As someone who has fifteen months and eleven days left in their twenties, I think that I’m in a pretty good position to say that the act of growing up is really damn ridiculous. There is simply too much stuff that has to occur between childhood and adulthood to accomplish it all or to, more importantly, give the appearance to other people that you’ve accomplished it all. And while there’re certainly some good things about the situation (like the little ones) (and the bigger ones) (if I called my wife a ‘big one’ . . . PROBLEMS), all in all, if I could stay a child for my entire life (who could catch a plane by himself), it would be one very tempting proposition. Now, when you take into consideration that, for the most part, I only have to do this ‘growing up’ nonsense in the presence of my Wife and said “little one”, who have their own damn problems (namely, yours truly), that’s one thing, but imagine if I had to do it in front of anyone who would be willing to pick up an album full of my music or watch a video or just listen intently to a song on the radio. I probably would have major problems and that is, essentially, what we ask of our musicians and artists. In Reggae, things are the same, but kind of more direct as the groupings tend to be smaller and more consistent (I.e. a particular artist will begin his/her career recording with a particular producer and much later, they’re still recording with that producer). One example of a very interesting case of artist development at this very moment HAS to be the case of Vybz Kartel. It seems not too long ago when the world was asking when the lightening tongued lyrics genius from out of Portmore would diversify his game beyond the ’3 G’s’ of Dancehall subjectry (Girls, Guns and Ganja) and he’s certainly done that. In the process, however (at least in my opinion) (and maybe only my opinion), he’s also managed to chase away any semblance of FUN in his music also. Also we can look at the case of Assassin, a ’classmate’ of Kartel’s, in terms of time. Assassin, coming up, was a very intelligent and no frills type of DJ and now that he’s streamlined his game a bit, he’s still very much like that, however, what we here today is a version of the DJ who has CLEARLY become much more educated and, in my opinion, is operating on a level which not too many of his peers are even capable of reaching. There’re other cases such as with Ce’Cile, whose music has gone from this very chic and ‘bouncy’ type of Dancehall to a state capable of producing appetizing MILF-like GEMS such as ‘Waiting’ and definitely ‘Home Tonight’; and Busy Signal (more on him later) who has kind of had a hot and cold type of career, but his current HOT is absolutely scolding, having seemingly pruned away any signs of his prior inconsistencies which is truly a mark of growing up . . . Not that I’d know from personal experience or anything.
Someone who might know is the very popular Admiral T. You could very well make the point that the Admiral is one of the most popular Dancehall artists in the world as the wicked DJ from out of Gwada has seen a rise to prominence which was led him to arguably become the most well known and appreciated of the French/Creole speaking Dancehall artists in the world (I guess the only other people in consideration would be the funny talking Lord Kossity and perhaps Krys). And while people like myself may make the point that others such as former protégé and disciple Saïk and the WICKED Tiwony may have outgrown the Admiral in terms of pure skill, I cannot honestly make the argument that either have outshone his star. Truly when it comes to Dancehall, Admiral T is the big man in my opinion. That certainly makes the fact that after locking things up outside of the studio, in terms of his other ventures (which, to my knowledge, includes acting and a clothing line, WOK), Admiral T returns to the masses with his very first release in four years and his third studio album overall, Instinct Admiral. The album comes via the always very dependable Don’s Music from out Martinique and of course Admiral T is one of the only current Dancehall acts in the world with a major deal, so Universal Records of France are also on board to take the release to an even higher level and it is under such sets of circumstances that this album, without a doubt is one of the largest of the year, period, in Reggae music. And for me personally, Admiral T was one of the very first two French/Creole speaking artists that I REALLY began to pay attention to (the other was, of course, Saël), so it is at least partially to his credit that I began to listen to names like the aforementioned Saïk and Tiwony, and also Lady Sweety, SamX, Paille and most recently Kalash. So the album is a big deal for me as well and I’m sure in France it’s already doing big business with just a week or two on and I‘m sure the DEVASTATING performer has already been lighting up stages throughout France already (he easily has one of the best stage shows I‘ve ever seen in my life) (biggup Dominica). So is Instinct Admiral going to live up to everyone’s certainly lofty expectations? Probably. As I’ve built the premise of this review on, it’s definitely going to catch a few people off guard because it sounds quite a bit more MATURE than Admiral T’s previous work which was (like that of some of the people I mentioned) very Dancehall oriented (and it still is), but almost seemed to go out its way to flip a vibes TOO heavy and TOO energetic. The energy is still here, but thankfully, the Admiral has found a way to add quite a few different colours and vibes to the mix and he’s apparently calibrated and developed it to the point where he’s as good with it as he’s ever been with anything else. So although he arguably didn’t have SO FAR to grow his music (we’re not talking about Red Rat here), what he’s done with Instinct Admiral is EXCELLENT material.
