Monday, January 31, 2011

January Artist of The Month: Chantelle Ernandez!

Chantelle Ernandez

I, humbly, do consider myself a pretty good judge of talent. While I have certainly seen big talents in artists who would subsequently prove that they didn’t have very much, I’ve also been relatively early to jump on quite a few young who have either gone onto show themselves to be stars or are still, presumably, along that decorated course. Still, I’m actually quite happy that (currently) I’m not the one making the music, and thus no one’s future is in my hands, so I do tend to defer, in many cases, to those who do take that responsibility amongst themselves and, of course, that means looking at labels and producers. In this case, we’re going to the UK and looking at Curtis Lynch Jr. and company at Necessary Mayhem, simply one of my favourite labels, who (rightfully so in my opinion) have taken a grand interest in Kingston born (CUTIE) Chantelle Ernandez, who is currently blazing with her DOMINANT lover‘s tune, ‘My Forever’.



The link is a very interesting one when you consider the fact that, at least ostensibly, Chantelle Ernandez is another of a long line of Jamaican singers who most people would hear and almost immediately think of as a potential R&B type of singer and reading through multiple bios for the singer, it’s obviously something which she embraces . . . Necessary Mayhem doesn’t do R&B. They don’t do ‘crossover’ and they don’t do ‘mainstream’. Unless things have drastically changed (and they haven't), the label is most surely going to be presenting Ernandez with old school Lover’s Rock, Dancehall and Roots pieces for the majority of the time that she’s with them, but apparently that’s no problem for her.

Chantelle Ernandez is a young veteran of sorts as she’s paid her dues as both a backing singer and a front woman as well. Not too long ago she appeared in (undoubtedly one of the several incantations of) Sly & Robbie’s group, UnitZz. That assemblage did big things, particularly in Japan, and it helped to get Chantelle’s name in circulation. And recently she also appeared on compilations such as Sly & Robbie’s Grammy nominated ”One Pop Reggae” (as part of UnitZz), ”The Best Supporting Acts” also from Sly & Robbie and one of my favourite pieces from last year, Necessary Mayhem’s ”Digital Acoustics”, where she featured on ‘Sort Me Out’, a kind of a mash up which featured her alongside Dancehall royalty, Shabba Ranking and the late UK Reggae legend Deborahe Glasgow.



However, despite also appearing on Necessary Mayhem’s recently released relick of the Shaolin Temple Riddim, where she sang ‘We Are Strong’ alongside the always impressive Blackout JA. The gold bar of Ernandez’ solo releases to date has been the ”My Forever - EP”, which also comes via the big UK label, digitally through the magic wizards who cast spells at Zojak Worldwide and is currently available.


This release features (of course) the title track surrounded with the aforementioned ‘Sort Me Out’, ‘Good Man’, ‘Poison’ and ‘Hotta Fyah’ and is a wonderful way to introduce her to bigger audiences and potential audiences.



So keep an eye out for Chantelle Ernandez (she’s gorgeous, shouldn’t be too hard to do that) and her future work from Necessary Mayhem. I’ll be very interested to see how exactly the label guides her. The state of and sound of UK Reggae is largely changing from the seemingly never-faltering UK Lover’s Rock into . . . Stuff that sounds like Gappy Ranks and Mr. Williamz and I’m not complaining about that. HOWEVER, in my mind I would think that maybe Ernandez would be set up as a bit of a new age Lover’s Rock singer which would definitely make a great usage of her R&B ’stylings’. Whichever the route ultimately taken by Lynch and Ernandez, however, not only am I convinced by what he hears in her, but my ears are saying the same thing - HUGE FUTURE.

Chantelle Ernandez @ Myspace
Chantelle Ernandez @ Facebook
Chantelle Ernandez @ Twitter

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Big Tunes #43

Yes Yesssssss! (biggup Munga) Back again, another Sunday morning, another round of big tunes from my beautiful readers. To no surprise whatsoever we have a trio of regulars this week who linked me fairly early to let me know what was going on and just to say hello! One of whom even stopped by (guess who that is). We got the second couple of Big Tunes to chrissen it (biggup Edwin Yearwood) and everyone's blah blah blah - Let's go!



First up we have the big big man from out the USVI, Jah Callax (whose name I apparently mistype every other time) who is linking us with tunes from the BVI as Imo brings forth 'Everyday Struggle'. Okay, this tune is from an album, "It's Our Time", which released about a year ago, but it's gotten a bit of a second life now, so you may be able to find it in more places internationally (pretty sure that's what caught Callax' attention). This tune here is pretty nice and biggup Callax and definitely biggup Imo from out of Tortola (Hey Jalena!).



Of course, as I said, we have a couple - So in next in Jah Mrs. Callax - Deborah, who went MINING for this tune from the pretty unquestionable "Living In The Positive" album. It's Nasio absolutely DEVASTATING the people with 'Ithiopia'. I keep meaning to go back and have a listen to some of Nasio's stuff because I just don't think I was able to appreciate it when I was younger. Don't think I'd have that problem now, however. MASSIVE tune Deborah.




Okay so, Remmy (biggup Remmy) has a tune this week and it's Wayne Marshall's 'new' tune, 'Captain', over Yard Vybz' riddim of the same name which is doing a pretty big damage these days. The tune is actually a remake of his old song of the same name which was on his album a long time ago. I'm not the biggest Wayne Marshall fan in the world (don't need to tell you that) so me saying I don't like the tune is not a surprise. HOWEVER, I do think that the first version (which I think was produced by Don Corleon) is MUCH MUCH better, so we post both of them.

I'm easy EASY this week. I'll go on this more on . . . Wednesday I think, but BOTH the divine Destra Garcia AND Machel Montano are going this year for Soca Monarch and it is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS IN EVERY FUCKING WAY! I can play all I like in November, but the truth is that I would literally CRY if I missed this so we'll definitely be there (but, I digress, like I said, more on Wednesday). Anyone, Machel just collapsed and murdered everything this week by dropping what is apparently his tune for Monarch and the Road (where he's probably the current favourite in my opinion), 'Advantage' - MADNESS!

  • Artist of The Month tomorrow (hopefully)
  • Review of Blaak Lung's new album "Be Ever" on Tuesday
  • "Stuff" post on Wednesday

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Words of The Week: 'Trodding Home' by Ras Attitude

'Trodding Home'

-It’s Attitude

Said I’m trodding home!
Mi no waan live ah babylon no more
I’m trodding home!
Mi haffi reach up ah Afrikan sea shores
I’m trodding home!
Take these shackles and chains off my feet
I’m trodding home!
Gone to Afrika to free my mentality yeah
Said I’m trodding home!
Afrika has been awaiting me
And there is where I really want to be

See, I will never call babylon my home
There’s certain rooms inna babylon house, I’m restricted to go
Can’t cook inna di kitchen cause di pot ah call di kettle Black
I’m cooking just fine
And I’m proud to be Black
Babylon you gone! Cuz you too evil!
Look like you do not care at all
Everything you do is hurting people
Babylon you too regardless, neglectful and careless
Unobservant, blind and wreckless
Moving like dem headless
Inna di Gideon
Dem too far gone
Dem too far gone
Inna dis Gideon!

