolutely HUMBLES the listener as one of the best tunes on the album. The seemingly inescapable Jah Dan guests on an arguably even stronger tune, ‘Sing A Song’, which has ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL Afrikan vibes thrown into to the mix to create a POWERHOUSE of a tune. The song speaks of social and cultural issues and situations and how MUSIC and songs can help you cope with them. At the end of Sing A Song, I was singing a song and so will you, as the tune is simply divine and one of the finest you’ll deal with on I-Meditation (TEARS!). Youts Dem is a tune which features the previously unknown (at least to me) Ibednigo. The tune has a bit of Hip-Hop influence to my ears, which isn’t a bad thing and the HEAVY vibed Ibednigo also adds a bit of a different sound to the tune and, by extension, the album as a whole. And the last combination features the very recently very popular Winstrong, from out of Suriname, on ‘Herbs Over Silver which is definitely one of the best combinations and tunes altogether. The tune urges all to put life into a real perspective and take a look at things which can actually HELP and not the more material and ultimately less worthy matters on a BIG tune. And that’s just the combinations! Back on his own, Ras Attitude continues the BIG vibes. ‘More Love To Grow’ (which fittingly took a minute to GROW on me) has a very nice and serene vibes which honestly caught me off guard a bit I suppose. It kind of goes on (and I literally played through it about seven times or so-) before you realize that it’s a VERY NICE song and I love the delivery in there also. The thing, however, about More Love To Grow is that you’re REALLY going to have to dig into that song to get the message from it because the vibes themselves will undoubtedly distract you for awhile. Mary Jane! What can I say of ‘Mary Jane‘??? If you listen to it as the title might suggest you should, then you’ll be OK. HOWEVER, if you’re distracted at all by the sound of it (and the lyrics at times), then you might not rate the song very highly at all, despite the fact that it’s EASILY one of the best songs on I-Meditation altogether (and I laughed several times when it all finally made sense). The inspirational ‘So It Go’ is another nice one with a very LUSH and old school approach which really caught me and did so in short order. To my ears, So It Go indirectly continues on the message began on Disya Time and Ease The Pain and it expands it by subsequently DIRECTLY making the point that reliance on His Imperial Majesty is the way out of the pain and struggles of life. The sound there is in nearly stark contrast to the BOUNCE generated by the tune which follows So It Go, ‘Gway’. The addictive Gway is just a tune where Ras Attitude basically says, ‘if you aren’t trying to do anything positive then stay the hell away from me!’ Indeed Ras Attitude (also it includes the unforgettable line, “. . . stop fighty-fighty and gwan look a wife). The tune ‘You’ is the lovers tune (which surprisingly doesn’t happen in the first fifteen tunes on I-Meditation) for the album and that’s a style where Attitude does quite well here as the song proves to be very nice and, again, it’s musically entertaining as well as poignant and just all around STRONG. Closing the album is (DUH) another one of my favourites and if you don’t like this song then something’s wrong (seek help)! ‘Where Would You Be’ comes with a gospel style and it takes a minute to really get going, but there is a point in the middle to latter stages of the tune where you feel like getting up and yelling AMEN! Where would we be without Jah is the question of the song and the answer of the tune and it’s posed in such a HUGE form that you have to think about it. And love this song as a closer to this wonderful album just the same.
Overall, Ras Attitude has had some very fine album releases in his career, but I’m full prepared to call I-Meditation the best of his bunch here. The album does everything you would hope one of his albums to do at this point in terms of bringing together not only a very strong collection of tunes, but also showing Attitude’s varied style to its absolute best. I also love the production (biggup Ishi Dube) as well as the way in which it is put together. The album has a very nice packaging and comes complete with a poster of Ras Attitude (which looks like it’s taken from a screenshot from his Trodding Home video), the flipside of which contains lyrics to all sixteen vocal tracks (excluding the intro, of course). I-Meditation is OUTSTANDING and to say that is above albums like Royal Lionage and Holding Firm and Trodding Home (which is exactly what I’m saying) is a big deal. Ras Attitude, ‘The Prototype’, shows himself AGAIN to be in a very elite class of the most talented names in the business on the album and I still think he can do just a hair better. If he does someday then maybe asking for the likes of Black Woman & Child or ‘Til Shiloh won’t be out of the question. VERY WELL DONE.
Universal Balance Entertainment/Universal Balance Productions
Ras Attitude Website [To Purchase Album]