Monday, May 31, 2010

Anthony B - Sweet Jamaica (Free)

Anthony B says -

"The current situation in Jamaica has caused an enormous uproar within the entire country. In times like these, it is up to us as individuals to make conscientious decisions and stand up for not what is popular, but for what we know is right. This is affecting our country on a whole, and can greatly impact our future and our children's future. All aspects of the country's economy are at stake. And any action that disrupts the daily normal activities for Jamaicans or of life cannot be good. Being a part of the Rastafarian & Reggae community it has always been my belief that peace, love & unity are what uplift a nation. And as the old Jamaican saying goes, 'united we stand, divided we fall'. So we all need to work together to resolve this as soon as possible, and bring back the "irieness" to our sweet little Jamaica! Jah Love!"

And to observe the situation, he's released a song from Lazeme Music, 'Sweet Jamaica' which you can now check out for a limited time HERE.

{posted with permission}

New Artist of The Month: Meet Aima Moses!

Aima Moses

Meet Aima Moses! This one is certainly MUCH less of a typical ‘new artist’ (and my selections generally are) and much more of a ‘secret weapon’ of sorts as fiery Dominican chanter Aima Moses has been making music for quite awhile. And though you may not know his name, Aima Moses quietly one of the most fervent and ‘curious’ followings of any ‘underground’ Caribbean artist that I am familiar with. So what is it about the thirty-one year old Kingshill native which attracts the masses and keeps them talking? It’s difficult to say. In general, just listening to his music over the past 3-4 years or so, to my opinion, Moses is much more of a ‘Jack of All Trades’ type of artist. He has a very rugged and rough around the edges type of style and there isn’t one dominant trait (with the exception of his intensity when he uses it) which immediately jumps out at the listener from his style. HOWEVER, what I will say about the artist is that he falls into a very unfortunately small category of artist who’re able to REALLY convey the message that they set out to display. There is no question on an Aima Moses tune (whether you like it or not), that his passion about the particular issue is HIGH and unyielding and he does whatever he musically can to get this point to his listeners and he’s generally quite successful. For example:

This tune, ‘No Barriers’, was actually the title track from Aima Moses’ debut (and to my knowledge, to date only) album which released way back in 2004:

For Moses, it seems as if the problem (as it is for so many of our artists) is getting more and more quality notoriety. Dominica does have an increasingly nice history when it comes to Reggae music (with names like Nasio Fontaine and Harry Mo amongst others), but it certainly is difficult to get more attention there than even other more prominent non-Jamaican Caribbean ports for the music such as the USVI or Trinidad at this point. And when you add all of the various musical forms which come from the very musically colourful and spicy ‘Natural Isle’, it makes it even more difficult when you’re competing for international attention with artists who come from a variety of different genres and backgrounds (and bilingual as well). So, with that being said I was SO happy to see a big tune from Aima Moses, ’All The Same’, jump up on the full version of the recently released Mirror Riddim from the Italian based Goldcup Records:

You can also pick up the full album digitally, making it one of the first (and maybe the actual first that I can think of), of Moses’ tunes to be available worldwide on a digital platform. The making of the actual song and that it is now readily available is a big success for Moses’ career and hopefully he continues to advance so. I do want to most certainly make it clear that this is a big artist. Too many times fans (myself included in some cases) see the stereotypical turban clad Bobo chanter and immediately think you know what to expect and again, while Moses doesn’t have a dominant aspect of his style, his overall COMMITMENT to his craft and singing the music of His Imperial Majesty, and the fact that his lyrics are very strong (I guess that would be what I would say is his biggest musical strength), is definitely what sets him apart from his peers. And when he’s in the ’mood’ Moses cranks up the fire and when combined with strong lyrics, it’s definitely something to be heard and check the interview:

So keep an eye out for the hopefully upward traveling Aima Moses. It’s taken him awhile to reach where he is and thankfully he’s persevered and maybe we can see him getting even more and more work and exposure on the European scene as well and achieve the big break he so definitely deserves.

Aima Moses @ Myspace
More Tunes Here
Even More Tunes Here

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Completely Random Cutie: Tejay

Yow! I was going to save this until tomorrow, but I have stuff to do! Enjoy the nice view of the lovely Tejay from out of Barbados. She had an album out 2-3 years ago, Summer Kisses, I'm sure you can still find it because it went digital. It was kind of poppish-Soca (Rihanna, Shontelle, that Livvi chick, you know how they do), but if that's your thing, and it might be, then go and check her out. I don't know if she's doing anything for Crop Over 2k10, but if she is, I'm sure we'll find out soon yeah. But yeah. . . very nice! Here's a video (if we can find one!)

So there you go! Some eye candy on a Sunday. Go back to bed.

{biggup Remmy for telling me, "you need to take a look at this", like the woman was a car or something}
{this will be my last post for today, I promise}

New interview: Fire Pashon

Fire Pashon

Yow! So I did the third interview I've ever done in my entire life (*) and now you can go and check it out on I would link you to it, but you should just go and find it because even if you (are slow) can't find it, you might find something else that you like, but if you go RIGHT NOW, it's featured on the front page. So go yeah. And I'm pretty sure I'm bad at review, so it may be full on October-ish before I try again, but I actually think this was pretty good yeah.

{* Biggup Bredz who did most of the research here. But I'm going to take credit for it, because I put it all together yeah. But big him up anyway (and he had to do an interview for school and I put that together on the phone too at the same time and you think he gave me credit on his fucking paper? I don't)}

What A Beautiful Tune 14!

14 weeks you say? That's . . . 98 days (if my math is correct, it is most surely isn't), that's a lot of beautiful tunes yeah. Why stop now? if you have a suggestion for next week, let's move:

Okay, because Remmy . . . is going to get something tomorrow, opening honours this week go to Asher, not a longtime reader (he might be), but a consistent one, who recommends EASILY his greatest choice to date, 'Forever' (should be called 'Jah Give Me') from up and coming CLASSY singer, Singer Jah from out of Jamaica. Has a nice old school vibes to it (Singer may never do a tune which doesn't, because of his voice), and definitely keep a look out for Singer Jah, big artist and big selection Asher and I might even give him opening honours next week as well, if he hurries up.