Said I’m trodding home!
Mi no waan live ah babylon no more
I’m trodding home!
Haffi reach up ah Afrikan seashore
I’m trodding home!
Take theseshackles and chains off my feet
I’m trodding home!
Gone to Afrika to free my mentality
I’m trodding home!
Yeah Mama Afrika has been awaiting me
I’m trodding home!
Head in her bosom is where I want to be

Inna babylon, when I wake up I give thanks for life
Yes - Thank you, I’m doing fine
But just gotta little stress on my mind
Trying to figure how di youth dem ahgo eat a night time
Don’t want to resort to a life of crime
That’s what they push us to do more time
That’s more reason why -
Babylon ain’t my home!
And I’m leaving Rome!
With a rod in my hand
Soil under my feet
Khaki suit and turban wrapped neat
Heading to the city of golden streets
To the city of royalty!

Said I’m trodding home!
Mi no waan live ah babylon no more!
I’m trodding home!
Mi haffi reach up ah Afrikan seashore!
Said I’m trodding home!
Take these shackles and chains off my feet
I’m trodding home!
Gone ah Afrika to free my mentality
Said I’m trodding home!
Afrikan has been a long awaiting me
I’m trodding home!
And there is where I really wanna be yeah

I’m going to the land of my story
To the land of our story
The beginning of Black man story
Not his story
Alkebulan for you and me
So tell babylon dem, just give us free

I’m trodding home!
Mi no waan live ah babylon no more!
I’m trodding home!
Oooh I’ve gotta reach up ah Afrikan seashore!
I’m trodding home!
Said I’m trodding home!
Take these shackles and chains off my rhatid feet
I’m trodding home!
Gone ah Afrika to free my mentality
Said I’m trodding home!
Oooh Afrika you’ve been long awaiting me
I’m trodding home!
And that’s where I wanna be

Ooooh don’t wanna live ah here no more
I’m trodding home!
Ooh I gotta reach and swim in the Afrikan seashore
I’m trodding home!
Take these shackles and chains off my feet!
I’m trodding home!
I’m gone to Afrika to free my mentality!
Said I’m trodding home!
Yes, Mama Afrika you’ve been awaiting me
I’m trodding home!
And there is where I wanna wanna wanna really be

Afrika been waiting me
And I really wanna come home to you Mama
Yeah Mama
With open arms I greet you, oh Mama
With my lips I kiss you
Oh you got me standing on solid ground
In babylon I’m wearing a frown
In Afrika I’m wearing a crown
Babylon you going down . . .








Taken from the album "Trodding Home" Ras Attitude

Friday, January 28, 2011

'The Family That Vibes Together . . . ': A Review of "7 Year Itch" by Protoje

Despite the fact that, for the most part, Reggae music runs the entire world at this point, in every single aspect of daily life (or at least it should anyway), I do so enjoy the phenomenon of the music retaining a bit of its ’regional’ charms and identity. Of course, that’s kind of difficult to say because unless we’re regarding the world as a “region” (of itself) then, as I said, Reggae has seen no barrier, in regards to spreading out, which it couldn’t overcome, however, in some aspects it does differentiate itself from some of its more ‘mainstream’ peer genres by holding onto certain displays which they do not as fully these days. One of the very interesting, and the one we’re going to talk about today, is the situation of how our music, in many ways, can be regarded as a ‘family business’ of sorts. I’m not the biggest of fans of any other genre of music (so I may not know what the hell I’m talking about), but off the top of my head nothing jumps out at me as being ‘the first family’ of a genre such as Hip-Hop. Meanwhile, in Reggae music if I asked you such a question, the word ‘Marley’ would come flying out of your face before I even finished. After that it wouldn’t take you too long to mention a name like the Morgans either before you began to turn your attention to even more current names. If you look at the hierarchy of Reggae music right now, some of the biggest names we have are second (or maybe even third) generation Reggae artists. Tarrus Riley and Queen Ifrica, for example, both are the children of musical Fathers. There’s also Da’Ville, shocking Grammy nominee Andrew Tosh, Kenyatta Hill who I mentioned a few days ago, Nicky B, Cen’C Love and Achis Reggae favourite Pashon Minott. We have siblings like Richie Spice, Pliers & Spanner Banner, Beenie Man & Little Kirk, Tami & Tessanne, Konshens & Delus, whatever Turbulence & Norris Man are to each other and dozens and dozens more in both cases. And that’s just Jamaica. We don’t even mention the likes of the Bros. Benjamin of Midnite fame (themselves the sons of a musician as well), Ambush who I just told you about last week and Tiwony. Reggae business is a family business in so many ways and to so many people and figures to continue to be so. So with that being said one can only wonder how long ago it must’ve been when one Protoje decided that it was his life’s calling for him to make music and realized, ‘oh wait, my cousin may be the greatest of all time. Maybe I should give him a call’.


