This one, I’ve been waiting for. You know I can sit here and write review for riddim album, after riddim album (and thankfully due to the advent of the digital era, I’m afforded that opportunity as they are delivered on an almost daily basis at this point once again), but there are certain things which REALLY can catch my attention. And as such project tend to come both ‘under’ and ‘over’ ground in terms of exactly how much I’ve actually experienced them at the point when I get them, STILL, there are thankfully a few which can go above and beyond to get my attention. First of all, of course, a riddim album is, essentially, an album for a particular producer or label. It is their time to showoff like the vocal artists and, particularly in their case, from a financial point of view, it’s ALL on them. So, definitely one way you can grab my attention is by being one of my favourite producers or labels who has a new riddim, even if I haven’t heard it previously (which just ain‘t happening these days, seriously) [check]. Of course the riddim itself has to be on point as well. You can have the first criteria met, but honestly and you can answer it for yourself, haven’t you been disappointed by one of your favourite producers riddims AT LEAST on one occasion. If you listen to quite a bit of music, that probably made you laugh as you know such an occurrence probably happens to you, like me, a few times a year. But again, should a producer or label, regardless of their standing or lack thereof, push a vibes which is truly HUGE, you’ll catch my ears as evident by the fact of just how many random and remote producers have gotten my attention over the years and continue to receive it, insofar as they remain active to a degree [double check]. Then of course, there’s the star power you bring. I remember just a couple of years ago (and although the circumstances of LONGEVITY don’t tend to be very good in this situation, it’s very common, especially in the Dancehall) when I first heard the name Elly Ess as a producer for the label Rock Star Entertainment, via the poorly titled Gangsta Gangsta riddim. That riddim featured artists like Badda Flex, Mr. Easy and Bling Dawg, just artists I don’t rate too highly, but ALSO there was SIZZLA, VYBZ KARTEL, AIDONIA and MUNGA and I just can’t ignore stuff like that. It’s impossible (and Rock Star is still up and running to this day and still solid). And of course it doesn’t have to be the biggest names in the business, but just names who, at least ostensibly, would have styles and SKILLS which would seem to match up well with your type of vibes. You pull that off; you’ve got me [check]. Now you take all of that into consideration and think about how often something like that happens for you. For me, generally these days it only happens with either Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor’s releases or Shane Brown’s. Well, the rather brutish Lustre Kings have just forcefully added their names to that short list with the Proverbs.
There’s the condition of being one of my favourite producers/labels and definitely the US based Lustre Kings Productions certainly has that. They ‘qualified’ about eight years ago and considering the matter in which they did - coming basically from out of ‘nowhere’ at the time - they can kind of qualify on that entire premise as a WHOLE (even considering as assuredly convoluted as my explanation was). Then there’s whatever I said next . . . Oh yeah! The riddim itself? Well I’ll get into this more in a second, but definitely, almost as a byproduct of the first criteria, generally what you’ll find from LKP is top notch material and this one is certainly no different and may very well be one of their finest which is saying a great deal. And there’re also the big names. Well, as I alluded to “big names” isn’t always a matter of popularity. Arguably even more so in my opinion is it a result of having SKILLED artists who can match themselves to what you’re doing and certainly with this project LKP has carried that out VERY well and have, in fact, gone above and beyond in my opinion as they pretty much always do with their releases (although in a very special way in this case). AND, were that not enough, I’ll also add to that bunch that I have REALLY been looking forward to this release, so in terms of meeting my criterion, LKP has done that and then some. All of this has been done, to the extreme, with their latest release, the Proverbs Riddim album which has been on my radars for several months literally and about a year. This thing is BEAUTIFUL! It’s a lovely riddim and it was ‘helmed’ by a tune which has definitely become a personal favourite of mine (and just ‘personal’ in general) across the year. Take that and combine it with the fact that joining said personal favourite is a whole heap of artists who have already and who are potentially capable of delivering similarly respected tunes for me and by its end The Proverbs Riddim is dealing in some very select company.