Next up is a suggestion from new reader Mario, who gave me his entire life story. Mario is German, but is currently going to University in Japan (at least I think that's what he meant) and apparently he's become quite fond of Japanese Reggae and he suggests H-Man's 'Dagan Talk' . . . Yep. Hope you like (because it's ass to me).

And lastly is my first couple's recommendation, Carl & Yalonda from Montreal are currently experiencing some very good TASTE because they're recommending WICKED Trini artist, Simba Amani's 'Let Jah Be Your Best Friend'. Song was grabbing some nice rotation earlier this year and deservedly so, it's gorgeous and you can go ahead and pile Simba's name in with the . . . Oh I don't 4 or 500 or so WICKED Trini artists to keep an ear on yeah. Love the couples recommendation and big respect goes to Carl & Yalonda yeah. Love this tune, big big message.

Me??? Ahhh, I don't know. I really don't . . . I was thinking maybe some Soca, there're a lot of nice Soca tunes coming out now from Vincy and Barbados . . . Hmmm, no I don't think so. Ooooooooh! Okay, because I got an email earlier this week from this individual, I'm going to Madinina and I'm pulling??? No, not Kalash it's Yeahman'C. And you think I'm think I'm going with 'Sans Cesse', don't you? Well I'm not, I'm going nice and simple with 'Mizik' and even though you won't find this tune on it, go and check out Yeahman's new album, Le Bon, in stores now yeah. Cya next week.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Video From Kalash!

Yeah. Curious that they chose this one as the second single from Kalash's debut self title album, but they did and I actually like the tune a bit more after going through the video. Check it out.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Vault Reviews: "Comin' 4 You" by Elephant Man

I’m always pretty perturbed by the kind of ‘backlash’ certain artists seem to receive from the Reggae & Dancehall community once they’ve attained a distinct level of international popularity. In some cases - In many cases - it almost seems like many fans, and myself definitely included at times in the past, would like the music to retain much the kind of ‘regional’ historical and current statuses which it has enjoyed instead of spreading to audiences who may not even be able to appreciate it as we do. For me personally, however, that unfortunate regret was always for selfish reasons (so the music would not end up diluted which tends to happen quite frequently) and NEVER because I had some rising problem with the artist. ‘Exhibit A’ is definitely Sean Paul who many hardcore Dancehall fans seemed to collectively turn their backs on after he dropped ‘Gimmi Di Light’. I’ve always contended that it was actually that backlash which pushed tunes like Beenie Man’s ‘Toy Friend’ and ‘Press Trigger’ from Mad Cobra (get well soon) to even bigger heights and made Sizzla’s ‘Pump Up’ even that much more controversial - Almost as if it were like ‘because the rest of the world is focusing on ‘Gimmi Di Light’, we’re going to hype up these tunes instead - as they all rode the same now immortal Buzz Riddim. Sean Paul has received, and continues to receive, so much flak as an artist for his progress and it’s really a damn shame because I STILL and WILL STILL on the day I die contend that his debut album, ‘Stage One’, is one of the greatest Dancehall albums of all time. EVER. And while you may not see it consistently these days, that kind of monotonous (in a good way) SKILL is still there, he’s still an excellent and world class DJ in my opinion. Beenie Man has also received quite a bit of backlash as an artist for his more global musical exploits. Beenie’s situation is different, however, but his status amongst the hardcore heads is pretty much unquestionable at this point and Sean Paul hadn’t achieved that type of standing at the time when the ‘light’ came on. Mavado similarly got such bad reviews just last year when he decided to tell us just how special he was and don’t even get me started on Shaggy who kind of exists in this bubble outside of the genre of music that he makes because he just so happens to have sold ten million albums or so. There have been curious exceptions such as Wayne Wonder (in whose case, I believe the fact that he wasn’t THE most active of artists helped him) and [Baby] Cham whose rise to international prominence included arguably one of the greatest Dancehall songs ever made and thus made hating him for it VERY hard.

Another ‘victim’ of this phenomenon has definitely been ‘The Energy God’, Elephant Man and I’ve been guilty of it, in his case, also. But again, I should say that I was only critical of the output, not of his skills. His last album (whatever it was called, that purple/blue one) was awful. It was a bad album and the one before it, (the red one) wasn’t very good either. However, should I attempt to sit here and, in full, denigrate Elephant Man’s SKILL as a DJ; I might as well just stop writing, right now. Elephant Man, beneath the craze, beneath the hysteria and beneath the hair is probably one of the most TALENTED Dancehall DJ’s ever born. The way this man plays with the spoken word when at his best is ridiculous and yes, he has years and years full of coming up with gimmicky tunes and wherever he is tonight, he’s probably trying to come up with another and people can continue to say that he’s effectively passed his prime. I don’t care, I know WICKED when I hear it and Elephant Man has been a WICKED artist for the majority of his career and if WE don’t think so, then WE are wrong (as shit). Want an example? If the majority of what you know about Elephant Man comes from the blue and red album days (the “blue album” is called
Let’s Get Physical and despite the fact that the red one is in a box about eight inches away from my hands, I don’t remember what it was called off the top of my head) and the time from since, you may want to dig up his solo debut from Greensleeves Record back in 2000, Comin’ 4 You!. This ridiculously large album (TWENTY FOUR tunes) was much anticipated as the former member of the Scare Dem Crew had struck out on his own and done so with a great deal of initial fanfare and I believe he had been going for just a little while as a solo artist at the time on the highest level (Scare Dem’s own album, Scared From The Crypt released just a year earlier and only nine days short of exactly a year, apparently). Going back to those times, although he ran in the crew with the likes of Harry Toddler, Boom Dandimite and Nitty Kutchie (and Bramwell, if you remember Bramwell . . . Damn), to me it was CLEAR who the biggest talent of the group was at the time. And perhaps that might explain why the man could drop an album with entirely too many songs on it, from a variety of producers and only have one or two (ABSOLUTE) clunkers and pieces of rubbish in the entire lot.