Meet Protoje

Well it was probably around seven years ago. At roughly the same time his cousin, the most incomparable Don Corleon, was thrilling fans around the world by largely being the guiding force behind ushering Dancehall into a new era (called Vybz Kartel) and dropping HUGE riddims such as the Mad Ants, the Good To Go and the Krazy. Protoje was planting seeds which would ultimately sprout into a very interesting and very promising career of his own. Certainly it also couldn’t have hurt that the same person who became prominent when everyone began asking themselves ‘who the hell is Don Corleon?’, singer Lorna Bennett, was actually Protoje’s Mother - So he grew up in a musical home and when he grew up . . . There was even more music. Don, himself, has always been associated with a very eclectic group of artists such as the aforementioned Kartel, Alaine, Munga Honourable (remember Munga???) and more recently VI Reggae ace Pressure Busspipe and for all of the almost inherent oddities offered by that lineup, I find it SO interesting that, at least ostensibly, Protoje may be THE standout from that group because he doesn’t seem to go about doing things as those artists did in the past (with the exception of Pressure who, by virtue of his origins, didn’t go through the same avenues, but he’s well made up for the lost time, hasn’t he). You won’t see his name attached to every big riddim - Quite the contrary, you won’t even see his name attached to every big riddim that Don Corleon rolls out - And from ever since I first remember hearing about him, the goal seemed to be to build towards an album (and you take that and remember how long everyone called for albums from Kartel, Alaine and Munga before we finally got them), more like an international artist. Well the goal has obviously been reached, although I’m sure he now has something else in mind, because Protoje now drops his debut album, ”Seven Year Itch”, on Don Corleon Records. You’ll hear such a thing attached to quite a few projects these days (especially with Etana, Elephant Man and Richie Spice on the way in the coming weeks), but this album is clearly one of the most anticipated of 2011. We were actually expecting it sometime last year as Protoje had assembled a very impressive streak of singles and through gaining the hits and his performances particularly over the past couple of years or so, it surely helped the anticipation for the project. Also, it should be said that as we’ve learned more and more about Protoje, he just seems like a very ‘different’ type of a person. He kind of seems to do things in a very different way, he has a bit of a different look (he looks like Straïka’s twin brother) also and it’s actually quite refreshing (I do A LOT of these things and I can pretty much size up any artist from just a song or two and having a good look at them and I have to say that it’s always fun to be wrong in such an instance or, even more entertaining, to just have NO idea what to expect, and that’s what I experienced when I first REALLY took a look at Protoje). He reportedly has a great affinity for older music and you’ll see all the press about him now saying something along the lines of ‘he was born in the 80’s (biggup the 80’s) but he wishes he was born in the 60’s’ or something like that and he also reportedly has interests in names such as Winston McAnuff, a huge artist who you’ll almost never hear credited by younger artists. So, with all of his idiosyncrasies taken into account, was his album worth Protoje scratching himself for seven years??? Hell no! Nothing is worth that! But it is pretty good. Let’s examine!


'Seven Year Itch'

Although clearly hard to categorize, vocally, I’d say that Protoje falls somewhere in the neighbourhood of Gentleman (more on him later) and NiyoRah (himself a product of a musical family), although slightly closer to the latter for the most part. He uses this kind of light chanting/singing style throughout his debut album ”Seven Year Itch” which comes off, in many parts, as being very autobiographical and perhaps never more so than is to be found on the opening and title track. Having heard a nice lot of the tunes on this album it was pretty much a formality for me to declare the second track as my favourite, but listening to the opener in this form (I’d heard what apparently was a ‘rough mix’ of sorts before) . . . Stuff changed. Although the acoustic and Nyah drum backed piece is about as simple and straight forward as it gets and pretty much completely about Protoje, I related, personally, to it in so many ways. So, for me at least, it comes off more than just a story about Protoje’s journey to the music/around the music (and through the music), it’s also a song which strikes in on levels of perseverance and staying firm when things get tough because it finds Protoje almost observing himself and his actions from a different vantage point and commenting on the things he did. I really like how he refers to certain moments which seemed to enthuse and energize him to stay with the music after maybe thinking it wasn’t the way for him.

“I watch Gong and Stephen Marley ah live out the dream
‘Welcome To Jamrock’ did lift my feeling up
I, listen it still
I listen it keen”

GOLDEN! And as someone who has done copious amounts of DUMB SHIT in my life (and most likely will continue to), it definitely hit me on a very nice level and is truly a MASSIVE start to the album.


'Dread'

The previously alluded to second track, ‘Dread’, is probably one of the most ‘visual’ in recent Reggae memory because it would birth one of the greatest videos . . . Probably ever, which saw wonderful adventures of a very young Protoje with his sidekick at the time, Don Corleon, causing mischief and mayhem as youths in Jamaica. The issue here for an over-thinker such as myself is to pry the song from the video and I don’t know if I’m successful at it, because I love the tune as well and, again, it is very relatable. And the final track from the opening batch of songs of ”Seven Year Itch”, is another very well known tune, ‘Arguments’. The song was probably one of the earlier ones from Protoje in this current ‘streak’ and it was actually produced by DJ Karim (who is very well known because he used to make mixtapes which helped me lose weight about a decade ago). I’m happy to say that this tune isn’t very relatable as it features Protoje having woman troubles (I‘ve had more than my fair share of those but, again they were usually the result of my spectacularly flawed judgment). It isn’t my favourite tune either (although it’s sounding pretty good now), but it was a pretty sizable hit for him and it is well carried out.


'JA'

Speaking of “sizable hits”, ”Seven Year Itch” is an album literally brimming with such tunes, past, present and future. To my opinion, the best of the remaining bunch is definitely the rather personal and intimate open love-letter which Protoje pens for a very special girl in his life, ‘JA’.

“Even though the times get hard
And the mindset hard
No, mi caan lef yard

Even though the body dem ah pile
And di gun dem ah oil
Caan lef up ah mi soil

Even though di times get rough now
And life get snuff out
Dem tings wi ah tuff out

Tell dem seh no matta what ah talk
And no matta what ah spark
Yow a yah so ah mi heart”

On the tune Protoje espouses about the virtues of the most magical place on earth, Jamaica, and how despite its many many hardships, he still is madly in love with it and so am I. Excellent song. Listeners are also very likely to recognize what I think may be the album’s very first official single and is also one of its three combinations, ‘Rasta Love’, which features none other a representative of Reggae royalty, Ky-Mani Marley. This one has grown on me just a bit from since I first heard it and although it’s kind of Hip-Hoppish, which isn’t my favourite thing in the world, it’s a nice song and it’s also pretty ‘transferable’ and easy to see why it was chosen as a single if it really was (and apparently Marley stuck around and made more music with Don Corleon after this song, which was an excellent idea on his part). There’s also ‘Roll’ from Corleon’s absolutely STERLING Minor Riddim. I also have a healthier appreciation for this tune these days, but I’m not sure if it’s the song itself or the fact that the riddim is basically crack for your ears. Of course crack is illegal (and rightfully so) and so is marijuana (not-so rightfully so) and Protoje apparently found this out the hard way as is explained on another recognizable number from "Seven Year Itch”, ‘Wrong Side Of The Law’. The song is quite fascinating because, at least to me, it doesn’t come of as Protoje saying ‘don’t do what I’ve done’, but instead it seems largely that he’s pissed off that he was detained because he was . . . Well because he had stuff to do! This one is one of my favourites here and also it should be mentioned that an appearance is made by (I THINK) Jah9 on a very aggressive style of backup singer (more on her in just a second) and that the tune is very easily the longest on the whole of the album because it features around ninety seconds of a kind of electric Dub at its end, which is ALWAYS a good thing.

