Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Modern Classics Vol. XVI: Rising by Turbulence

Turbulence - Rising [VP Records, 2001]

Do you remember when Turbulence was GOOD??? I mean like good ALL THE TIME??? It seems like ages ago at this point that a career which is now marred by spells consistent inconsistencies was once launched with so much promise and potential that saw many fans and critics were hailing the exceedingly talented youth as the heir apparent to the underground hardcore Roots/Dancehall genre led by his former label mate, Sizzla Kalonji. Turbulence had everything one might think necessary to succeed as if it wasn’t his own talents (and “it” most certainly was), he was also being guided by the legendary Phillip ’Fattis’ Burrell of the equally legendary Xterminator Productions label, who had done the same for the aforementioned Sizzla as well as Luciano, Mikey General, Prince Malachi and others by that point and had helped with even more. It is his state now, which certainly isn’t what I had hoped for in terms of quality (quite popular still), which is in my opinion, one of the great misfortunes in Reggae music over the last decade or so. Turbulence could have been a bonafide SUPERSTAR in my opinion. Still, going backwards, it’s always a wonderful thing to relive just how things began an even though they actually began with a self debut in 2000, young Sheldon Campbell [bka Turbulence] didn’t REALLY put everything together on a great scale until VP Records came calling the following year, obviously seeing the same potential that I described (they subsequently came calling four more times and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did again at some point). In doing so what they would receive would be an album which still LEGITIMATELY (even though I’ll cling to Join Us common sense must prevail) reigns as his greatest masterpiece today of a catalogue which may be over twenty studio albums by this point. Rising.

The Music

1. Give Her Weh She Want

The first two tunes of Rising, in my opinion, were very instrumental in determining the overall direction of the album and definitely ‘Give Her Weh She Want’ plays a big hand in that. No, the tune isn’t one telling men to (do what I do) and give your woman everything under the sun that you can (usually) afford, but what it’s doing actually is saying that ‘she’ doesn’t want that damn much and you should at least be able to provide it. It’s kind of a love song, but definitely a two and maybe even three tiered such tune and if you just keep at ‘love song’, you’ll miss something beautiful (and not just on this tune).

Best Lyric: “Say she want the Natty, she no want another. If you a vampire, she go tell you say no bodda. She want the lovin good enough. She want it propa. She no want to chatta, DEM A WASTE MATTA” [DAMN!]

2. Make Sure She Clean

Hands down the best introduction on the tune with that mystical sound aura vibe at the head end of it is ‘Make Sure She Clean’. Again, don’t be fooled into thinking that this one is just a straight forward love song (from any direction) or just one which speaks to EITHER hygiene or ‘purity’ in the biblical sense, alone. This one is speaking to both the woman AND man to not only make sure that YOU are clean in the more terrestrial senses and the spiritual senses, but that your actions are clean and that you are well taken care of and if you are a MAN, that you are providing for your woman to be such.

Best Lyric: “The way you ah say yes ah if a righteousness. You ah nah breeze that’s why you nah blow”

3. Player Haters

‘Player Haters’, is very similar in several ways to the tune which follows it in terms of the message (this one being more specific to my opinion), but this one is all kinds of dynamic and just HYPE! And if you listen VERY closely you’ll hear the immortal baseline of the immortal Bam Bam riddim in there somewhere too which Turbulence taps to deliver this SCATHING piece which calls down brimstone and fire (literally), but not in the stereotypical and lame way, which was so (over)prevalent at the time.

Best Lyric: “Bun di player haters, informers and di traitors. Bun di babylon, di murderers and all di rapers. Bun di hypocrite and crush dem like some used papers” [DAMN!]

