Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Over Hills And Valleys Too

Okay, last week we dealt with individuals who maybe didn’t reach the levels many people had thought that they would or maybe even they, themselves, had thought that they would - The Underachievers. This week, however, we’re going to look at ten names who’ve managed to reach the masses in the exact opposite way - By going above and beyond most, if not ALL, expectations. These are ten artists who have distinguished themselves far more so than we might’ve thought at any point during their career and have done so, in some cases, to the tune of creating a bonafide legend of themselves. Thus, I submit for your approval, The Ten Biggest Overachievers in Reggae Today.

{note: Again, I tried to remain somewhat current}
{note 2: Artists are ranked according to the size of the gap (or perceived gap) between expectations of what they might’ve been and what they are. #10 means the smallest gap, #1 means the largest}
{note 3: No Soca}
{note 4: See Underachievers list here}

#10. Kiprich

It just may be the case that for most people who even know who may even know the name Kiprich, he is and is forever destined to be a sidekick like character to Elephant Man (particular from Ele’s ridiculous ‘Pon Di River’ video) and they may never regard him as much, if anything more. That is so fucking unfortunate because, as much as I may have (and did) deride him in the past, I have to admit that ‘Kippo’ has come a hell of a lot further than I would have ever anticipated. To his credit are two albums, Outta Road (for VP) and Drama King, both of which saw him doing his thing for the Big Yard camp as a former official member (another big deal). Those albums were full of undeniable HITS like ‘Telephone Ting’ and ‘The Letter’ and many others which he has scored over the years and I think that it’s a pretty big statement to say that I’d be looking forward to his next release! And I would be looking forward to it primarily because of what Kiprich has been up to as of late, as he has, over the course of the past couple of years (although an old spat with Gabriel definitely showed there was a fire there), shockingly become a bit of a war monger himself. Consistently bashing up General B and even Merciless as of late has gained Kiprich an even larger following - Such a very far cry from the days of being Elephant Man’s rather goofy sounding, childish sidekick. Well done Kippo.

#9. Natural Black

As two entrants of the top five on this list will tell you, I give extra credit when you travel. The Guyana born and raised Natural Black has a story which is very well told - Having reached Jamaica by way of his native Guyana with no arrangements on what he was to do, knowing only that he wanted to be a Reggae singer and a successful one. That was fifteen years ago now and while, ostensibly, there doesn’t seem to be much of a big deal having a successful Guyanese Reggae singer in Jamaica, Natural Black’s work DEFINITELY gives him the label of pioneer, because not only did he make the jump, he has been able to succeed and return to his home and succeed there as well. With the tune ‘Far From Reality’, he grabbed up (I THINK) his first number one hit and it also would lead him to having his first of two very strong albums for Greensleeves, named after the tune. Also, the very fact that Black has become one of the most CONSISTENT artists in the game should also be worth something. Consistency is something which often doesn’t draw the most attention, but again, coming from the background that Natural Black has come from, it’s probably his greatest quality on a musical level.

#8. Spice

Spice may be a relatively new artist in the face of many people, however, I must say that my own first memory of the dynamic DJ came almost nine years ago when she reached a Sting stage (2001) and in the midst of having a relatively fun and relatively public (that’s the point anyway) feud with ace DJ, Elephant Man, she . . . Well she burned a hole in Sting and probably got more forwards that night than Ninja Man and Bounty Killer would the next morning for disarming the war head, for absolutely lyrically SPANKING Ele (“him come ah talk bout ‘caprice’, ‘caprizzle’, ‘shizzle ma nizzle’, same time him look up inna four gun nozzle”). Since then, along with becoming one of the (if not THE) most consistent performer to reach Sting’s stage annually, Spice has shown herself to be one of the WICKEDEST lyricists in the game, regardless of gender. She’s also taken aim at Beenie Man, most recently Lisa Hype[r] and others through the years and she’s gone on to work extensively with the incomparable Dave Kelly’s Mad House label, as well as reportedly signing a contract with the biggest label in the industry, VP Records, and we’ll probably see her debut full length album later this year. She’s probably one of the most popular pure Dancehall artists in the world at this point and SHE’S EARNED IT.