As for the new material on the album (or at least what’s new to me), definitely what sticks out are the remaining two combinations. The first, ‘Growing Up’, features the previously mentioned German superstar and longtime Don Corleon collaborator, Gentleman. I have a reader, Steven, who holds the thought that Gentleman’s work with Don Corleon is as special as Sizzla/Bobby Digital and some of the other more storied artist/producer collaborations over the years - Buju/Donovan Germain - And while I may not agree, Steven is a genius (pun intended) and certainly that view isn’t his alone and this tune won’t do anything to damper that opinion because although it’s a pretty sad sounding tune, it’s also very good and Protoje only adds to what is always a powerful link. Even better is ‘After I’m Gone’ which features (officially this time) Jah9. She is a very strong up and coming talent because her voice is EXCELLENT and while she doesn’t stretch it on this tune you can still feel how polished it is. With Protoje she creates a solid vibes which emphasize the importance to appreciate what you have when you have it and not when it’s gone away. You can actually take this message in so many different ways - It is kind of broad - But, I would think that’s by design and if so, very well done. Also keep an eye not only on Jah9’s name, but keep an eye on her altogether if you can (because she is a cutie of MAMMOTH proportions!).


'Arguments'

And there’s also the dynamic ‘Overtime’ which is one of my favourite tunes on ”Seven Year Itch” and it sounds a bit like a selection from Gentleman actually. This tune, although lacking a great significance, in the general sense, is a very impressive lyrical piece and it’s kind of ‘dance song’ I suppose and the basic change of pace that it offers was definitely not a problem. 'On The Road' is another big tune and it's one which sounds quite familiar to my ears for some reason. Regardless of its origins, however, you're going to have to deal with this one in the very present sense because it's a very strong offering. We have the innuendo-laced ‘No Lipstick’, with its intoxicating acoustic backing. This song finds Protoje essentially relaxing with his special lady - smoking. It has one of the best choruses on the whole of the album and I can already see them framing a (very popular) video for the song as well if they choose to. And finally there is an interlude on the album which precedes the tune ‘JA’, but I didn’t mention it there because I really think that it’s more of a stand-alone track, just a short one - ‘In The Streets’.

“I arise
And open eyes
And focus ears
And all I hear
Is children playing in the streets
Watch dem playing in the streets

And they at peace
And they are free
If they can see it
Then why can’t we?

I see dem playing in the streets
Watch dem playing in the streets

So be the one to set the plan
And use your knowledge as your weapon
And see some reading in the streets
No more bleeding in the streets

So when we start
Is when it end
So let’s begin, cause I intend
To see my children playing in the streets
Watch dem playing the streets . . . “

Overall, I do feel compelled to say that I have the feeling that there is a bit more DIRECT planning behind this album than just what is to be found on this album. Not that I’m unimpressed, because I am impressed, but it feels like ”Seven Year Itch” is more of a part of the ultimate goal than the goal itself and that’s weird because it’s been so celebrated and so declared to be the focus of Protoje, but I’m kind of wondering why they didn’t stick ‘Vol. 1’ on the title. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see, in a year or two, the artist return with another - Very similar and very autobiographical - album. In fact, if when Protoje is an old man, I wouldn’t be surprised if his entire catalog was such either. However, just judging this perhaps first installation on its own merits, it well fulfills on the kind of intense hype surrounding it, but again, I feel it’s just the first step in what is sure to be a very fun ride in watching and listening to Protoje. Well done.

Rated: 4/5
Don Corleon Records
2011
CD + Digital

Protoje

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nearly Perfect Vol. 2

Okay so, last August I did the first part of a list, curiously titled ‘Nearly Perfect’ which listed ten albums which I felt were near misses to my ‘Modern Classic’ category of albums which were released after the year 2000 had completed and had seen two calendar years from their release dates - Albums which are, in my opinion, simply outstanding and could stand up to the best of any other era. In doing that list, so as to not make it ridiculously long, I found that not only did I cut out a few favourites, but I was also somewhat frustrated because at the time, the year 2009 was not an option for me. Well, it’s 2011 now, if you haven’t noticed which opens up 2009. Thus, I submit for your approval another ‘batch’ of albums which are either just a foot on the outside looking in to the biggest of a generation or are merely taking their time to exist amongst them. Nearly Perfect Vol. 2


“Spice In Your Life” by Richie Spice [5th Element Records 2004]



The exception. Okay in just a little less than two months’ time from now, Reggae star Richie Spice will be releasing what is, by my (almost certainly incorrect) count, his seventh studio album to date, ”Book of Job” and I won’t be the surprised AT ALL if I don’t particularly enjoy it. I didn’t like the two albums before it which were both given the VP Records treatment and, listening back I didn’t like most of his earlier work either. HOWEVER, what is about to become his middle release ”Spice In Your Life” is the one which I hold in a bit higher esteem than having merely ‘liked’ it. It was a pretty special album and I think it’s rare that I’ll almost surely agree with ‘history’ in this instance, because I think it’ll be remembered as such also. Why? This was the album which held tunes such as ‘Black Like Tar’, ‘Righteous Youths’, of course ‘Earth A Run Red’, ‘Marijuana’ and ‘Blood Again’ - Tunes which literally pushed Richie Spice into the second phase of his career - As one of the most DOMINANT Roots Reggae hitmakers on the planet. And there was also a nice balance with tunes such as ‘Crying Out For Love’, ‘9-1-1’ and ‘Fake Smile’ with then 5th Element label mate, Chuck Fenda, which may not have been as big as the previously mentioned songs but gave this album a more than solid foundation. Take it and trim it down a bit and I probably already would’ve written it up as a modern classic.

“Helta Skelta” by Mad Cobra [DJR Records 2009]



Evil. Considering the fact that less than a complete minute into Mad Cobra’s MUCH anticipated 2009 set, ”Helta Skelta”, he had already committed a murder of a person who was apparently involved in the digging of his own grave, you pretty much knew what direction this was going in (and it probably didn’t even take that). For me, while Cobra definitely goes places I wouldn’t have and I don’t think are very necessary at all, this was my guiltiest of guilty pleasures in a really long time as the Cobra took aim and didn’t miss on a whole heap of ridiculous targets. No one was safe. Not his peers, real or imaginative, not himself and not even the devil - Everyone took a beaten on the album and it was BRILLIANT! Not enough time has honestly passed on this one to have much of a different take these days (I’ve pretty much been listening to it for almost two years straight at this point, but I think that, in retrospect, were it just a touch shorter, it would have leapt (smiling) into history as a classic - But it still probably is headed there anyway.

Riddim Driven: Rub-A-Dub [VP Records 2008]




Name value. Whenever I think about the Rub A Dub Riddim, instead of thinking about the fact that it was most likely one of the greatest PURE (whatever that means) Roots Reggae riddims . . . Pretty much EVER, I usually think back to the rather convenient coincidence that all the stars lined up which literally FORCED VP Records to pick it up from its creator, Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor. Etana, Richie Spice, Morgan Heritage and Fantan Mojah were all VP/Greensleeves artists and were all going to have albums coming in 2008 (incidentally the Morgans’ album, ”Mission In Progress”, would release just a week following the riddim album’s) and they all just happened to have HITS on the Rub A Dub. Furthermore, Capleton (another VP artist) also had a big tune as did a slew of mainstays and up and comers such as Junior Reid, Natural Black, Anthony B, I-Octane, Teflon, the late Eloquent and Ginjah with the would be MASSIVE ‘Never Lost My Way’. They had absolutely NO CHOICE but to push this one out in its ”Riddim Driven” series and while I don’t consider it to be Flava’s greatest creation still (the Triumphant was, of course), as an album it didn’t get much better than this - The Greatest Edition of Riddim Driven of All Time.