4. Friends Like These

I’m kind of (and have been since I’ve been (over) analyzing music like I do these days) stuck with this one because I don’t actually know, like in the case of another tune on the album (#8) if ‘Friends Like These) is based on personal experience or if it’s more of Turbulence trying to make a general point of telling the masses to be careful with whom they associate. Even though he says he’s “speaking from experience”, I do kind of wish he would have gone into detail (not to make the tune better, just because I’m nosy as hell). Because unless it’s the type of tune which consists SOLELY on clichés, and it isn’t, it doesn’t seem like something you’d just up and write all of a sudden. Brilliance reigns still.

Best Lyric: “With friends like these, who needs enemies? I’d rather trod alone because I know that is the best for me” &
“Say dem a yuh friend, but dem a wolf inna sheep clothes, Rastafari no trust none of dem”

5. Just Can’t Stop

This high intensity selection, like every tune on this album, came with a significant BITE on the lyrical end and in this case, it also had a CRAZY delivery. ‘Just Can’t Stop’, for me, has always sounded as if it had a bit of free-flowing nature to it as Turbulence taps DEEPLY into his skill as a straight forward Dancehall DJ, which is even more disturbing in retrospect when you think about just how GREAT the man was at his absolute best. DAMN!

Best Lyric: “We know it HARD. It TUFF. It RUGGED. It ROUGH. But in His Imperial always woulda trust”

6. I Don’t Know featuring Lion

Who remembers Lion [aka Roaring Lion]??? The VANISHED member of Xterminator (who actually released two albums of his own, the second of which, whatever it was called, was pretty good and probably isn’t very hard to find) guests on the first of two official combinations on Rising and, as usual, he definitely makes a strong impression. Here, Turbulence shows off the vocals by playing pretty much straight forward singing vocalist for the balance of the tune. The tune itself also carried a WONDERFUL message that, despite the fact that as human beings we may not know what is in store, His Imperial Majesty most certainly does.

Best Lyric: “I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I don’t know what the future holds. All I know that JAH IS THE KING. And all I know, HE alone can save your soul” &
“Even if you kick up like the raging storm, you could never do Rasta people no harm”

7. Facts Of Life

This one hasn’t had the kind of impact that I thought it may have upon first listen, but perhaps that’s because the “first listen” is pretty damn useless on this very subtly DEEP tune. Ostensibly, it may come off as a tune where the title is chosen, seemingly at random, and then built upon, but this one goes in reverse actually and pretty much EVERY WORD is crafted to support this idea of the existence of these non-changing FACTS or PILLARS of life. Brilliant!

Best Lyric: “It’s a fact. No matter how you fight the marijuana, man nah stop from till the soil. It’s a fact. I’m here in the western hemisphere, but mi waan go back ah di River Nile”

8. Mamma Is Here

The Dancehall-ish vibes of ‘Mamma Is Here’ have probably become Turbulence’s own favourite tune on the album and if you catch him performing somewhere, almost a decade later you can he might just STILL be playing through this one. It was justly so also. Apparently the tune is also quite a personal one for the artist (I believe there was a similarly written one on the Nah Sell Out album) and whoever and wherever Turbulence’s [aka Sheldon Campbell] biological father is, this one rightly so had to make the man feel LOW (although apparently he doesn’t care).

Best Lyric: “Mamma is there and papa disappear. She alone him lef fi face the problems out there. Mamma is there and papa disappear. He shows no remorse, because he doesn’t care”

9. Rising featuring L.M.S.

Upon further reflection and examination, the title track to Rising was MAMMOTH! Besides the obvious link with Fattis seemingly taking his two young potential superstar acts, Turbulence and the younger group of the Morgan Heritage clan, L.M.S., and pairing them up as LITERALLY being on the rise. This tune is also a big inspiration for the younger people of the world perhaps above ALL other tunes on the album which seemed to have floated beneath the radar, THIS tune probably could have done much damage. If only it got the opportunity.