Trying to capture the entire MOOD of the album - It’s very strange. The cover kind of sees Admiral T going jungle/superhuman style, with the world either left behind him having been conquered, or the next step on his physical descent. The way I ultimately took is that he’s now in a position where the sky is his only limit and what we hear here is exactly how he wanted it to be. Hopefully that’s the case and it would be to no one’s surprise that the first thing we hear on Admiral T’s big new album Instinct Admiral is the title track which is, essentially, an intro on which you hear very little speaking, but it is absolutely ELECTRIC and it definitely made me want to hear what the hell was next. What was next was the very first vocal track on the album ‘Phenomenal’ and I’ve built this review on the subject matter of Admiral T reaching some type of maturity in his vibes and taking things to the proverbial ‘next level’, but this tune is EXACTLY the type of song which would have been on his first two albums and I LOVE IT! Besides wanting to hear what was the next step in his career, I just missed hearing the Admiral in general and this is DEFINITELY as I remember him, we’ll worry about progression later! Not too later however, as the next tune, one of the early singles from the album ‘Viser La Victoire’ [‘Aiming For Victory’] is exactly the type of mature type of vibes you might’ve expected to hear. The tune features French rappers, La Fouine and Medine. I have a personal problem with Hip-Hop in French - Not being the biggest fan of the genre in any language, when done in French in specific, however, it sounds to . . . I don’t know, it sounds like I’m being scolded! But the tune, from all measurable degrees is very strong and it’s a highlight here and it’s probably also well on its way to becoming a certified hit as well, so you’ll probably enjoy it to say the least. Next in is ‘Enfants Du Pays’ [‘Children of The Country’] which is FIRE! The tune is definitely hype and uptempo, but it also has a social connotation to it as well and although I think it may be destined to kind of fall beneath the radar, I think it’s rather clearly and easily a VERY marketable tune given the proper and MATURE opportunity.
All eyes are certain to be on a few of the tunes here given the fact that, fittingly, Admiral T rolls in with some TRULY big named friends of his to add the proper blend of herbs and spices to Instinct Admiral. Besides the aforementioned La Fouine and Medine, Admiral T also taps Patrick St. Eloi from Kassav to deliver the very familiar sounding ‘Nou’ [‘We’]. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this tune before somewhere and that’s why it’s stuck with me because it is downright DAZZLING. The riddim here sounds like high-tech beat boxing and it’s addictive and Admiral T and St. Eloi definitely make an interesting duo for one of the strongest pieces on the album (and you’ll undoubtedly see how the Admiral LOCKS IT OFF later on the tune). The very smooth ‘J’ai Besoin D’y Croire’ sounds like a kind of hybrid new and old school R&B tune a bit to my ears and it also features (CUTIE!) Awa Imani. Imani, I believe, would probably be classified more of an R&B/Pop singer rather than Zouk, but she provides an excellent yin to the Admiral’s yang and another very nice tune on Instinct Admiral. Then we get to some of the more ostensibly recognizable names on the album such as both Lieutenant and Young Chang MC who feature on the other early single from the album ‘Gladiator’. This tune, I actually didn’t like very much, surprisingly, outside of bits here and there, but it’s since grown on me. Of course, I would’ve preferred to hear Saïk guest on the tune somewhere, but the increasingly present Lieutenant and Chang (himself with a recent album), do a very nice job. Still, it’s definitely Admiral T stealing the show with the HUGE chorus and then his subsequent verse. I was most happy to see the name Fanny J (even more than the very familiar two artists I’m about to tell you about) on the album out of anyone and she certainly doesn’t disappoint with one of the finest tunes here with Admiral T, ‘Bay Love’. The Zouk diva from out of Guyane even outshines the star here and she has been on a roll as of late and hopefully it pinnacles with a next album from her sometime this year (which is going to be HUGE!). The song has single written all over it and supposedly it’s already mashing up stages in France.