“J.M.T.” by Vybz Kartel [Greensleeves Records 2006]



Great by comparison? I wonder if it’s more of a fact that I’m going through Vybz Kartel-withdrawal these days because the version of the artist who I thought (and still do) to be simply one of the most brilliant of all time has seemingly left the premises . . . Of the world . . . Forever - But listening back these days to the material to be found on his third (fourth technically but ”Up 2 Di Time” was released twice) studio album, ”J.M.T.”, and I’m tempted to call it LYRICALLY one of the best albums in modern Dancehall history. And, of course, “modern Dancehall history” isn’t very long at all, so I’d probably call it LYRICALLY one of the best ever. Despite the fact that it didn’t have a ton of social significance (although quite a bit more than Kartel’s earlier work which was the quintessential ‘3 g’s of Dancehall’ (Girls, Guns, Ganja), ”J.M.T.” contained flashes of lyrical devastation on tunes such as ‘So Me A Say’, ‘Bad Man Party 2’, ‘Light Night’, ‘Dutty Landlord’, ‘Gun Session’, ‘Realest Thing’, ‘Little Miss’ and ‘Rough Sex’ (and probably a few others as well). And, while it wasn’t COMPLETELY stellar - I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually wrote it up in 2011 - Confident that somewhere, in some reversed universe, this version of Kartel still exists and is destroying his strange audience of whom, I am jealous.

“Jah Guidance” by Batch [Carrion Brookes Production 2005]




Ahead of the curve. You know, when I decided it was time to roll out a sequel to the first list, I knew I should have something from an artist who is definitely one of my favourites and growing more and more each day, VI Reggae wizard, Batch. So, ‘naturally’, I tried to come up with what was, at least in my opinion, his finest album to date . . . Wasn’t too successful with that and, honestly, I pretty much settled on ”Jah Guidance” because it’s become a personal favourite and constant player for me over the past couple of years or so after previously been utterly confused by it for the better part of two or three years or so. Here’s the thing: I’m slowly coming around to the train of thought that just about ALL of Batch’s music, as a vocalist, is kind of ahead of its time, I could very well put just about any of his six albums here and make a strong case for them. In this specific case, however, Jah Guidance is just about as complete of a modern Roots album as there is. Although it may lack in spectacular moments and it does have a bit of a soft spot in ‘For Love’, such things are LAPPED by vibes which are to be found on personal classics of mine such as the title track, the herb inspired ‘Healing’, ‘Sons & Daughters’, ‘Zion Kingdom Come’ and the DEVASTATING ‘High Chant’. So while no one (else) may sing its praises these days, nearly six years after its release - I LOVE ”Jah Guidance” more and more every time I hear it and I wouldn’t be surprised if I convince myself to slap a modern classic review on it before my days are done - And maybe in about ten years everyone (else) will start to agree with me.

“Ghetto Youth-Ology” by Sizzla [Greensleeves Records 2009]



Where it belongs. And finally we have a piece which is the very essence of what this list is (or should be), because I don’t see myself ever holding it in any greater esteem than I do now, as a whole. ”Ghetto Youth-Ology” was an album built on the allure, at least to hardcore heads, of linking Sizzla Kalonji with the same Firehouse Crew with whom he spent a great deal of his career in the Xterminator days - So, at least in theory we should have been able to expect at least flashes of old school (absolutely brilliant in every way) Sizzla - And that’s exactly what we got. The album had no more brilliant moment than on ‘Ghetto Utes Dem Ah Suffer’ which, in retrospect, is probably one of the best written songs of his entire career (which is saying something to an almost infinite degree because he’s the greatest lyricist of all time). And I think that’s a general feeling towards this project: While it may have lacked the CLEAR beauty of his best work and it was somewhat mechanical at points, (such as on ‘Black Man In The White House’ where it appeared as if Sizzla was simply checking off ‘Obama song’ on his list), you can see that it was directed in much the same ways as some of those older pieces - Which certainly should have been no surprise.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coming Soon Vol. 29

Kenyatta Hill - “Live On: Tribute To Culture” [Rymshot Productions/Zojak Worldwide]

Alright! So in case you didn’t notice, I also did one of these last week and I would have been perfectly content to let it roll by this week (because I also did a ‘Check It’) were it not for the fact that we have an album on the way which is, in my opinion, a pretty big deal and I’ve yet to talk about it. It’s been more than four years now since legendary Reggae singer Joseph Hill of the might group, Culture, made his transition and since then his son, Kenyatta Hill, has fronted the group with which his legendary Father sang. In 2007 there was an album, ”Pass The Torch” (which was very good actually) which featured both Father and son singing songs, but now Kenyatta takes the spotlight full-on, but with Joseph clearly in ‘proper viewing angle’ on a tribute to his father and the group, ”Live On”, which features Kenyatta singing the great tunes from Culture. He takes on legendary tunes such as ‘International Herb’, ‘Two Sevens Clash’, ‘Iron Sharpen Iron’ and others and he does so, most interestingly, under the direction of one of the best in the business, VI Reggae genius Dean Pond, whose Rymshot Productions helms the board on this very very interesting release.

Potential Rating: 4.999999/5
Releases on February 8
Digital (and most likely CD)


“Most Wanted: Tiger” [VP Records]



Next up is another tribute of sorts as VP Records (having blatantly STOLEN the series from Greensleeves) (themselves) serve up the first installation of ”Most Wanted” in about a year (Chukki Star) from the once mighty often imitated, but never duplicated Tiger. While sometimes I don’t care much for this series (because in offering up greatest hits for the likes of Bushman and Vybz Kartel, you aren’t really digging too far, but I think that as such was the case with Johnny Osbourne and maybe even the Wailing Souls, this is a very good idea. Through the course of his career, record shelves aren’t exactly brimming with material from Tiger and pretty much anything at this point is a boost, particularly when it comes from his prime years and big fans and collectors alike might be eager to get their paws on this set which includes songs such as ’Bam Bam’, ’When’, ’Ram Dancehall’ and my personal favourite ’Yu Dead Now’.