#7. Chezidek

Oh funny voiced one. Be honest - The first time you ever heard a tune from Chezidek, did you really expect him to go on to be as big of a deal that he has become? I’ve been championing his cause since I very first heard of the singer (which was about 300 years ago now) and I can honestly say that I didn’t. However, I KNEW that the man had a talent and I was just hopeful that it was one which would ultimately be appreciated by the greater masses just as I did and it wouldn’t be kind of shuffled away because of his very unusual method of ‘delivery’. Yes. Chezidek sings very very strangely, however, for anyone who has ever REALLY paid attention to the singer, you KNOW how strong he can be and is. It seems as now, however, the world knows as well. With album dropping after album dropping for the former Xterminator product and having more bonafide hits than I think most people give him credit for, Chezidek has established himself as one the greatest and most popular and most well respect modern Roots Reggae artists in the game today, period. Funny martian singing voice be damned.

#6. [Baby] Cham

I told you last week that Baby Cham would probably be the only artist whose name appeared as both an underachiever and an overachiever and here he is. The support for him as an underachiever hinges on the fact that he’s probably WICKED on his own and outside the lights of Dave Kelly’s production and he’s essentially deprived the Dancehall listening world of that for years. The case for Cham as an overachiever, on the other hand, well . . . Okay it’s kind of based on the same thing. The very fact that he’s managed to make it as far as he has is a sign of overachieving and it didn’t just start with the wonder years of ‘Ghetto Story’. If you remember way back in . . . whatever year that was, Cham also scored an international hit with ‘Tables Will Turn’, alongside Hip-Hopper Foxy Brown where he was returning the favour as she had previously appeared on a tune with him for his album Wow . . . The Story. He grabbed that up by virtue of being in the right place at the right time as Kelly was doing production for Brown’s Broken Silence album. And of course he was also in the right place to catch up with Alicia Keys years later and sign a major deal and go back and do ‘Conscience’ and ‘Wha Dem Feel Like’ and although there were other producers here and there, he did all of that largely recording for just Madhouse which is amazing! An over achieving underachiever, Baby Cham will probably go down as one of the greatest enigmas the Dancehall has ever seen.

#5. Alborosie

Okay so, you probably know that I’m not the biggest of Alborosie’s fans, but I don’t put his name here simply because I’m in shock and awe that he’s managed to have any semblance of a career, but the levels that he’s reached have certainly been surprising. If you go back to Natural Black’s case and that of the #3 name on this list - At least they’re not TOTALLY out of the stream. What may’ve propelled Alborosie, damn near a decade ago, to just pack up and leave his home in SICILY of all places, to move to Jamaica and decide he wanted to be a Reggae artist and just be generally involved in the music is unknown to me (besides the fact that Reggae is amazingly wonderful in everyway, but that’s accepted and goes without saying), but whatever it is it was probably the greatest thing to ever happen to him because someday it’ll probably make a legend out of him. Albo has such a large and interesting following that it’s kind of hard to just see him fading away into obscurity one day. Instead, what seems more likely is that his releases will be closely followed for the remainder of his career and his fan base will continue to grow. So although I may not get it, the kid from Alborosie is a bonafide STAR in Reggae music - Little kid from Sicily - Wow.

#4. Anthony B

Even though three artists rank on this list higher than does Anthony B, he is DEFINITELY the quintessential overachiever when it comes to Reggae music. When you look at his peers - People like Capleton, Sizzla, Luciano and Buju, they all seem to have something which separates them from the pack of dozens and dozens of Roots Reggae artists in this era (some of whose names adorn this list) and it, whatever it is, is IMMEDIATE. It doesn’t take long to see that Sizzla is a ridiculous lyricist or that Luciano has this incredible voice or that Buju has probably the most star quality Reggae has scene since Bob Marley and is another incredible lyricist and it also doesn’t take long to see the Capleton seems to have his listeners (whoever they are) in the palm of his hand whenever he opens his mouth. Anthony B doesn’t have those things to those degrees, but you cannot just pick his name from out of that category of star artists, because he belongs there. Why? What does he have? Anthony B just may be the hardest working man ON HIS CRAFT that Reggae has seen in the past two decades or so. His will is incredibly strong and it has seemingly been his WILL which has WILLED him into the artist that he is today, which is one belonging to the aforementioned group of stars. And seriously to speak further, Anthony B has established such a longevity in the business that I am SO curious to see how he’s perceived and regarded in the future exactly what type of artist may come up having been clearly influenced by the original fire man.