I’m going to try really hard not to overrate this album, but I just have to remark that the very fact that it’s actually a DANCEHALL album is, in and of itself, a plus in my book because I find myself inundated with crazy Hip-Hop sounding hybrid tunes these days and frankly I just MISS a lot of the vibes on this album, so do bear with me and take that into consideration if I slap a ‘5/5’ on this one (and I won’t). So on to business, after the intro we IMMEDIATELY get into one of the biggest tunes on Elephant Man’s debut album,
Comin’ 4 You, ‘Replacement Killer’. This tune, on Shocking Vibes’ big Scarface riddim, is subtle MADNESS. Ele lyrically jumps all across the board and goes after his friends a bit (even namedropping Bounty Filla, who I’m pretty sure is deceased now, but big him up) and just has a nice bit of tempered fun on one of the best lyrical pieces on the album to get things going (only 22 more to go!). Next in is the even stronger (in my opinion) and HILARIOUS ‘Caan Trick Me’. The song (ripping the Speed Riddim) was BRILLIANT and I’m not exaggerating at all (but would I know if I was???) as it finds Ele examining the truth of certain situations presented to him. “You gyal Britney, claim seh you a virgin and you have twenty pickney. Mek mi tell yuh summin - Dat deh jacket deh no fit mi”, he says later on the tune and I’m laughing and so are you. And speaking of “truth”, the next tune up ‘Truth Hurts’ is probably my least favourite of the opening lot (but only because I don’t like the Orgasm Riddim on which it stands). Lyrically the tune is another hilarious one as Ele finds himself in the position of having to be matter of fact and frank with his some of his famous peers - “Ward 21 dem! What dem ahgo do wit di likkle fat one den?”

So having now well talked up the album, I thought I’d slow things down and go ahead and warn you about the soft (and softer) spots on
Comin’ 4 You. While it does have its fair share of them, thankfully they don’t dominate in any respects. I remember really disliking the title track, but it honestly isn’t as bad as I remember it. Still I’m not to the point (at least not yet), where I feel anywhere near comfortable recommending the very strange Hip-Hop vibed track and its lame chorus (the verses on the other hand? May be a different story, give it a glancing listen if you must) (as I quickly change the track before I start liking it and have to cut out this entire section). I’m not TOO impressed with Ele and Beenie who joins in on ‘Mama’ across that Jennifer Lopez riddim thing that Capleton and Moses I used. It certainly isn’t a bad tune, but you’d think they may’ve done better together and a different subject matter probably would’ve helped to be honest. ‘2000 Began’ is another questionable one and I’m pretty confident I won’t start liking this one, even though it cuts across the same paralyzing riddim Spragga used alongside Foxy on the damaging ‘Too Stoosh’. The tune ‘What’s Up’ certainly takes the play from some R&B tune and it features Vegas on a pretty uneventful and flat track (although Vegas makes up for it later) (and that riddim is CRAZY) (and I’m damn sure that’s Ce’Cile saying “please don’t stop” on the tune) (I won’t). And I’m sitting here struggling with ‘Elephant Man’ because it most certainly is LAME, playing off of the Spiderman theme song, but there’re (MUCH) worse tunes on Comin’ 4 You. ‘Bow City’ (you know what that’s about) is horrible and skeletal and ‘Go Look A Life’ while decent certainly doesn’t fall in with the finest efforts on the album. And lastly, I should mention that ‘Headache’, popular yeah, came in the timeframe where I just wasn’t a very big supporter of Delly Ranks’ style (who guests on the tune) and although it’s not too bad, I’m not spending too much time on it either.

The good? The good on
Comin’ 4 You, even on the lower levels is pretty damaging. The finest moment, still, in my opinion, comes when Mr. Vegas makes his triumphant return on the FUCKING RIDICULOUS herbalist tune, ‘Bun It’. KNOCKING all over is the tune across Vegas’ own Crash Riddim (you know from Sean Paul’s ‘Check It Deeply’ tune) and it’s been one of my quieter favourites from both over the past decade or so. It sounds kind of clumsy and just thrown together, but we’re not exactly dealing with technicalities with Ele, now are we? I do favour that tune by the slimmest of margins over others like ‘Caan Trick Me’ and definitely ‘$1000 Bill’ on which Elephant Man makes it known where his allegiances lie. That song is madness and it is a more immediately well done tune than ‘Bun It’ and it’s just crazy as well. Going back, there’s a tune called ‘Elephant’ (not to be confused with ‘Elephant Man’) which is also on the album and it’s probably very bad, but it has literally seduced my ears. The song, I’m sure, plays with the melody of some old song from Puffy (!), but it’s only on the choruses (which are horrible). The verses, however, are ridiculous and some of the finest straight forward deejaying (in a few different styles, of course, it is Elephant Man) to be found on the album. You go and listen to that and tell me that there is a talent problem with Ele. There wasn’t one ten years ago and he’s even better (when he chooses to use it) these days to my ears. ‘Watchie Pum’ was certainly not the biggest tune over the death defying Bellyas Riddim from Ward 21, but there aren’t too many tunes on that riddim which weren’t big songs and Ele’s effort wasn’t one of those. It’s probably more of a gimmicky vibes (which may be my hesitation with it), but it works as Ele turns his attention to that dude . . . You know that dude (I don’t know, I’m married). ‘Somebody’ is another gimmicky tune, but it’s one which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed over the years. I also think that it may be one of the most popular tunes from Comin’ 4 You as the punchline of the tune, “somebody looking for a war? No! No! No!” was pretty popular for quite awhile. ‘Betta Deal’ is the definitive changeup on the album and it finds Ele trying to get a little conscious and a little social across the most colourful, Buckle Up Riddim. I REALLY like this tune and largely because its kind of ‘rough around the edges’ type of vibes. It clearly makes a few ‘mistakes’ and Ele kind of drifts off topic a couple of times, but by its end, it’s a very strong track and one of the better on the album to my ears. It’s not as good, however, as the tune which it immediately precedes on the album, the HUGE ‘One’ which comes thumping through on Annex’s dangerous Doorslam Riddim (seriously one of the hardest Dancehall riddims you’ll ever hear anywhere). Again, you’re simply NOT going to be able to convince me that this isn’t a very talented artist with deejaying like this. The tune is worldclass material, most certainly controversial as hell, but that notwithstanding (hell you can focus on it if you like), the skill there is extremely high. Later, Ele hilariously tackles his good friend Richie Stephens’ Busta Riddim with another top shelf tune in ‘Out Of Order’. The song, although not as crazy as some of the others, may just be THE most funny on the album and again, the skillset is so ridiculously high on the tune as well. Not too surprisingly ‘Pum Pum’ skates through over the Ward’s Punanny Riddim and it certainly isn’t anything special, but there’s something about the call, “All who love pum pum put up your hand and say ‘Pum Pum’ “ which just really gets my attention and the tune does pickup later on as Ele finds himself in (yet another lyrical style) detained by pum pum police and ultimately placed under Punanny custody (that’s what I said). Given its VERY controversial nature, I think Ele is happy that most of the world has forgotten about ‘Hype’ and I’m not about to remind them; instead I’ll turn your attention to the once corny (as hell), now quite wicked ‘You Slacker You’. There was a helluva lot going on with this tune and it still sounds like there’re three or four tunes going on at one time, but the one in ‘the middle’ sure is impressive. The interlude separating ‘You Slacker You’ from the final tune ‘One More [Start A War]’ is so repetitive that its hilarious (if I hear Ele yell “suck unuh mumma” one more time, this apple cider I’m currently enjoying may find its way out of my nose), but there’s nothing about the SCATHING track which follows it. The Ward 21 produced tune (Volume Riddim) features both the Ward (even ‘the fat one’, as Ele says) and Wayne Marshall and it has a very hot and cold type of feel to it (not terribly unlike Ele’s later tune ‘Tall Up, Tall Up‘) (not quite that ridiculous, however) and it is HUGE. The tune has a kind of solemn anger to it and of course it’s violent as hell, but if by twenty-four tracks deep into Comin’ 4 You you haven’t learn to appreciate, first and foremost, the skill shown on the tunes, then really you’ve just wasted a lot of time by reading all of this.

