Sunday, March 14, 2010

Modern Classics Vol. XVIII: My Hope by Anthony B

Anthony B - My Hope [Minor 5, Flat 7]

Do you remember Minor 7, Flat 5??? The once mighty label, headed by the much ballyhooed and discussed ‘Brotherman’ [aka Andreas Christophersen], once had quite the solid operation going and did so for a number of years following the turn of the century. And while eventually (due to the label’s seemingly over-fondness and over-usage of their compositions) their sound would stale out quite a bit, it’s still very interesting to look back at some of the work they did with Turbulence, Lutan Fyah, Luciano and the likes (Cocoa Tea, Josie Mel, Al Pancho, Ras Myrhdak, Tony Tuff etc.) . Still, searching throughout the label’s catalogue, in terms of LASTING quality, attentions should be drawn in a single direction, to an artist in Anthony B who was one of their bigger names, but one whose release doesn’t have ANYTHING going for it in the way of grabbing one’s attention on paper. Also, it was a release that, due to another far more high profile one at the time (Black Star) went largely overlooked by a number of fans seemingly. Still, all who heard this piece and REALLY took it in know its true strength and know that it’s also become one of the most impressive releases of the chanter’s EPIC career to date. My Hope.

The Music

1. My Hope

“My hope! Is In youuuuuuu.” The title track here really sets the tone for the album named after it, both in sound and in significance of its prevailing message in my opinion. The tune is just such a BIG and JOYFUL vibes that I can literally remember listening to it for the first time. While the album itself didn’t stick with me very much at the time, the SONG itself was damn near surprising because it pulled such a powerful vibes. Going on half a decade later, and it’s still surprising and spreading MASSIVE joy and inspiration as the biggest vibes on this album (and biggup veteran Pam Hall every time for the enchanting backing vocals).

Best Lyric:My hope is in you. Get on your feet and touch the sky, so much we can do. My hope is in you. Spread your wings and fly away, you can get there too”

2. Global Awareness

‘Global Awareness’ is such a POWERFUL tune in my opinion because, while it doesn’t break new ground in terms of the direction of its message - being ‘kind’ to the planet and all of its inhabitants - the way it arrives there is quite interesting. It literally ties EVERYONE together immediately on the tune and does so, seemingly, to say that the message following it is for “EVERYONE”. Also, you have to take note of that GORGEOUS riddim [Friedenland Riddim] over which Anthony B plays those mighty words.

Best Lyric: “WAR! WAR! It’s about the money weh a shower. True dem have di handle so dem exercise them power. Dem no care if the likkle man get devoured, so we need another Marcus, not a Moses, not a Noah”

3. More Pon More

One might assume that when one is faced with the prospect of being arrested for something, as Anthony B is on the beginning of ‘More Pon More, that even if one were to continue with “something”, that they would do so in a more low-key manner. Not Anthony B! Nope. After finding himself in such a situation where his freedom is seemingly at stake, the artist responds by DEMANDING “more pon more” and eventually (by tune’s end) finding himself with 50 LBS! One has to admire the man for such determination and doing so births one BIG BIG tune in the process.

Best Lyric: “It was found on King Solomon grave. Smoked by the smart, idolized by the brave. Tired. fi si dem ah lock it inna cave. Tell dem - Rastaman me ah nah slave. Full time unuh free up di weed, mek di farmer sow di seed, all across di world ah dat di people dem need! Nonstop market, no it gone a lead. Mix in wid di baby feed. Caan put di herbs in a craven a leaf. Just give me more pon more. . .”

4. Don’t Cry featuring Mark Wonder

The ALWAYS welcome Mark Wonder gets started what turns out to be three LARGE combinations on My Hope alongside Anthony B, on ‘Don’t Cry’. This SPARKLING tune comes across what is quietly one of the best riddims on the entire album (love that guitar sprinkled in throughout) and comes packed with a lyrics setting to uplift troubled women all over the world and make sure that they realize that they are cared for and for them not to fret and “cry”, because “everything will be alright, soon darkness will be light.” It also, to my ears, stands as a bit of a big THANK YOU for the contributions made by the women in society and while the duo don’t get into specifics (which wasn’t necessary, in terms of calling names and may have made the tune less impacting), what they do is even more undeniably powerful.