#3. Pressure Busspipe

Truth be told, Pressure is probably the single most talented artist on this list altogether. He very much fits (in terms of style) into the group I just went into in regards to Anthony B - The VERY talented chanter who can sing occasionally. He also, needless to say, has quite a bit of star quality, every bit as much of some of the more popular names in the game and, much like with Chezidek, I’ve been telling people for years just how good he is. So why in the hell is he on a list of underachievers? Because there was a bridge that was being built between Jamaica Reggae and Reggae from the Virgin Islands and Pressure and Pressure completed the bridge. There were artists before him, there have been artists since who have seemingly had the ability to do just that, but the one who got it done (with a whole heap of help, of course) was Pressure with the MAMMOTH ‘Love & Affection’. Since then he’s definitely remained solid and in doing so has proven himself to be so much more than a one-hit wonder and he’s also managed to do so much more than anyone could have ever thought - Even me back in the day telling everyone how WICKED the The Pressure Is On album was.

#2. Sean Paul

You know I almost didn’t put Sean Paul on this list because I kind of felt that it went without saying. I was going to fully be happy with making him a ‘#1 Emeritus’ type of a thing, but I eventually put him in and did so to make a point. I am a fan of Sean Paul’s. I STILL regard his debut album, Stage One as one of the greatest Dancehall albums ever (and if it had come out just about a year later, it would have already been declared a ‘modern classic’ and I may just do it anyway one day, just because) and his third album, Trinity, was pretty decent and overall, I think the man definitely has talent. I also almost ended up being a feature writer for his website (before my contact ended up finding something else to do with his time) (biggup Ryan). Of course, he isn’t the most talented artist that we have, which is what you might think given the position he occupies, but I give credit to him for occupying said position because it is one which definitely comes with maintenance. The man has worked EXTREMELY hard and still is and really who knows how many fans have been turned on to how many other artists in looking for his music. He has definitely gotten a lot of flack from the hardcore heads and while, ostensibly, I overstand why, it isn’t deserved. The man worked his ass off, credit be to him for it.

#1. Mavado

Mavado. Mavado has a good voice. It isn’t the best, but it’s very good and I still don’t think that we’ve heard it to its absolute range (and we may never). He’s not the best songwriter in the world, he sometimes says things which either make absolutely no sense or are just flat strange (“squeeze di breast just like di trigger of mi gun”). He doesn’t have a great deal of star quality either, he’s kind of awkward in my opinion and it often seems as if he’s kind of shy and uncomfortable with the position he’s attained.

All of that being said, I put him at number one on this list because something REALLY remarkable is going on with Mavado. He comes up as this death-preoccupied singer who has absolutely no versatility whatsoever in terms of what he’s good at. It’s just guns over guns and death over life for him. And then one day he decides to tell us how special he is and the entire world listens to the tune of the biggest hit of his career and the biggest international hit of that year. He’s a singer and one who isn’t exceptionally strong lyrically, like I said, and in the hometown of arguably the greatest lyricist of this era the crowd declares him winner of a clash with that same individual and going on two years later, people still discuss the true winner (it was a draw). The very fact that there can be any argument at all is amazing when he was supposed to be little more than a sacrificial lamb and was a real contender instead (after COMPLETELY spoiling his start and eventually righting the ship, yet more evidence of his overachieving because halfway through the thing and it was looking damn ugly for Mavado) and it is a discussion which shall rage on for as long as people have mouths and fingers.

On top of that, it’s becoming crystal clear as of late that ANYTHING Mavado releases is going to become a hit on some level. It may not take over the globe and have asses shaking worldwide and it may not be single-handedly responsible for the crime rate in some random area spiking, but it will be a HIT. Every single one will be paid a pretty decent amount of attention to and will subsequently go on to success (and while it may be to no direct credit of his own, every tune may just be available digitally as well, especially considering that he’s now no longer under contract).

And he also went on to make piece (regardless of how temporary) with the normally standoffish Kartel and he’s actually become much better in terms of his skills as an artist and his range of subjectry as well. Mavado is definitely a big artist and it’s nothing you would’ve expected when he came up as seemingly just another random and completely average face in the Alliance pack. Random? Absolutely. Average? Absolutely not.

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