Then there’s the big guns rolling in. The finest tune I hear on Instinct Admiral, unsurprisingly, comes with a very familiar twist as Jamaican Dancehall ace Busy Signal checks in to throw words with the Admiral on the MAD ‘Hands Up’. This is the type of artist we should hear Admiral T alongside every so often and the match of the two talented artists is pretty much an HONOUR to listen to and hopefully we can make such a combination a far less rare occurrence (like, can I now get a Tiwony/Bunji Garlin combination). Speaking of “MAD”, also featuring with Admiral T is the inimitable Machel Montano HD who keeps things youthful (as he refuses to grow up his damn self and we’re grateful for it) (35 years old and still too young to Soca) with the RIPE ’Like It’s Carnival’. I seem to think this tune is older than it actually is, because it sounds so familiar, but regardless of its age, it is WICKED and I expect it to do a major damage at Gwada Carnival and HOPEFULLY I’m somewhere in 2010 to see this one come off live with the two and I may not survive the experience and I won’t give a damn! Oh, and I don’t know who the woman is who features prominently (but goes unacknowledged) on the cool lover’s tune ‘Want You’, but she also does a very nice job and that tune is another which should prove to be quite the marketable piece.
Rounding up the album are very solid solo efforts from Admiral T which are certain to be big tunes as well. The somewhat Zouk-like and vibrant ‘Pitit An Ba Soley’ [‘Child Of The Sun’] is such a tune. I don’t know if I know this riddim from somewhere else or if I’ve just been hearing this tune that much that it sounds so familiar, but it’s worth having the melody in my brain because the tune is very nice and it’s probably my Wife’s favourite on the entire album as well. It is lovely and MATURE. I should also say the same about the very colourful ‘Pi Yo Mét Bayé’, which is another very strong tune and very personal as well. And you’ll also like (if you enjoy the previous two), ‘Pété Chenn La’ [‘Break The Chain’] which flows in that similar way. I’d like to make the point that with the previous two albums, although there were spots like such, there were much more INTENSE tunes which would have been in the stead of tunes like these here and in my opinion, that’s a very powerful statement of the maturity of Admiral T.
As Instinct Admiral winds down it still doesn’t try to beat the listener over the head with vibes and instead makes its point far more tactfully. Both ‘Mwen Tini Ase’ and ‘Dézolé’ have a very nice SWAYING vibes to them, especially on the latter (which almost sounds like a Latin type of vibes at times). They make way for the album’s closer, ‘Mon Idole’! This tune was a breath of fresh air in so many ways, not the least of which is the very fact that it’s the only one-drop on the album and it’s a familiar one as well (I think it’s No Woman No Cry, because I immediately began to sing ‘I Wonder’ by Sizzla when I heard it roll out). Of course it isn’t just straight forward like that, it’s jazzed up quite a bit actually, but it’s a wonderful tune and as I’ve been making this review to remark extensively on Admiral T’s progression and maturity as an artist, it is an absolutely BRILLIANT way to end the album.
Overall, the recommendation for this one is a given in my opinion. It’s one of the world’s most talented artist doing exactly what he does best and on the largest stage that he’s ever done it, so I think that it goes without saying how BIG this album is. I would, however, like to speak more on the subtle appeal of Instinct Admiral. The album is so well done and it, somewhat surprisingly, makes my overall point SO EASY to make because of it. I don’t know if it was directly intentional of Admiral T and the powers that be for the album to make it in such a way, but I feel so happy to NOT be able to recommend this one as fully to new fans of the artist as his other work and while this one is certain to receive quite a bit of attention from the casual crowd, to you, I’d say look at the first two albums first. On Instinct Admiral Admiral T shows that he’s managed to grow up in the studio as well and in doing so he delivers his most MATURE set to date as well his BEST. Very well done.