Best Lyric: Anthony B - “Mi lover and mi Mother, two woman weh mi crown. Heads high, mi nah go let dem down. Nah go yippy, yappa yappa, treat dem like clown. Nah tek dem fi no run around”

5. Strong Shoulder

Definitely carrying on the message set in motion by the previous tune is the arguably even stronger ‘Strong Shoulder’. Here, the chanter is giving particular credit and praise to the special woman in his own life and in doing so drops a lyrical GEM of a tune at times with the way he goes about thing on this one. The ‘strong shoulder’ claim is also a very interesting one because it is the type of description one might normally associate with a male, however, in the figurative sense, it is DEFINITELY one more appropriate and fitting for the more SUPPORTIVE amongst us, which is most certainly the female. And the vibes on this are also very UPFUL and BIG sounding as Anthony B turns the energy up for nearly maximum effect.

Best Lyric: “You no tek no talk from stupid. Heart dun get dis yah arrow by Cupid. Wife from birth, you no worry bout marriage. Put weh di fame. Put weh di car. Put weh di cottage. Memba di days mi used to sleep inna di passage? People cuss you out and say a dutty Ras you chat wid. Haffi tun idiot from ah dat man you ah stop wid. . . Dats why I love you baby”

6. Jah Alone

This powerfully addictive piece is one which I feel could have been quite the hit were it given the opportunity because of quite a few things. First of all, maybe it’s just me, but there is something SWEETLY old school sounding about ‘Jah Alone’. Perhaps it is the beautifully complex riddim which it rides [Courage Riddim], or maybe it’s the bros. Gold who sing a dominant backing for the tune. Also there’s the fact that Anthony B himself delivers a rather cleverly done praising tune for His Imperial Majesty. It isn’t one which kind of leaps off the record and grabs your attention (and maybe that’s why it wasn’t given that “opportunity”, but when you REALLY take a nice listen, it speaks to the consistency of HIM and how He can never let us down.

Best Lyric: “I tried to trust my brother and him stab mi inna mi back. Tried to the leaders, but a bombs dem a drop. I tried to trust the police, still the crime caan stop. I tried to trust my sister, now she put her head unda. . . “

7. Dancehall Thing

[First of all, how refreshing is it that they didn’t spell this one ‘Dancehall Ting’ on the album? Especially considering the few screw-ups on the album cover] Okay, I should admit that I’ve grown to no longer detest and be damn confused by the Classic Riddim which backs ‘Dancehall Thing’ to some extent. If you haven’t, then you can go ahead and consider My Hope a twelve track outing, because it definitely takes some (read - Years) work (in my defense, there’s a base riddim here which is nearly outstanding and should you be able to ignore the ‘shenanigans’, what you’ll find is a HEAVY Dancehall riddim). And while ultimately harmless, the tune definitely doesn’t take away from the quality of the album and it even has a bit of a message in terms of being able to appreciate the music and the culture more and more [and watch how I call it significant in the synopsis!].

Best Lyric: “I got the sound to make you groove. I got the sound to make you hype. I got the sound to make you move. Jump, skip, dance - anything you waan try”

8. Watch Over My Head

‘Watch Over My Head’ (with that beautifully large Sunday Riddim) is a tune which I feel is quite related to an earlier selection ‘Jah Alone’ in many regards, not the least of which is a very similar message. It’s also another one which I feel is instrumental in comprehending what I believe to be the overall message on My Hope. The tune itself is so ORIGINAL that it stands out on that strength alone. It’s also a tune, like ’Jah Alone’ which speaks to the prevailing reliance of man, which is not on man, but on His Majesty, of course. This one was brilliant.