Best Lyric: “We moving forward, never backward. We holding firm and holding strong. We standing up tall, we pray not to fall. We the youths are rising”

10. Life Goes On

Go and listen this BIG tune and tell me if you don’t hear the same kind of ‘stopping’ sound (and very random) in the riddim. I just want you to do that. Besides that, ‘Life Goes On’, carries one of the soundest and most complete messages on the whole of the album to my ears. It’s just a VERY well done piece and pretty laid back, although again, that damn STOP in the background kind of changes things, at least to my opinion. Never matter, big tune still (despite its insanely long chorus).

Best Lyric: “Though we may see corruption, even more we see righteousness - Life goes on”

11. Love Can Make A Difference

This downright spectacular and HEAVENLY sounding tune has definitely become one of the biggest and signature tunes from the Rising album for me personally, as I’m sure it has for many people. The message certainly had something to do with that as well, as although it comes in quite broad and without very much detail, what detail there is, is to be found in said “broad” appeal as Turbulence lyrically casts a net of LOVE hoping to cleanse and help all which he ‘catches’ (okay, that was corny and lame, but true).

Best Lyric: The entire first verse. Mad!

12. Just So Life Stay

This one is perhaps best distinguished by the fact that it’s probably more aggressively vibed than you might think considering the title and the tune which comes before it, but that certainly doesn’t take away from its overall power. ‘Just So Life Stay’ may just be one of the best and MOST MEANINGFUL tunes on the album altogether as it deals with quite a few different topics, with the prevailing one being determination and MAINTENANCE of life.

Best Lyric: “We work everyday yet, hunger a bodda wi. If we get pay, we wouldn’t call that a salary. Oh what a pain. Oh what a agony. But we just caan lose we sanity”

13. True Love

For what it is, ‘True Love’ is quite similarly vibed to its predecessor on the album. The tune is another deceptively HARD edged tune, but not as hard as ‘Just So Life Stay’. Of course, that’s not a bad thing here as the tune is absolutely dazzling at its best. So much sonically impressive is this one (and on the lyrical side as well) that when, later in the tune, when Turbulence noticeably (and probably on purpose) destroys his vocals . . . It kind of even makes it better.

Best Lyric: “Dem a complain! Say di fyah too red fi dem. It ahgo get redder. Redder than blood fi dem. Di way they treat di poor, it ahgo get Dread fi dem. Nah bust no copper or lead fi dem. Fret not thyself of evildoers. Cause dem caan touch you from you have the righteous powers. It go mek we brave and it no mek wi cowards. Give Ises! Every minute, every hour”

14. Good To Know

Call the very strange sounding ‘Good To Know’ another case of a tune which MAY be harder than thought (but I may be stretching it in this case) (okay I’m definitely stretching it), but lyrically speaking, it’s definitely the softest of the three final tunes on Rising. The tune resurrects, in a sense, the message of the opening couple of tunes which don’t just seek to uplift and empower the Black Woman, but also to put the men on notice that it is in fact that case and with the punch line of the tune, Turbulence also seems to (and correctly so) find comfort in establishing HER power. What a NICE NICE way to end things.

Best Lyric: “Wi tell dem seh we, nah switch. Ooman request the lovin and we, nah itch. We nah disrespect them and go call them b&%$h. We nah disrespect them and go box and kick. You sick”


Putting this album into a nice and neat little box in terms of its overall direction is, ostensibly, fairly easy and it all stems around the title track, but of course you know I’ve never been the ostensible type. I will deal with that however.

If you take RISING as a title on its own and then slowly start to sprinkle in the circumstances regarding the album, you’ll easily begin to get what is apparently the focus here. As I mentioned, Burrell had been so instrumental and essential in developing the careers of Sizzla, Luciano and the likes, that one could look at that title and just so easily that what he is doing is saying that the next generation -TURBULENCE- is up and coming and thus, Rising. And in all likelihood, that’s probably the case here and the situation that surrounds the title track, again, at least ostensibly. Further (re)examination of the title track even (re)solidifies that notion when on the tune’s chorus, one of the members of L.M.S. (Laza or Shypoo) (biggup Miriam) sets the case:

“We moving forward
Never backward
We holding firm
And holding strong
We standing up tall
We pray not to fall
We the youths are rising”

So you could (and probably should) take that as evidence of the direction of the album, given that, as I said (at least I think I did), Turbulence wasn’t the only younger act at the time Burrell and Xterminator would have been working with at the time, L.M.S. (and Chezidek) would have been another. So they could have effectively been saying the next run of Xterminator artists is rising and coming up.