You look up and down that roster of artists just like I did and you simply cannot help but be impressed with who Lustre Kings Productions has linked to voice this horn paced, sublime composition and at times I just found myself thinking they had even gone TOO FAR, particularly at two points. That being said, the Proverbs Riddim album gets started in VERY familiar territory in the personal selection I was mentioning earlier ‘She Ask Me Say’ from this blog’s apparent champion, Messenjah Selah. For me this is the finest tune on the riddim, it makes a point and strikes of a vibe that is SO familiar to me, I’ve been through it, almost point on in retrospect and I can’t remember too many (if any at all) similarly vibed tunes. So that’s the winner, I LOVE that song, it is slowly becoming one of my favourites of all time. Within more terrestrial compliments is the next tune, ‘Same Hands’ by the overlooked Chrisinti (although barley). I grow more fond of the song each and every time I hear it definitely, not the least in cause of that is the singer’s DEVASTATING and original voice which pushes that unifying vibed to an even higher level in his hands than in those of most of his more popular peers (“same hands, build my life build yours”), evident by one of the album‘s best. Both of the first two songs were available (at least) on Culture Dem 3, LKP’s release from a few months back, the first piece here which I don’t recall having heard before was by the ubiquitous Jahdan Blakkamoore who unsurprisingly gives the riddim its title track. The tune is yet another powerful statement (and one which comes with a nice bit of free-flowing action to my ears) as to why you’re just going to be DUMB pretty soon if you’re not listening Jahdan and I definitely expect it to be one of the highlights form the chanter’s forthcoming LKP album in the new year. Jahdan hands things off to the capable hands of Pressure Busspipe whose ‘Fire Keep Blazin' ISN’T one of his finer efforts in my opinion. It’s also a tune whose nearly outstanding chorus threatens to overwhelm the balance of the tune. Still, slightly above average (two or three steps) Pressure is better than probably 80-85% of his peers at this point and his tune steadily continues to grow on me despite not having the most targeted lyrical intention in my opinion. The riddim’s only combination comes in the form of the inspiring ‘We Try’ from Norris Man and Ras Attitude, which besides being a standout here, served a similar role on Norris Man’s LKP album Know The Road from late last year (big lyric from Attitude: “Beverly Hills no comparison to the garrison. Mr. Belvedere no live inna the ghetto!”). Next we get, nearly in succession , three of the better efforts from CD3 from the likes of Khari Kill, Lutan Fyah and Chezidek - with ’Levitate’, ’Slow To Anger’ and ’Right Time’, respectively. Of the three, currently I’m tuned in on the MASSIVE ‘Levitate’ from Khari Kill which, given the Trini chanter’s delightful ‘rough around the edges’ approach, gets stronger and stronger each time I hear it and it wasn’t starting very far back either. It’s definitely one of the biggest tunes here. And speaking of getting stronger, there’s the one of a kind Perfect who comes in with ‘Got To Survive’, a tune which I just thought was BAD initially, but now . . . I’m not so sure. It’s definitely not one of his better efforts, but not necessarily bad. The smooth voiced Mark Wonder brings his ‘Sad Story’ (which I think was voiced on two different riddims actually) and it’s so nice. Wonder’s presence just lifts things up for me, it’s always been the case with that voice and sad story is FAR from sad actually. And in this same lot, I’ll also push NiyoRah who I was a bit surprised to see for some reason on the Proverbs, but he’s here representing well as usual (but that chorus got annoying after awhile, I do have to say). And lastly there’s (a hilarious segue here, which I’m not going to make, but you KNOW I want to) Al Pancho who offers ‘Anything You Want’, one of the finer tunes from Joy Bells Ringing, his own LKP album from last year.
