Ital Jockey & 12 Furlong Riddims [Sankofa Productions/Zojak Worldwide]
First up is definitely one of the most interesting pieces as the nice upstart Sankofa Productions delivers what I believe is their first official release, a small combination of their Ital Jockey and 12 Furlong Riddims. The former is a somewhat somber, but beautifully vibed one-drop riddim, while the latter is a semi-explosive Dancehall which is damn addictive and definitely one of the finest new-age Dancehall riddims I’ve heard in 2009. Voicing both are a pretty solid selection of artists which you know almost IMMEDIATELY when the range of names goes from Jah Cure, all the way to D’Angel. This one, although definitely brief, is a very nice piece and because of the fact that it’s well on the digital side, you can feel free to pick and choose (although all of the tunes are pretty good in my opinion, even Charlie Blacks’) and definitely enjoy!
Best Tune: Perfect Lover by Perfect [Ital Jockey]; Mi Woman A Call Mi by Beenie Man [12 Furlong]
Franz Job - Babylon is Dead [Bacchanalism]
Okay this one is a little strange because I’m kind of conflicted, so conflicted that I may actually end up doing a review of it. Franz Job is a name that I’ve heard before, largely because as far as I know he is the only significant (or even semi-significant) Reggae artists from out of the little ‘t’ in TNT, Tobago (biggup Shurwayne Winchester sameway). First the good news: This stuff sounds so nice! The music and even the lyrics for the most part is very well done and Job himself sounds quite a bit like Wyclef Jean at times and as a semi-fan of the Haitian star’s, that’s definitely a good thing for me and with this really nice and easy vibes, MAN I was just impressed! However, the bad comes in the title. The man reason why I (and my Brother-in-law) (biggup Bredz) decided to pick it up was because of the title and the interesting intellectual question that it posed as Franz Job is secure enough to declare oppressive society a thing of the past. I was SO looking forward to writing about that, BUT of course it’s an Obama song! Job goes as far as to declare “Barack Obama is the God on earth, thank you Lord cause I know what life’s worth”. Which is. . . Yeah, but I did feel a little bamboozled to get into yet another Obama piece (and it’s not the first time on the album), as opposed to some massive and mind bending revelation. Still more vexing. however, is that the tune GOOD as are most of the efforts here and several come with their very own ‘built-in’ Dubs (which is why you’ll see that seven of the twelve tracks are nearly eight minutes or over (one is even almost nine minutes), again, luckily most of them are very well done.
Best Tune: Country (at least for now, still working on this one)
VI Reggae Gold Vol. 2 [Carrion Entertainment]
This is another one that I’m kind of conflicted about, in this case, however, because I’m not very fond of it, although I definitely see it as somewhat significant. VI Reggae Gold Vol. 2 follows the first installment (DUH), from a series which I feel could be very important if it ever got itself really focused, from Carrion Entertainment (which I’m pretty sure is what remains of the label Carrion Brookes, which was best known for having released Ras Batch’s very nice album from 2005 Jah Guidance), because it deals mainly with up and coming and unknown artists from out of the VI. This edition is littered with mediocre up tempo efforts, so it didn’t really resonate with me outside of a few pieces like Ambush’s ‘No Apology’ and ‘Hold Me Down’ from the lovely Jahdesta (A SERIOUS CUTIE!), as well as a blast from the past.
Best Tune: Healing by Batch
The Native Riddim EP [Zee Squad Records/Zojak Worldwide]
If ever ANYONE can make Anthony Cruz sound good to me, consider me a fan for life (that's a lie). What that says for the Zee Squad (from out of ST. ANN’Z!) who offers in ‘Foolish Heart’ the single best tune I have EVER heard from one of my least favourite artists of all time on their Native Riddim, I’m not quite sure, but certainly they’ve won me over here. ‘Foolish Heart’ is DIVINE and thankfully Cruz isn’t going at things alone on this EP (because I may have never heard the tune if he was), he’s joined by the decent Mr. Chumps on ‘Hunting’, a slightly over animated Teflon with ‘Mama Mama’ and of course, the inescapable Lutan Fyah, who comes through with the typically brilliant ’Walls’. The riddim itself is a lovely CRYSTAL CLEAR Roots piece which definitely should be heard (and wouldn’t it had been so nice if the squad had added a clean version of the piece???).
Best Tune: Foolish Heart by Anthony Cruz
Hopeful Riddim [Brighta Days Music]
This thing is GORGEOUS! Add another mighty fine Frenchie label to the pack as Brighta Days Music delivers the OUTSTANDING ‘Hopeful Riddim’ and brings it to album form with some mighty strong names in tow. The Hopeful itself is this colourful and vibrant, but HEAVY vibes with a kind of a stringy sounding vibes highlighting that ROLLING sound and it serves as a lovely background to the likes of Norris Man, Jah Mali, Jah Mason, riddim topper Turbulence and even Zareb. Also on board is French artist Brahim and apparently the same Blackmann who commented on this very blog over and over again back in the day (and a clean version of the Hopeful also). Still, definitely check this one out, one of the most complete riddims of the year and you may’ve never heard it otherwise. BIG material.
Best Tune: Neva Knew by Turbulence [MADNESS]
Hezron [Tad’s Records/Zojak Worldwide]
And lastly and briefly, one of Reggae’s most outstanding new talents brings forth two of his strongest pieces to date, the hit ‘So In Love’ and ‘We Shall Find A Way’. Both of the tunes are lovely as is everything I’ve heard from him to date, but even more important, keep an eye on Hezron as HUGE things in his future are certain.
[And on a side note: You cannot tell me this man doesn’t look like Darius Rucker from Hootie & The Blowfish with a dread]