Potential Rating: 4.5/5
Releases on March 8
CD + Digital


The Go Getta Riddim [Grillaras Productions/Zojak Worldwide]

Grillaras is a label who I always look forward to hearing from and I was rather pleasantly surprised to see that they were bringing forth a brand new riddim album (more like an EP with seven original tracks) for the Go Getta Riddim. For the TRULY hardcore heads, you may very well remember this one from the title track tune from UT Ras on his wicked debut album ”Tha Bitter Stretch”, just a few years back. Of course that tune is on board and Ras is joined by the likes of Luciano, Natty King, Robert Ffrench and veteran singer Courtney Melody on this very solid release.

Potential Rating: 4/5
Releases Soon
Digital

The Righteousness Riddim [Germaica]

While I’m well more looking forward to their Question Riddim which I told you about last week, Germaica is also serving up (on the same day actually) a nice and kind of ‘funky’ Roots Reggae piece, the Righteousness Riddim, which obviously has some pretty large and glaring Spanish ties. I believe the riddim may’ve actually been built in Spain by Black Akadehmy (who I’ve never heard of before) and it’s also voiced by Spanish artists such as Shabu, Jah Nattoh, Little Pepe and others, but you know I’m rather fixated on ‘Cool’ from the ultra versatile, Rebellion The Recaller. The always fun Mandingo Warrior also adds a bit of combustion on this pretty nice sounding riddim which hopefully is turned over to the rest of the world at some point.

Potential Rating: 3.5/5
Releases on January 28
Digital


The Youth Riddim [Urban Tree Music]

The Youth Riddim from German (I THINK) label, Urban Tree Music, is one which has been listed in the ‘Coming Soon’ category for quite some time now, but it appears as if it’s actually going to pushed through this time. I’ve already had a pretty large taste of this one (and you can too, because it’s on Juno) and I’m well impressed as of yet and on top of that, now we get to see the full tracklist roll in and I’m even more interested. Black Dillinger highlights a group of vocalists which also includes Smiley, Junior King, Vido Jelashe, Uwe Banton, Cornadoor and Jennifer Washington.

Potential Rating: 4.25/5
Releases on February 8
Digital (maybe CD)

{Note: Apparently they’re doing two versions of this one with one being the ‘Germany Edition’ and another being the ‘World Edition’ - The latter simply lacks six tunes done by German artists in German - Pretty good idea in my opinion actually}

“Roots De Guyane” [Transportation Label]



Finally for coming soon this week we have a release from Transportation Label which I think is pretty damn important, ”Roots De Guyane”. The album is a compilation which apparently features some of the more popular Reggae talents from out of Guyane and that’s a pretty good idea in my opinion as shining a light on the music business in the area (outside of Zouk of course) is probably loooooooooong overdue in this case. There’re a few names here which I recognize such as the Energy Crew, Prince Koloni, Chris Combette and maybe even Sista Rudo (and of course there’s Luciano who manages to throw himself in as well). But all in all it just seems like a really attractive project and a big opportunity to get ‘educquainted’ as well.

Potential Rating: 4/5
Releases on February 1
Digital


“Maroni Sranan Reggae” [Transportation Label]

And you can consider this one a bonus because it appears to be, essentially, very similar to the piece I just told you about and from the very same Transportation Label as well (I actually probably should’ve put them together but, I’m entirely too lazy to do that now). ”Maroni Sranan Reggae” features a lot of the same cast of characters as ”Roots De Guyane”, but check out the likes of Daddy Happy, the always entertaining King MO, Little Guerrier (more on him in a bit) . . . Oh and Lady Sweety (yes Nico, Lady Sweety) who joins the Energy Crew on the album’s closer, ‘Hey Muchacho’.

Potential Rating: 4/5
Releases on February 1
Digital


-In Stores Now-
Midnite - “Standing Ground Dub” [Fifth Son Records/Zojak Worldwide]

In typical Midnite/Vaughn Benjamin fashion, it’s not even the end of January and they now have two albums out as the recently released and much discussed ”Treasure” from Rastar & VP wasn’t even the first, but it followed a dubbed out version of ‘their’ 2008 album, for Fifth Son Records, “Standing Ground”. That initial release was also talked about quite a bit because it was a double release, however, for its dub, it’s been slimmed down to a still nice single disc and thirteen tracks. It’s been awhile since I dealt with that album so I kind of had to go back and refresh my mind, but as usual, Midnite’s music (regardless of who’s producing it) transfers well to Dub if you really like HEAVY old-school vibed Dub and I’m sure their hardcore fans are eating this one up.

CD + Digital

“Lutan Fyah Meets Prince Jazzbo” [Prince Jazzbo/Ujama Music/Zojak Worldwide]

If you didn’t happen to pick up Lutan Fyah’s 2009 album ”Rising Up” (and you didn’t, because it was never released) and if you didn’t stumble upon that compilation which contained EVERY song from the album (and you didn’t, because you forgot its name) then you may want to get a hold of this piece produced by VETERAN Prince Jazzbo, ”Lutan Fyah Meets Prince Jazzbo” because it contains a nice amount of the tunes on that decent album. Jazzbo ‘chases’ the Fyah’s tunes with his own tracks and while I’ve never been too much of a fan of Jazzbo as a vocalist, he does do nice things on this release.

Digital

Little Guerrier - “I And I” [Transportation Label]



I’m going to assume that ”I And I” is the latest album release from a most impressive young artist from out of Guyane, Little Guerrier for Transportation Label, because I can’t find a thing about it anywhere. Whatever it is, however, it’s definitely his most visible project to date and a pretty good time for the rest of the world to learn about the exuberant chanter. This release does include what I believe to be his most recognizable tune to date, ‘Black Woman’, from a few years back (still a LOVELY LOVELY tune to my opinion) as well as a track, ‘Neva’, over the iLove Riddim from Rootdown Records and there’s also ‘Beautiful Day’, a big combination alongside the aforementioned Prince Koloni. Definitely think strongly about picking this one up.

Digital (Maybe CD)

“Roots, Reality & Culture” [Love Injection Productions]

Love Injection Productions is a label I tend to keep an eye out for, largely because they dropped a pretty good album from Turbulence a few years back, ”Words of Wisdom”, that I liked and still do just a bit actually (there was also a followup to that album - but we don’t talk about that anymore). So when I saw that they had released a new compilation (and a new album which I should probably also mention, but I’ll save it for next time) (or the time after that), ”Roots, Reality & Culture”, I thought that it’d be nice to mention. Yes, the title is TRULY horrible, but not all of the music is and with a roster like Jah Mason, Turbulence, Everton Blender, Natty King and Chrisinti, things can’t be too bad here.

CD + Digital

Steele - “The Man, The Music” [Mobs Production]



And finally, I noticed that an album I dealt with almost exactly a year ago, ”The Man, The Music” from the impressive Canadian based singer, Steele, had made it to the digital market, thus giving me another opportunity to mention it again. While I won’t spend too much time on it again, this is a very solid release and is well recommended to fans of modern Roots Reggae and Lover’s Rock as well as Steele does his thing over some big vibes, including a lot of help from the people at Joe Fraser Records.