Best Lyric: “Alright it get red out deh, so mi need King Selassie I love fi guide mi everyweh. Mi si seh it dread out deh, so mi need Rastafari love, don’t take it weh”

9. Girl Look Fine

Like most things on My Hope (thankfully), you can’t gleam much just from looking at a title and imagining how the tune might be vibed (if you could, you may NEVER listen to the title track which is the best tune here, because it would most likely be lame). On ‘Girl Look Fine’ things are quite the same as everything within you should be screaming that the title is shitty and the tune itself is probably one of those crazily mediocre pieces which would have found itself filling the tracklist on one of those crazily mediocre and obese Rhythm Series releases from Greensleeves about six years ago. BUT, that most certainly is not the case (as you can see, I’ve really thought this one through). What it is instead is a very consciously approached love tune essentially and one which has many sticking points in making its point and wonderfully so.

Best Lyric: “Girl look fine! Inna mi dark world, woman become the sunshine”

10. Face Off featuring Gentleman

German BIG man Gentleman (and master of the combinations) rolls in to add flavour to the second of three combination for the album on the MASSIVE ‘Face Off’. What he rolls in on is an antiviolence tune of nearly epic proportions and one which has become a staple on my players from the My Hope album. The tune still actually gives me room for establishing its true intention (as far as the title goes), because ostensibly you can call it several things - the ‘face off’. But references to ‘the mask’ definitely paint the gunman in the tune who KNOWS what he’s doing is fucked up, so he feels the need to hide, figuratively and literally.

Best Lyric: Gentleman - “Tell you stop the ism and you tell me seh you caan. Tell you to do better and you tell me seh you nah. Like a siren you just ah wah wah wah”

11. Rise Up featuring Taffari

Don’t let things end with Mark Wonder and Gentleman, because if you do you’ll pass right over sweet singing Taffari who guests on ‘Rise Up’, which may just be the best combination on the album altogether. Taffari has this very ‘LOUD’ quality to his voice which just demands attention and thankfully most of his output is of a standard where you should be paying attention anyway and this one is no different at all. The tune taps onto inspirational levels, of course, with the primary source of inspiration being established as the HEAD, His Majesty. This one, largely due Taffari’s contributions complementing Anthony B so well, just has a wonderful sound to it and by its end is both entertaining and educational, simultaneously.

Best Lyric: Taffari - “And when I remember the words of His Majesty. Our ceaseless effort is the key to prosperity. And I’ll be myself and no one else but me. Cause what I’ll be, Oh Jah, it depends on me”

12. Crown I

A large part of the reason why I do things like this is definitely to let people know about albums which I feel have been EXCELLENT representations of Reggae music the way as it exists today and to hopefully tear down this myth that ‘GREAT’ Reggae music died in 1990 or so. And another is certainly for far more selfish reasons like the one which arises on ‘Crown I’. When you take an in-depth look at a GREAT album, you’re certain to find things like this. I BARELY remember this tune and it is nearly MASSIVE. The riddim for this thing [Grow Riddim] is disturbing! It is lovely and the tune itself is another which preaches redemption within the strength and comfort of His Majesty (and it does so in a very nice lyrical twist where Anthony B seems to often speak of the human embodiment of Selassie I within himself and Rastafari in general). HUGE tune.

Best Lyric: “Remember - first time mi put on mi robe and turban. Words from the high priest inna di sermon - Two roads before you, you have to choose one. ONE to King Selassie. ONE to Satan”

13. Rastaman She Love

Speaking of big riddims, the Tsahai takes closing honours on My Hope in backing ‘Rastaman She Love’. Again, despite the title, don’t think that you automatically know what to expect in terms of stereotypical and unoriginal tune because even this one may drift closer towards such a ‘standard’ than most tunes on the album, the level of DETAIL placed on the song (as far as the conversation between Anthony B’s love interest and her family) is certainly what keeps it outside (and ABOVE) of the ‘norm’ on such tunes.