Overall, while I can’t quite put this album into the line of OUTSTANDING Dancehall albums from around the same time such as the aforementioned
Stage One from Sean Paul or Spragga’s Fully Loaded or maybe even Ward 21’s own debut, Mentally Disturbed from just a year later, it’s definitely somewhere in there in terms of the vibes. Comin’ 4 You is a REALLY fun release and it’s one which features such a powerful sound and a high level of ability that it’s kind of unfortunate that it’s just sort of faded away. Part of the reason that it has, however, may have to do with the fact that unlike Ele’s later work (even his immediate later work like Log On and Higher Level) (and don’t even get me started on the red and the blue albums again), this one was far less accessible to my ears. As close as you’ll get to ‘crossover’ material here is when Elephant Man plunders the melodies from a few Hip-Hop and R&B tracks, but I’d definitely question the notion that such a fan would be willing to dig through twenty-four tracks of HEAVY Dancehall just to get to that. As for me (and probably you), however, I have no problem with it whatsoever. Although the world may now look at Elephant Man in such a way that because of what he has done he’s no longer great, a VERY brief scan through his debut album can shut that notion down, once and for all.

Rated 4/5
Greensleeves Records

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Words of The Week: Runaway Slave by Prince Malachi

Runaway Slave

Whoa oh oh oh oh

Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway
Runaway slave
Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway
Runaway slave

It was a long time ago
Rounds about the Garden of Eden
That’s where the River Nile she flow
I & I ah reason wid I idren
When we observe from afar
Many ships sailing on Jah Horizon
We neva knew
How were we to know?
Wicked man was coming to spoil our meditation
Wid his brutality he led us away in shackles and chains
Brought to far far away
Will I ever see my home again?
But even though I’m in a strange land and you’ve made things oh so rough, Do you think I & I woulda ever give up?

Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway
Say I ah runaway slave
Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway
They say that I ah runaway slave

When I saw what he have in store
I made a freedom run into the country
But when he knew I was missing once more
He sent his devils all spread out to find me
The faster I go
The more I hear my own heart beat inside me
And that’s how I know -
The brainwash education couldn’t hold me
I met many more soldiers on my way!
And there is one thing that all would say
I’m glad!
To be a free man!
Remembering all the patriot who died along the way
So we could all be free today!

Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway
Say I a runway slave
Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway
Say I ah runaway slave

Whoa oh oh oh Well
Live to fight another day
Come on

Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway
They call me runaway slave
Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway
Call me runaway. . .

Taken from Prince Malachi's album Runaway Slave
Prince Malachi @ Myspace

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oil & Water???

With Damian Marley and Hip-Hop star, Nas, dropping their increasingly very well received Distant Relatives album earlier this month, it certainly got a few things in my mind twisting and turning (besides for writing that insanely long review) about the possibilities of what, and more importantly ‘WHO’, could be next. Of course when you look at the Hip-Hop world there’re more than a few possibilities and I’m sure because of the successes that the album is currently reportedly enjoying that some of them are going to be explored (I will not be satisfied until we have a combination album featuring Merciless and that old guy, Willie D, from The Ghetto Boys), but instead of showing my ignorance (anymore than usual) and even attempting such a thing, I thought I’d take the concept and familiarize it a bit more. We have so many artists who haven’t gotten the opportunity to work with one another for various reasons and personally I’d like to see it in a few of those occasions. Thus, I submit, for your approval, my own personal Top 10 Most Wanted Combinations.

{note: Pretty much anything goes here, the only condition I tried to observe was to not repeat artists, thus you won’t see Sizzla alongside ten different artists’ names}

{note 2: I will most certainly be doing a sequel to this list at some point and feel free to leave you suggestions as well or email them to me}

{note 3: If you happen to know of any (non-remix) tunes featuring these combinations, do not hesitate to let me know. Thanks}

#10. Beres Hammond & Cocoa Tea

The Overdo and Overdue - I only put this one so low because it may be a matter of ‘be careful what you wish for’. Should the time come when legends Beres Hammond and Cocoa Tea decide to do a song together, speakers on players and in cars EVERYWHERE may experience frostbite due to the fact of how utterly COOL the song would be. Both artists have come to become, both vocally and visually, archetypes of sorts in Reggae music in their respective careers. For example, if I were to mention ‘stereotypical COOL Reggae singer’, chances are, you’re probably going to either think of Beres Hammond and his cool ass leather hat or Cocoa Tea singing a song at his house (or on the beach or laying in a hammock somewhere) and this goes for people who don’t even follow the music too much - The person they come up with in their heads will be very Beres or very Cocoa Tea-like - almost every time. Should the two get together and voice a song (which Hammond would produce), there may actually be some universal rift created with just entirely too much COOL SWEETNESS on a single track.