NOW! I don’t know how many the Proverbs Riddim album’s tunes I’ve covered there (twelve actually if my math is correct) (probably isn’t), but those ^ are all tunes from artist who I very much consider ‘on the radar’ of most Reggae heads. The remaining ten vocal tracks are from artists who most likely are not to any perceptible degree; mine as well, in some cases. First of all, there’re artists like Rankin Scroo and Luv Fyah who’re most certainly familiar and popular in the same Californian circles as Lustre Kings Productions, so their actual presence on the Proverbs isn’t surprising at all (and if I recall correctly, Scroo was actually on CD2 and neither is the fact that their efforts, ‘Jah Pick Me Up’ and ‘Eastern Journey’ are very impressive. Particularly so is the latter which comes through in a repatriation, but the lyrics on that one are so not straight forward and you definitely need to pay attention to what’s being said by the other Lu. Fyah (“me trodding upon my eastern journey. Me haffi lef the western hemisphere cause they don’t love me”). And maybe I should also add to this group the always delightful Danny I who makes his LKP debut to my knowledge, but certainly his presence, like Niyo’s, is no real surprise. Danny’s tune the sublime antiviolence ‘On The Streets Again’ is HUGE. He has a way of singing (like Army), which can just make you take notice of what he’s saying because there’s this underlying ’quiet sternness’ to what he says which pushes the vibes just a bit deeper than even some of his more vocally diverse peers on the surface alone. And lastly on that note, is Prince Imani, who also voiced a tune for CD3. He follows Danny’s lead in terms of vibes to a degree with his ‘Inna Di Ghetto’. The tune isn’t really anything special and it’s a bit stereotypical to a degree, but Imani is an artist who has a ‘flare’ to his style which literally makes a bad tune (not saying this one is) listenable. There are also two artists, a Nyjah and Satta (who I’m pretty sure is a woman) who I have just NEVER heard of and that’s a good thing. Nyjah’s sufferer’s anthem ‘Poor Man Feel It’ is a BIG tune and to me he has a straight chanting style which sounds like Ras Attitude’s to a degree (minus the absolutely wonderful singing, of course) and I’ll look back at this tune and this riddim when (not ‘if‘, WHEN) I hear a next effort from him, because this tune is very impressive. Satta, for her part, pushes ‘Show You Any Love’ and although it isn’t as strong as ‘Poor Man Feel It’, it’s also a tune which will put her on my radars as a name to remember for the future, particularly should she be afforded future links with LKP (she has a very interesting ‘talking’ style to her, it almost sounds like a straight rapper, Hip-Hop style, to a degree).
Okay and if I’ve done this correctly (not likely), that leaves me with the four artists (three Trini’s I believe) who I was legitimately SURPRISED to see voice Proverbs Riddim for LKP. The first is definitely one of the most shocking and his mere presence creates a ‘changeup’ for the riddim, the generally brilliant Takana Zion who brings ’Selassie I’ to the riddim (HE was already there). Zion’s tune, like most of his work, is SERIOUS and in total of ALL AROUND skills on the album, he just may be the most talented altogether his tune here for His Imperial Majesty is a prime example (still not too high on his last album though). There’s also BENJAI (yep that Benjai), who apparently sobered up enough to contemplate ’Where’s The Love’. While certainly we’re getting on to Benjai’s time of the year, a predominately Soca artist like himself would have been one of the last types I would have expected to hear on an LKP project and his tune isn’t one of the best here honestly, but I have no problem with something like that, an artist COMPLETELY out of the ordinary and who knows maybe Benjai will become more active in Reggae circles, far removed from the crazy comfort of Carnival (he certainly has the talent for it. There’s also Dainjamental, taking a break from releasing really bad Dancehall albums, who brings the inspirational ‘Lead The Way’, which is DEFINITELY the best thing I’ve heard from him in quite awhile and I’m STILL pondering whether or not there’re actually TWO chanting Dainjamentals from Trinidad (there simply has to be). And LASTLY, is the conductor of what is my choice as the Proverb’s second best tune, the increasingly DIVINE Empress Cherisse. Her tune, the moving ‘Your Heart Is Burst’, is EXCELLENT! Seriously, each time I hear this Queen I get a bigger appreciation for her music and from a lyrical standpoint, ‘Burst’ is probably the best I’ve heard thus far from her, as she admonishes the cruel and cold hearted members of society for years and centuries of abusing the world and I DEFINITELY hope that 2010 is a huge one for both Empress Cherisse and LKP. And speaking of LKP, the album ends with a LOVELY clean rendition of this powerful riddim courtesy of Lustre Kings Productions & Nick Fantastic.
Overall, I hope I conveyed just how STERLING this project is. I don’t want to oversell or exaggerate its quality (and I don’t think I did anyway), but The Proverbs Riddim album is definitely one of the biggest of 2009 and you could very well make the case that it is THE biggest of 2009 also. What I’m taking away from in a musical sense is that (even though not all of the tunes fit this standard) there are quite a few artists who seemingly just felt compelled (for one reason or another), to turn in some of their better efforts for the riddim and hopefully that will continue to happen for them also into the new year. So, if you go wayyyy back to the beginning and check our checklist of criteria for a potentially big riddim album and see that they were matched and overmatched in some cases. The final condition is, of course, that the actual album materialize and be STRONG. Double check in those cases as well. Mission accomplished, very well done.
Lustre Kings Productions