Best Lyric: “She’s in love with a Dreadlocks. Her Mama don’t like that. True dem ah eat up di pork chops. But di woman love mi turban wrap”


In all of the installments of this series, I’m not sure that I’ve come across one which, in my opinion, had an internal intent which was as GLARINGLY OBVIOUS as that of My Hope. I believe it’s rather clear what the meaning behind this album was and it all stems from the opening and title track:

“My Hope, is in you
Get off your feet and touch the sky
So much we can do
My Hope, is in you
Spread your wings and fly away
You can get there too”

While certainly you can’t take anything too tangible there, lyrically speaking, what you can take from the way that it’s worded and more importantly, the way that it SOUNDS, is that it is a tune meant to uplift and inspire all so fortunate to hear it. The entire tune outside of that bit (which is of course taken from the chorus) flows through channels meant to inspire the young and the old and in doing so, it sets a VERY simple outline and tone that the rest of the album seems to follow, even when it isn’t necessarily trying to seemingly:

“You can be a healer
You can be a teacher
You can be a doctor
You can be a leader
. . . You can be what you want to”

This passage comes later on the same title track and it directly relates back to the intangibleness of the chorus (particularly the part which says, “so much we can do”). Building onto that in another direction, but remaining on the same course, you can go to the very next tune on the album ‘Global Awareness’. The tune, from its title alone, has a very ‘GREEN’ connotation in terms of taking care of the world and doing what is beneficial in general to its inhabitants. This, lyrically, paints the very same incredibly joyous picture (although it’s harder to ascertain ultimately) painted on the opening tune and while the vibes on this one won’t be confused as being as upful as on the previous tune, for me the two are so wonderfully linked as different sides, one being very broad, with another being very specific, of the very same expression. I’m also drawn to a tune like ‘Jah Alone’ which ostensibly paints a very nasty and dreary picture of existing in a world where it seems as if RESPECT and decency are at a premium and are only ‘topped’ (or ‘undercut’ being the better term undoubtedly) in sparseness by TRUST, which is of course fucked up.

However, what Anthony B does throughout the tune, at least for those who care enough to listen so keenly, is to CONSTANTLY offer a pillar of trust and the direction to Him and he does so not just with the title or the rather plainly stated chorus. He does it into the verses as well:

“People put trust in the bank and it lock down with them money
Nuff man no trust Jah like how dem trust dem honey
That’s why dem waan kill demself
When dem find out seh a next man a bun it”

If you look very closely in there what might standout to you as it dos to me is the second line, “Nuff man no trust Jah like how dem trust dem honey”, and we can continue to the VERY simple result of this, “That’s why dem waan kill demself”. You don’t even need to go any further than that and you don’t need back any more either, because it is clear at that moment, as he does throughout the tune, Anthony B isn’t painting such a ridiculously bleak picture of the world with absolutely no outlet. No. He has such an “outlet” in mind throughout and continues to offer the road to Him, like I said.

I’m also going to tie together two tunes here which, in my opinion, share a very simple, but very nice, quality between them. Both ‘Dancehall Thing’ (yes that one) and ‘Girl Look Fine’ have an wholly earthly appreciable quality to them. In the case of ‘Dancehall Thing’ it’s of course a tune giving thanks and praises to the music itself, but pay very close attention to the beginning of the tune:

“Dancehall is a reflection of the Jamaican ghetto youth”

Just right there he takes the message between some nameless producer running a drum program in a studio somewhere for ’Artist A’ to give some random lyrics about how many girls he has or how big his lyrical gun is. He essentially (and definitely rightly so) identifies Dancehall as the CULTURE which it is. Things are just as similar on ’Girl Look Fine’ also and go right back to the message I attempted to pull out of ’Jah Alone’:

“Girl look fine! Inna mi dark world, woman become the sunshine”

Again, while he acknowledges that the world is in fact “dark”, he also (IMMEDIATELY) acknowledges that it is not infinitely so, that there is a source of light in there as well.

And that ultimate source of light is clear throughout with tunes like ‘Watch Over My Head’, ‘Rise Up’ and ‘Crown I’ going out of the album which big to reestablish and reassure that the listener has every opportunity imaginable to recognize what the point of this album is.

The point is that My Hope is a reflection of the ‘hope’ of not necessarily a ‘BETTER’ world by Anthony B, but it is the HOPE that we might show the world for what it genuinely is, which is - minus the eons and eons of bullshit in some aspects - actually a very nice place to be. What else is Anthony B’s hope? A BONAFIDE MODERN REGGAE CLASSIC!

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