Chances of Happening? If it were going to happen, I would think it would’ve already, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

#9. Spice & Lady Sweety

Problems! - Take arguably the two most talented female Dancehall lyricists to jump up since Tanya Stephens and put them together on a single tune and you’d have a serious situation on your hands, to say the least. For her part, Spice is in the process (and has been for a decade) of taking the hardcore side of the Dancehall and making it her own personal playground as far as the ladies go as she is BY FAR the most talented entrant in that genre consistently in Jamaica to emerge in quite some time. Lady Sweety? Sweety seems to be an ARCHITECT of the spoken word and should she choose to attack such a combination in either Englsh or Creole, the results would be MASSIVE on any terms. They’ve kind of quietly become very similar artists, in respect to their subgenres and together they’d do a major damage and letting Spice’s ‘old friend’ Dave Kelly produce it wouldn’t hurt things either.

Chances of Happening? Not holding my breath, but if it’d help, I would.

#8. Jah Cure & Ce’Cile

DUH! - So Jah Cure is scoring hit after hit while concluding his stay in prison, gets out of prison and releases a new album basically on the same damn day, continues to score hits after he’s released and does so under the Danger Zone banner and all is well in the world with the ridiculous voiced singer at the height of his power. Meanwhile, at roughly the same time, Ce’Cile has hit her prime. Having had an album “coming soon” or been in “negotiations” with the likes of Delicious Vinyl for years and years, she seemingly reemerges revitalized and refreshed and promptly proceeds to score hit after hit and also manages to release about 5 albums in like . . . A half an hour and she does so . . . Under the . . . Danger Zone . . . Banner. Hmmm. The two score MASSIVE hits, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Sticky’ respectively, over the same damn riddim (the Jam Down, also from Danger Zone, SHOCKINGLY) and no big tune together. And yet, Ce’Cile has worked with EVERYBODY and Jah Cure (musically speaking) goes to Barbados (with a stop in Trinidad to get a producer) to work with Alison Hinds and my face is planted FIRMLY in my palm. The results here would certainly be HUGE and - Well, I’m not even going to say who would produce it.

Chances of Happening? Shit, I’d say 100%, but I would’ve said the same thing a couple of years ago, so what in the hell do I know?

#7. Etana & Queen Omega


Royal - You knew this one was coming. I had actually gone through almost this entire process (stopping just short of making the picture) with Trini Empress Queen Omega’s ‘sparring partner’ as the incomparable Queen Ifrica, but then I got to thinking that a combination featuring Etana might be even stronger. Why? I think the two artists are VERY similar, but at different stages of their careers, respectively. Queen Omega may very well be younger than Etana (although I doubt it), but she’s been around longer and if you listen to her she sounds, quite frankly, like Etana might in a few years or so, with a more aggressive stance, flowing tactfully between full singing and full chanting without missing a beat. Etana, on the other hand, given her already secured status, will have the world as her playground will grow to become whatever it is she will become with the best producers on Earth, a luxury which Omega didn’t actually enjoy (although she certainly hasn’t been starving on that end). The results, I think, would be a song where Etana would play the singer and Queen Omega, the chanter. But there would be a point in this song where both would CUT LOOSE with the vocals and that one magical moment would make it all so easily worth it.

Chances of Happening? While it doesn’t seem likely now, with Etana seemingly headed towards the ‘mainstream’ and Queen Omega ruling the ‘underground’ and doing so quite comfortably - With them both still being (I THINK) quite shy of 30 years old (biggup JC), I actually am pretty confident that this will happen at some point.

#6. Capleton & Bounty Killer

DAMN! - I didn’t think of this one until quite late in the process (and actually ended up bumping out Pressure Busspipe - Dezarie in favour of it), but now that I think of it, it’s a pretty big shame that these two didn’t get together, maybe a decade ago even. Capleton and Bounty Killer’s careers kind of both run parallel with each having established themselves as not only legends in the business, but having done so at roughly the same time and with both also having rather public spats with fellow legend Beenie Man, you would’ve thought that it would’ve happened. They’re also both INSTITUTIONS, as they’ve each helped to establish and help along artist after artist and who knows how many dozens of shows and riddims they’ve guested on together as well. So how would the tune sound??? I think it’d be pretty energetic, I also think it would be all over the place and would be surprised if it had any REAL direction to it, but be honest - Would you care? I wouldn’t.

Chances of Happening? This is another case where I’m going to say that if it was going to happen, it would’ve already and, glancing up and down this list, this is probably the most surprised I’d be for any pairing taking place here.

#5. Damian Marley & Assassin

Welcome Home - The thing about Jr. Gong from the perspective of hardcore Reggae fans (like you and me) is to try to get him more involved in making the ‘normal’ everyday type of Reggae. Of course, his name, alone, is something which separates him, but in general, Marley tends to operate on a different level. He’s usually linked up with his brothers and only his brothers, so on the occasions that he ‘comes out to play’ and does so with the likes of Bounty Killer, Capleton, Yami Bolo and the likes, it’s definitely a big deal. Still, doesn’t the notion of Marley jumping on Big Ship’s next riddim sound downright mouthwatering?! So, in order to bring him closer to ‘center’, I’d like to see him do a tune with the growing genius that is Assassin. Besides being wicked to . . . Wherever, ‘Sassin’s style is also kind of similar to Gong’s. They’re both kind of blurring the edges and where Marley ultimately goes back to Roots Reggae music, Assassin goes towards the Dancehall, but they both do so with a level of craftsmanship which is rarely match by their peers. This song would be a very powerful tune and may even sound like a more Dancehall centered version than what Marley recently gave us with Nas.

Chances of Happening? More than likely it’s just wishful thinking, but what I’m thinking is that after Distant Relatives runs its course, in 3-4 years or so Marley will want to come back with some entirely more Reggae music focused and Assassin will be in his early thirties at that point (and so will I) (shit), but he’ll definitely still be around and it may happen. A man can dream. Can’t he???