CD + Digital
{See Review}

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

'A Global Affair': A Review of "Self Reliance" by Hi Kee

When you think of the word ‘global’ or ‘international’ in reference to a specific Reggae artist, typically you’re going to be thinking of one of two things. The first is in the sense of someone like a Sean Paul, Damian Marley or a Shaggy having had a level of fame which has gone throughout the world and literally made them a household name in music across the globe. The next type of artist who will be considered to be a global Reggae artist is someone like Alpha Blondy, Tiken Jah Fakoly or the late and great Lucky Dube who are artists who have surely had a incredible level of fame, but we don’t think of them in the same way we think of the first group and these artists are more thought of as having crossed musical borders to come into Reggae music as opposed to singing in a genre more directly native to their respective homelands. The title alone, in either case, is very lofty and it is almost always synonymous with Superstar (just in case you haven’t notice, I’ve just named six of the most popular Reggae musicians of all time). HOWEVER, if you really start to think of things in more direct terms, we actually have dozens and dozens of GLOBAL Reggae artists who ply their trade, and do so wonderfully around the world and on a very consistent basis. I used to very openly lament the fact that we had so many wonderful elder Jamaican artists who, seemingly in order to make the type of living with which they were accustomed, have had to either move their careers (recording, performing, promoting) or, in many cases, move their entire lives overseas to where their most fervent and devoted of fans were. And while I still don’t particular enjoy the fact that this happens, once again many of these artists have paved the way as younger and younger names seem to be doing the very same thing and fortunately they’re making EXCEPTIONAL music and, also very fortunately, it’s traveling. I look at people such as the always impressive Mark Wonder (I‘ve been listening to a ton of Mark Wonder these days), Daddy Rings, Fitta Warri and others such as the downright mysterious Karli Owli, who are artists whose music has taken them all over the world several times and they are global representatives of Reggae music and I wouldn’t even think to call them ‘superstars’ in the more usual sense of the word, but they are all VERY talented. That leads us to the very interesting individual up for discussion today as Hi Kee has made his way in Reggae music and done so largely with an approach that knows no boundaries.

It was maybe two or three years ago when I first heard the name Hi Kee and I honestly didn’t pay him too much attention at first. While clearly talented, his style - A kind of ‘heavy’ voiced chanting and singing - Didn’t really attract me initially (more on that in a bit) and it didn’t stand out very much. And of course, there was the matter that Hi Kee wasn’t the easiest of artists to find. As much as I (OBVIOUSLY) do enjoy the globalization of our music, the one most tangible ‘drawback’ is that it kind of makes it a bit difficult to follow someone’s career with them dropping singles across the board for a variety of different labels and not necessarily setting up in one area. However, while that’s last part certainly didn’t change in 2010, it seemed to focus for Hi Kee and, in my opinion, the year really did a great deal for his career as an artist, taking the popularity of his name to new heights. And I even began to catch on as Hi Kee begin to pop up in more and more places where my attention was going anyway (on digital releases, on big riddims and compilations and he even shot a video) (which should be in here somewhere) and despite the fact that it would take me just a bit longer to REALLY catch on, I definitely made a mental note of just how active the St. Elizabeth native was becoming and for whom he was doing his work. Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one taking a look at the work he was doing because I ended up being quite surprised when, just a week or two ago, I received word that Hi Kee’s full length debut album, ”Self Reliance” was on its way and it was coming from the very familiar and wonderful people of the UK based True Sounds Records (whose very nice website, Truesounds.com, I write for). I’ll get into this more in just a second, but how exactly that link was formed - I have no idea. Hi Kee had voiced for a truly impressive amount of different European based labels (and reportedly he now actually lives in Italy, which may explain his seemingly grand amount of availability to European labels), but I’d never heard True Sounds, in particular, linked to him. Furthermore, as I alluded to, the fact that he was already nearing a debut album was rather unexpected, as you do like to see the artists gain as much of a following as possible prior to an album so that it can be as successful as possible. But, upon further research, Hi Kee has become quite a big deal on the European scene and that would go to explain why a label such as True Sounds, who I don’t know to be the most active of imprints and this may very well be their very first full album release, would go to the extent of releasing an album for him. I liken it, somewhat, to just last year when veteran chanter Bescenta pushed his own debut album "Genuine” and that project was very refreshing to see come about, just as this one is and it was also reportedly quite successful also. While whether or not this album will be successful remains to be seen (although I’m leading towards saying that it will be), but what I can tell you is that, strictly from a quality level, the ‘risk’ Jah Grasshopper and company at True Sounds have taken on releasing the album wasn’t actually a risk at all because this thing is VERY good. If you haven’t quite been able to keep track of Hi Kee and his worldly travels, ”Self Reliance" IMMEDIATELY proves itself to be an excellent time to catch up.


'Woman of Virtue'

Besides his globetrotting ways (which I’ll get into momentarily), the thing that struck me hardest about his brand new album, ”Self Reliance” for True Sounds Records, was just how lyrically skilled Hi Kee is. Every song on the album, even the most expansive of the lot, has a definite direction and nice flow to it as well, which is a big credit to Hi Kee. Also, as I alluded to, upon further consideration, his style is one which may not leap off of a particular tune at the listener as being dynamic or immediately impressive, but it is one which works nearly perfectly with someone who vibes a tune in the way that he does and that’s something which comes through instantly on the album. The first example would surely come on the opening batch of tunes as ”Self Reliance” gets started with three tunes which are, at least for me, signature for Hi Kee in several ways. The very first tune, ‘Woman of Virtue’ is simply a BEAUTIFUL song and it would go on to spawn what I believe was the very first video of Hi Kee’s entire career as well. It was done for Maasto Records from out of Finland (yes, Finland) and it clearly rises to the case of being one of the brightest lights on this packed album as Hi Kee, obviously well infatuated, nicely tells the rest of the world about the special woman in his life and he does so in a very broad way so that it applies to more than just his specific situation. The next two tunes, ‘Goodness Gracious‘ and ‘Higher Heights’ come via the label that I most closely associated with Hi Kee’s work, Reality Chant Productions from out of New Zealand (yes, New Zealand). The former is featured across the label’s WICKED Fyah Bed Riddim (which featured a truly MAMMOTH riddim title track by Natty King) and speaks of taking a proper control and ’view’ of one’s life and making it for the better, while the latter is backed by the heavy I Call Riddim and, like the two tunes preceding it, is one of the album’s finest moments (and, incidentally, both of the latter two tunes appeared on Reality Chant’s decent ”Kings Highway” compilation). The tune specifically deals with inspiration and on a spiritual level, building on an expanding upon the concepts established on ‘Goodness Gracious’.