BUT! If you leave it there you are most certainly missing the possible social and spiritual angles which present themselves in analyzing this album. In fact it goes on to that point so much so, that if you continued to listen to the title track (and you will), it actually dominates the course of that song:

“Yow take a look, take a look
At the life they lead
Contribution senseless violence what a judgment it is
Take a look
Dem get hooked
Inna di things they do
Dem go put dem foot inna di wrong man food”

“Yow living in a place where the guns go bust
When they bust
Yow, we know who to trust
We hail Jah!
Cuz a Jah Jah come first
HIM protect I & I fi nah go lay dung inna hearse
We sure
We give thanks for the giving of life
And know that life source is truly divine
That’s why I choose to live my life like unto King Selassie I
Mi dash weh dem gun and dem knife”

Now if you take that into form as Turbulence and LMS (the first passage being from Turbulence and the second from a member of LMS) still being the “youth” as they are in reference to the first scenario then you start to get a different message than they’re just coming up in the music business. These two pieces suggest that the ones rising are the “youths” in general and not in Reggae music, but in life. Perhaps most captivating is the final part there from LMS where it’s said:

“That’s why I choose to live my life like unto King Selassie I
Mi dash weh dem gun and dem knife”

That’s critical, for me, because it almost sounds like someone giving advice and not just someone saying what they’ve done or what they’ve chosen to do. And not only that, but even if you lay in that notion of it being someone saying what they’ve done, take it part by part and look at the second lyric:

“Mi dash weh dem gun and dem knife”

Certainly, he wasn’t saying that to be a way of life for himself and ONLY himself.

And to make the final connection, I’ll go back to the first two selections on the album, ‘Give Her Weh She Want’ and ‘Make Sure She Clean’, which are essentially, two really complicated love songs. On the former Turbulence basically does a ‘she wants a Rasta’ type of tune and you have to kind of see it as less of personal one and more of a general one. When you do that, you can see how ‘she’ responds to ‘him’ giving her what she wants as versus NOT giving her what she wants, which is essentially what the entire second verse of the tune is all about. And on ‘Make Sure She Clean’, I’ll reiterate the point that he isn’t just speaking in the hygiene sense or the biblical sense, Turbulence speaking in very broad terms here. Make sure EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is clean and in doing so, the woman is uplifted and then some:

“Original in everyway
Di woman ah nah copy
Anytime I by your side, she make me feel so happy
No vanity can make she mingle up inna no folly
She nah go bow
She nah go bleach
Tell dem, dem nah fi worry
Look pon her clothes she just defend from everybody
And everybody knows she ah di hottest inna di valley
That’s why pon her ends we always waan fi tarry
She no tek every Tom, Dick and Harry”

This is a woman who is CLEAN and you see it’s not just spiritually or physically, but both of those an then some.

Now you take that from the title tune and ‘Make Sure She Clean’ and ‘Give Her Weh She Want’ and the step I make is to ask myself - Who in society are typically the most oppressed? Taking race out of the matter just for a second, I think that it’s safe to assume that WOMEN and YOUNG PEOPLE would stand out. That is exactly who those two tunes deal with the upRISING of. And as a result of that, Rising the album can most certainly not just be about introducing a wonderful new talented artist to the masses (but DAMN was he talented), it’s about rising the “masses”, from the bottom (ground) up! Of course that wasn’t the only thing that was risen here, however. The album’s quality has also been rising over the years - from once a HELLUVA sophomore album and now A BONAFIDE MODERN REGGAE CLASSIC!

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