#4. Tiwony & Bunji Garlin

When Worlds Collide - I maintain (and maybe only I, but who cares what you think) that Gwada ace Tiwony and 500x Trinidad Soca Monarch sound very much alike one another. With a very kind of ‘low’ but exploding style, I think their tones are similar and they’re both extremely talented which would make a combination between the two downright LETHAL. Tiwony is the ever improving lyrical dynamo who has shown versatility with tunes like ‘Priyé Jah’ and ‘Jah Is My Guide’ on one end of the spectrum and ‘Longtime’ and the Socafied ‘Fly’ on the other. And Bunji has also proven himself quite the versatile wordsmith, both in Soca and Reggae/Dancehall. Garlin is also probably (definitely) the single most gifted Soca lyricist EVER and with hits spanning the globe, his ‘qualifications’ are unquestionable at this point. Together? I’m picturing something REALLY over-the-top and ridiculous and absolutely FIRE in every way and even if it were to go slow, one-drop like, I wouldn’t care too much, this one is a can’t-miss winner.

Chances of Happening? I don’t think it’ll ever happen. While Bunji does go after combinations with Jamaican artists (Beenie and Busy in just the last couple of years), I’ve never known him to bridge the language gap (unless we’re speaking Hindi) and for his part, Tiwony seems almost exclusively focused on combinations with Creole and French artists. Dammit!

#3. Destra & Faye-Ann Lyons

. . . Or die - Can you imagine? The colours! The madness! The ROAMING FITS OF INSANITY! It would all be absolutely beautiful and it would probably kill me in the process, but again, I really wouldn’t care too much. Should Destra, in all of her splendour and wonderfulness link up with Faye-Ann, who has been on a fantastic streak now dating back four years or so and is in the prime of her career, I mean that would be the stuff Soca legends are made of. They’re styles, although different (Lyons is much more aggressive and lyrically more impressive, while Destra’s greatest talent comes in her incomparable delivery and showwomanship (and her voice is better also)), are quite comparable and I think would make for an undeniable winner. And did I mention the madness? Go back and pluck ‘Get On’ from Faye-Ann and imagine if Destra was guesting on the tune. Imagine Faye-Ann having a verse on ‘Bacchanal’ or on ‘Last Lap’! DAMN!

Chances of Happening? In 2008 Faye-Ann did a tune, ‘Getting’ On Wild’ with Nnika Francis from out of Greenz and that same year it was all about the obsessive wining going on with Destra, Alison Hinds and Saucy. I think it’s only a matter of time before these two give everyone what they want and bridge the gap with one of the biggest moments in Soca history.

#2. Aidonia & Saïk

In the Year 4000 - Should it actually come to fruition, you’d probably need a computer of some sort to count the words per second between Aidonia and young Gwada superstar, Saïk. Aidonia has become this kind of otherworldly gifted wordsmith who links words and phrases with words and phrases and gives his words and phrases the feel that they simply do what he says with . . . Words and Phrases. It’s almost FUNNY at times to hear that man deejay . . . If that’s what we’re still calling it when he does it. For his part, Saïk isn’t very far behind and tracing him back to his earlier moments you can literally hear him becoming more and more talented to the point where we hear what he hear today - An artist with a TIMING for the words which may just be unmatched in the Dancehall - Of any kind. And he’s still progressing and I think before he’s finished, he’ll be a virtual mirror of Aidonia (with a higher pitch and in Creole). If/when they actually got together for a song, I think it would be best to take such a thing and pack it up in a time capsule and bury it with the instructions ‘Do Not Open Until Year 4000’, but before you do that, I’d like to hear it please. Thanks.

Chances of Happening? Not bad. In his career, Aidonia has done combinations of sorts with both Kalash and Krys (and Kartel) as well as a few Soca artists, while Saïk has worked with Nicky B, so the connections have kind of been established (and Saïk also, kinda/sorta also dealt with Beenie Man). It would almost have to be a Saïk project in order to get to that level to involve Aidonia, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Saïk’s next album rolled out (maybe even this year), with a tune featuring Aidonia.

#1. Sizzla & Vaughn Benjamin

And die a happy man - It would have to be perfect. You’d have to take any attractions to any inclinations whatsoever Sizzla might have to act crazy on the track. You might need to do a straight Nyah drum for the riddim and you’d have to take absolutely precise precautions. It might even be impossible at this point. But if you could do it . . . A straight forward Roots Reggae tune featuring Sizzla Kalonji alongside the genius front man of Midnite, Vaughn Benjamin would be EPIC. You might not be able to understand the concept, but it would be timeless. I’m thinking lock the two in the studio with someone like Linval Thompson, someone like such who commands an incomparable lot of respect and just destroy some type of vibration, using it to craft what would be one of the greatest songs ever heard. To this point, they’ve certainly appeared on the same projects and who knows how they’re paths may have crossed through the years, but never on one same track. Should they ever, you talk about POWER. The song would be amongst the greatest written compositions in the history of word, sound and power.

Chances of Happening? Wouldn’t be surprised at all and hoping hoping hoping.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Finish Him": A Review of Feel Your Presence by NiyoRah

I think it’s almost ‘the nature’ of what we do as fans of music to be quick to point out when there’s an artist who doesn’t quite pan out the way we thought he/she might have and falls below our expectations. We use words like ‘underachiever’ and ‘flop’ when an artist has shown something special in the past, but cannot seem to recapture whatever it was. Moreover, there’s the case of the ‘one-hit wonders’, which is kind of an insult in music terms, despite the fact that there’re literally millions of struggling artists around the world who would probably give anything to gain such a status. However, this isn’t always the case and thankfully there are situations where an artist does rise to the occasion and becomes everything you, and maybe even everyone, else may’ve hoped and thought that they would. Within the timeframe of the last decade or so, I can rather safely say that even though he may have ‘equals’ (such as Lutan Fyah), no other artist who comes to mind has more so wonderfully developed and become the SENSATIONAL artist I believed they would than the St. Thomas based Dominica born singing chanter, NiyoRah. I’m so much directed back to a very short five years ago in 2005 when the biggest label on the Virgin Islands Reggae scene, I Grade Records, released a trio of albums known as “Fyah, Earth, Wind”, which featured Niyo’s debut album A Different Age, Ancient King’s Conquering Sound and Rasta Awake from Army, in close succession. In retrospect, you could probably make the case (although I’d probably disagree) that of the three, NiyoRah’s album was the least impressive (and we’re dealing with very slight terms here, I’d give each of those albums a very decent ranking at this point still), however, he CLEARLY had the most potential (and it’s quite telling, in my opinion, that I Grade has continued along to this very day and all of those artists have had albums since then, but the only one to have had one, subsequently, on I Grade has been NiyoRah). I could tell very clearly back then that he was an artist who, at least seemingly, would have a GRAND future and given that Ancient King’s very fiery style was one that I was well accustomed to and that Army was, almost certainly unbeknownst to anyone outside looking in (including yours truly), probably already a pretty big deal on the Virgin Island scene, Niyo, of the three, was the one I was going to be sure to keep an eye on and half a decade later and I’m still so closely watching. One year after A Different Age, Purification Session dropped and it remains one of my favourite albums of all time, the progress NiyoRah showed in that one year was amazing and definitely the question became - Could he do it again?