“Higher heights everyday
So Rasta stay
You must excel from you a trod The King’s way
Do the right and obey
And never, never go astray
Jah will bless you when you trust HIM and pray”

Hi Kee’s international music pursuits have also lead him to work with labels such as Bassrunner Productions, from out of the increasingly Reggae-heavy Austria (the famed House of Riddim also does work on ”Self Reliance”, whose BIG Prisonbreak Riddim backs previous single ’Fire Blaze’ I know that you’re probably think that the song is pretty average because of the clichéd title, but this is a BIG tune to my ears and it also happens to be one of the most lyrically impressive sets here as well. Hi Kee also does a German link with the most respected Teka and Rootdown Records for a couple of tracks. The album’s actual closer, ’Stress Free’ actually comes equipped with one of the most popular productions of last year, the Ska-ish Kokoo Riddim from Rootdown and the tune which comes before it, ‘Refugee’, one of the album’s three combinations - This one featuring the exciting and impressive Sophia Squire - has the SWEET Tek A Train Riddim (same riddim backs Smiley’s hit ‘Distance’) to thank for at least some of its appeal. I really like both of these songs, particularly ‘Refugee’ because it’s somewhat of a rarity actually - A social commentary, and a strong one, featuring a male and female on a combination. It’s a very powerful tune and hopefully with the album it gets a bit of a ‘second wind’ now. Speaking of combinations - The album’s first, ’Catch Up The Fire’, features the venerable Mykal Rose alongside Hi Kee, and the results are damaging. I think I know this song from somewhere, but I’m not quite sure - Regardless of its origins, however, it’s a very strong tune as the veteran and the up and comer make a mighty duo. And in terms of mighty duos, things get no stronger on ”Self Reliance” (and not too many other places either) than the legendary pair of names that join in on ‘Babylon System Collapse’ - Luciano and the incomparable Brigadier Jerry. I was so happy to see Brigadier present here because he doesn’t voice much to my knowledge and his is a talent which is STILL utterly ridiculous. He is off the proverbial charts and has influenced so many later artists and from reading up on him, Hi Kee was one of them, so you can imagine the honour he must feel to have had the legend on his album on another produced by Reality Chant (for its forthcoming Fire I Blaze Riddim).


'Goodness Gracious'

Still, after listening through the album, I find it so interesting that my absolute favourite moment comes on a track which may just be the first song Hi Kee EVER recorded, ‘Pretty Like Gold’. To my ears, the tune finds the chanter addressing the kind of ‘niche’ or ‘fad’ view that so many people have of Rastafari and how merely displaying or saying that it is what you are simply isn’t enough to know His Imperial Majesty.

“Your locks, coulda pretty like gold
It cannot save your soul no, no
Your heart haffi clean and pure
And Jah Jah inna control
Hey, whether you’re rich or poor
Your still no safe nor secure
Whether diseased or sore
Ah Rastafari have di cure"

“All when you locks dem pretty and dem pile up
Long til dem all ah twine up
You cannot reach Mt. Zion til ah Rasta bow dem style up
Love and unity combine up
Well ah Gideon boots dem shine up
Clean out your heart if you dutty and corrupt
Cah Rasta livity and vanity no go hand in hand
Ah just divinity and purity fi reach Mt. Zion
Wolves inna sheep clothes, Rasta bun dem deh gang
No matta what dem compose, mi no lissen to dem song!”

HUGE! And even should you take the song out of that specific context, I think there’s an underlying message of just to try and do the best you possibly can at being a positive person, which is a mighty and poignant statement on its own.

An earlier tune, ‘Give Jah Thanks & Praise’ expounds on a very similar concept and is a big spiritual vibes, just like a song which comes much later ‘Rasta Love Nice’. I like both of these songs and I would urge you to not ‘just’ look at them as kind of stereotypical songs because Hi Kee, as I alluded to, has a very nice way of putting things together so what I ultimately take from them certainly isn’t something I’ve taken from hundreds of other similar tracks and they’re both very appealing sonically as well, which is always helpful. Another pair of tunes which I feel go together quite lovely also come in succession on ”Self Reliance”, ‘You Shouldn’t Do It’ and the MAMMOTH ‘Better Love’.

“Ah Hi Kee give her the better love
You give her nuff nuff money, but she prefer love
Big house, car and land, but dat ah neva love
You give her everything - Instead of love!”

“Woman she have her man, but he caan overstand
Why we show each other so much love and affection
Him buy her, Benz, Escalade and a big mansion
But she rather sleep inna mi cottage and ah drive mi Nissan”

The two tracks just speak, on a big stage, about treating your Woman NICELY. You don’t have to do the extravagant things and even if you do them and still mistreat her in other areas, it can’t make up for it and it definitely can’t make up for LOVE. I was very much looking forward to hearing the title track and when it does come in with its HEAVY vibes, you know straight away that you’re dealing with a big tune. The message here is one which is just what the title suggests - Even if the entire world has gone nasty and disgusting, YOU should still be able to depend on YOU to make your own way in the world. Later we get ‘Signs of the Times’ which is a strong social commentary and probably one of the best tunes on the album if you really listen to it and take it in and finally there’s the album’s DELIGHTFUL obligatory herbalist track, ‘Kutchie Cup’. I love this song! It comes from Highlight Records, a Jamaican label in whose studio a great deal of this album was completed and although I call it “obligatory”, don’t make the mistake of assuming that it’s ‘normal’, because like the artist himself, it definitely is more than that.


'Fire Blaze'

So what’s wrong with the album? The one complaint I have is that 75% of the songs on the album (twelve of sixteen) are less than three minutes long and you notice it pretty early on when you find yourself listening to songs three and four times over to REALLY get proper feel for them.

Overall, however, ”Self Reliance” is a real winner and it’s probably even better than I thought it was when I started writing this review! I do want to stress just how lyrically excellent Hi Kee shows himself to be and when you have that type of a talent and the apparent FOCUS that he obviously does (which is what I attribute the clear direction in every song to be a result of) you’re able to do very small things which give your songs so much individuality. Thus, while you may not exactly be ‘blown away’ by everything you hear on this album, I’m going to have a very difficult time accepting any argument that there’s actually a BAD song on this album - Because there simply is not. So, while we may reserve titles like ‘global’ or ‘international’ in regards to our artists for only the very popular, Hi Kee has proven himself an exception to that via his long ranging musical travels and obvious success along the way and he’s shown himself to be a TRULY Global Reggae artist. Very well done.

Rated: 4.25/5
True Sounds Records
2011
CD + Digital
Hi Kee @ Myspace
Hi Kee @ Facebook