Well, we’ve essentially had to wait four years to find out (although there was Stolen Scrolls in the meantime), but now he’s ready to show if he can with his brand new album, Feel Your Presence on his own brand new label Denkenesh Records (distributed by I Grade, fittingly, and of course the beautiful girls and boys at Zojak Worldwide, digitally). In the past four years, although he hasn’t been super-active Niyo’s name has been out there on singles - He was featured on I Grade’s MAMMOTH Joyful Noise compilation, he’s guested on more than one of Itation’s riddims, songs for a few other labels as well (like Lustre Kings) and there was also a tune ‘Capture The Moment’ he did for a giant double disc compilation by the name of Gather The Remnant. That particular tune is very interesting because that project, to my knowledge, was directed by veteran Andrew ‘Bassie’ Campbell, recorded in primarily in Jamaica and it featured a whole heap of artists from all around the Western Hemisphere and lo and behold, NiyoRah’s new album was produced by Bassie Campbell, was recorded in Jamaica and he is also from somewhere in the Western Hemisphere. I don’t think that it’s too far of a leap to make to say that what you’re going to hear on Feel Your Presence comes largely from work perhaps done on the same trip to Jamaica to work on the compilation or was an idea birthed by said trip. Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that last year, when I first got wind of a forthcoming album from Niyo, all research I had done actually pointed to the thought that the album would, in fact, be named Capture The Moment, so I definitely think the two instances of recording the compilation and the album were somewhat related at the very least (I also think that it’s somewhat interesting that, going back to Niyo’s musical origins, with the now famed Star Lion Family, both he and superstar Pressure Busspipe who came from the group have both now done a great deal of work in the birthplace of Reggae music). And if you haven’t vibed Bassie’s work previously, it certainly should be said that he is EXCELLENT and as his first album outside of the proven lot that is Laurent ‘Tippy’ Alfred, Tuff Lion and co., which he enjoyed at I Grade, NiyoRah made a wonderful choice. Still, with all of that talent, with four years now behind him since we’ve last heard from him on an album, the aforementioned improvements he made in between his first two albums and the fact that NiyoRah has simply grown up (apparently he’ll be thirty years old in a matter of months) (still older than me) expectations for this album should be almost unfair, but I don’t give a damn! I was expecting MAGIC with this release and nothing short of magic would have sufficed. And after fourteen tracks of Feel Your Presence I can very interestingly say two things: The first being that it isn’t a ‘better’ album than Purification Session, but the second is that - As it turns out, it really didn’t have to be. Let’s examine!

Between the A Different Age and Purification Session albums, the main difference that I noticed was that NiyoRah seemed to grow in what I used to call “aggressiveness”, but I now recognize as self confidence and assuredness and it is a quality he has in abundance and puts on full display on his brand new third studio album, Feel Your Presence, the debut release for NiyoRah’s very own Denkenesh Records label. Getting the album started is a stream of FIVE tunes which, at least to my ear, are nearly perfect pieces and it really got to the point where I had to go back and take a listen and make sure that I hadn’t accidentally randomized the player, but that’s exactly how it is. The first of those tunes is the very lyrically complicated ‘No Guts, No Glory’. Given the title of the song and how it eventually plays out, I took the song as one which is a call to action of sorts - There’s an old saying which says ‘if you don’t shoot, you always miss’. The confusion occurs near the beginning where Niyo speaks of people in various situations (sometimes active and sometimes inactive) being saved by His Majesty and he also repeats it later on as well, however, the conclusion that I reached in regards to that is that what Niyo is doing is setting the ultimate example and ‘bracket’ of GUTS and GLORY. It is HE who has the most guts and receives the most glory and thus people who attempt to do the same, walk in a fashion as HIM. Regardless of the meaning conclusions you reach, it is a HUGE tune and it finds the artist IMMEDIATELY grabbing his listeners’ attention and forcing us to think, which is always a welcome development. The next tune is one I have been looking forward to hearing for more than a minute now as it, the scintillating ‘Bruk Down Barrier’, features NiyoRah alongside the always excellent Jah Mason. The tune is just a BIG vibes aimed at destroying corruption wherever it may exist and the two make a very strong duo. Have to say that, of course, the Mason is on point throughout, but my personal highlight of the tune is Niyo’s second verse where he absolutely DESTROYS that lush Bassie riddim before turning whatever was left of it back over to the Mason to attempt to rebuild! The tune is also a dosage of some ‘edge’ nice and early in the album and that too is a good thing. ‘Bruk Down Barrier’ clears the way (did you catch that?) for what is, in my opinion, the strongest tune on the album, the first single and title track:

“Now I feel your presence again
Whoa Jah!
Now I feel your essence again
Whoa Jah!
So take me, liberate me, educate me
I’m asking you -
Oh please, oh please

This divine piece of a tune obviously has a spiritual basis, but it develops into an even more spiritual and tangible vibe (particularly later on) that is just so powerful that . . . I mean, this song should help A LOT of people and in so many ways. That stirring title track is followed by the aforementioned ‘former’ title track ‘Capture The Moment’. This swinging song (is currently making my daughter dance) is another very strong one and for me it simply means to appreciate the time we have and, as is his norm, NiyoRah puts some nice twists and turns in the lyrics, but he eventually comes back to center which is a very nice way to start and end. Speaking of “twists and turns”, ‘Close Call’ is kinda/sorta the obligatory herbalist track for Feel Your Presence, but instead of espousing on the virtues of marijuana (as you’ve heard on hundreds of tunes by this point), Niyo focuses on the fight that it receives and finds himself in a few very tight situations which I won’t spoil for you, but you should definitely check out on your own (and the WICKED way the riddim just continues for about fifty seconds after the lyrics are done). Like I said, that very first line of tunes on the album really gets the energy (and the EXPECTATIONS) very very high.

When you slap “featuring Sugar Minot” on any song, you’re also going to get high expectations which are exactly what NiyoRah receives on the tune ‘World Jungle’. I imagine that it’s largely due to Minot’s presence, but to my ears, this tune has a very nice old school vibes around it. The tune itself speaks to the world in general, the dangerous aspects of it and Sugar Minot and paint the picture of a place (and a potential place which isn’t safe for ANYONE, not even the oppressors themselves (and ‘incidentally‘ Minot also featured on the aforementioned Gather The Remnant release, as did Jah Mason).

Don’t let the fact that I stressed the first few tunes let you think that the remaining pieces are substandard in any way, because they most certainly are not. Let ‘Turn Around The Garrison’ stand as a fine example of that as the delightful tune is probably one of the best on the album. It’s also one of the straightest forward and doesn’t particularly need a big breakdown, but I will say that, for me, the prevailing sentiment is UNITY and that comes through very strong, particularly later on, but the big and colourful vibes are the big attraction here. The vibes are also very strong on the next tune, the dazzling ‘Backbone’. This one is going to stand as THE love song of Feel Your Presence, but it certainly isn’t your stereotypical ‘love song’. It’s actually more of women’s empowerment type of notion to my opinion and even though it eventually moves more back into the realm of being the standard type of love song, it’s only done after it has been reinforced that, “you are the backbone, fi tek care ah my home”. The VERY curious and interesting ’[No One Go] Round The Track’ is at least a minute and half longer than any other track on the album and that’s largely due to the fact that this GORGEOUS riddim plays for about two minutes after Niyo’s portion is done and it goes all over the place and is absolutely POUNDING with that one-drop. The song itself is somewhat complex (duh), but it hit me as predominately a social commentary of epic proportions (“They give us sneakers and jocks to build up their own stocks. Have us working on clocks, then they feed us rocks”). The same could be said about the next two tunes on the album as well. Check ‘The Day The Dollar Died’, which is NiyoRah’s comment on the economic problem the world is taking. In the lyrical sense, “the dollar” begins to take on more meaning that just in the monetary way. It becomes a symbol for corruption and Niyo’s comment seems to be how much more beneficial life is when LOVE is the center instead of the dollar. And then comes ‘Propaganda’ which, outside of maybe ‘Round The Track’ (because I had to really listen closely to hear the lyrics), is probably the song which I actually spun through the most times on the album and that’s because it goes all over the place. It actually has more of a freestyle type of vibes with Niyo addressing a variety of topics and I’m sure there’s a single direction in there, underlining it all and I’m still searching for it. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the FIRE of this excellent vibes. Things are less frantic, although no less interesting (and electric) at all on the completely well done ‘Stolen Legacy’. The tune features Niyo so brilliant speaking on the “big robbery” (“them making a mockery”) and doing so in the context of the Afrikan Diaspora and all of the bullshit we’ve encountered over the years in being separated and being turned against one another. It’s a very deep song, but one which thrives in both the educational and entertainment realms and to me that makes it one of the best tunes on the album as well.

And as Feel Your Presence winds down, we get a tune ‘From Since When’ which speaks on . . . Patricide of all things. I would think this tune came from some type of experience NiyoRah heard of or actually saw because a very specific and somewhat random thought to focus on, but as usual he hits it very hard. I also think that the song speaks on just general deterioration of society (I.e. if someone KILLS THEIR OWN MOTHER FOR MONEY, how further down can you go?) as well. The tune also has a very interesting set, it sounds like something Femi Kuti may do in terms of the riddim and NiyoRah sounds perfectly at home with it. And lastly is a tune which is DEFINITELY one of my personal favourites, the organic ‘Indigenous World’. This, the final tune on the album breaks the mold and becomes the clear choice as the album’s changeup with it’s pounding drum/wilderness type of riddim. You can take this one in a variety of directions and the one I ultimately came away with is to enjoy nature and the ‘natural aspects’ of the world.

“Don’t you judge a man from the bush [You know why?]
He might be an ancient soul from the land of Kush
And don’t you the woman from the forest [You know why?]
The spirit of Menen could be in the body of Delores”

NiyoRah also speaks about leaving the world of confusion (“with the river as my radio”) and then jumps into the second verse which turns the fire way up. And if ever there were a tune on the album you’d hope would continue, like a few others, with the riddim playing after the lyrics are done on the tune it would be this one and sure enough ‘Indigenous World’ gives us about forty seconds of just that which is a very nice way to end the song and a very nice way to end a more than just “very nice” album.

Overall, yeah yeah yeah, it’s a beautiful beautiful album and it’s the third TRULY great Reggae album of 2010 in my opinion, but I want to go back and make a ‘comparison’. Like I said, I can’t say that Feel Your Presence is an improvement over the wizardry which was Purification Session (one of the best NAMED albums of all-time, by the way), but it is better in some spots (lyrically, for instance), however, that’s not the point. What is my point is that these two albums are very similar and if you were to go back in time and suddenly Purification Session was a double disc release and the second disc was Feel Your Presence, it wouldn’t be too out of place because it goes so close with that album, that it literally sounds like a continuation of what started back then. This album is like the second installment of that one and that is GREAT thing, I’m going to say that (given the very different way in which this album was done) that it wasn’t actually by a design from NiyoRah (or anyone else), but what I think it is, is a matter of him becoming who he is going to be as an artist. You listen to his music now and he can deejay and he can sing, he can do straight chanting and his lyrically ability is now slightly stronger which is definitely saying something. So maybe after all that, it is some type of progression in terms of quality. Regardless, judging it on its own merits, Feel Your Presence is a BIG shot and it’s one of the best albums of 2010 coming from an artist in NiyoRah, who is now a ‘finished’ product. EXCELLENT!

Rated 5/5
Denkenesh Records/I Grade Records/Zojak Worldwide
CD & Digital
{Releases on June 15, iTunes exclusive}