Friday, January 21, 2011

'Nomen Est Omen': A Review of "Tinkin Out Loud" by Ambush

While I do generally hate to use the word ‘underground’ in reference to our wonderful music, on the whole, it is that rather subversive nature of Reggae music which provides us, as listeners, with so many thrills on a consistent basis. I am thoroughly convinced that as long as man continues to occupy the furthest and most remote corners of this world that Reggae music will also continue to occupy the furthest and most remote corners of this world and because of that, to a degree, there will surely never come a time in man’s existence when there isn’t some truly wicked artist doing damage somewhere on the globe, waiting to be discovered by the rest of us. And not only that, but definitely some of the more usual hotbeds of our music will also never cease to push up and push out newer and more exciting names for us to take a listen to and I absolutely love that, whether anyone else is paying attention or not - Rest assure, I am. So with that being so, as a Reggae music fan I have to say that one of the most stirring points of following this music comes in ‘element of surprise’. If you are someone who deals with listening to a lot to more ‘mainstream’ forms of music, such as Hip-Hop for example, you can often find ‘new’ artists who have arisen to the point of capturing your attentions, but with even the slightest bit of research you can see that you’ve actually been a bit slow to come around to them and while that definitely happens a bit in Reggae, there does exist, more often in my opinion, the time where it appears that you’ve come along very early in the process of publicizing a particular artist and probably just as early in their respective career. Case in point, of course I go back to the breakout artist of 2009, Lion D. If you read my blog to any degree then certainly you know just how impressed I’ve been with him and I won’t go back over that, but ask yourself just how much do you REALLY know about Lion D.? And you can surely say that’s because he’s Italian and that country doesn’t have the greatest of Reggae scenes (although it’s clearly changing as of late), but I can name countless Jamaican artists in similar situations as well (minus the devastatingly brilliant debut album, of course). However, for the sake of this review I’d like to go to far more common ground in Reggae than Italy - The Virgin Islands. Just last year we dealt with the talented but largely unknown Bless Noble, a find of Tuff Lion’s, and in recent times we’ve also seen people like Revalation, Sekhu and others come through with BIG BIG talent and not so much name recognition. So, while I definitely like to think that I do my homework (because I do), Reggae music from the Virgin Islands does tend to Ambush me from time to time.

When it sounds like this, I don’t have a problem with it - AT ALL. We spend so much time combing through digital release pages, in part, looking EXACTLY for someone like Ambush. I’ll tell you everything remotely direct that I know about Ambush right here: He’s from St. Croix (something which could be ascertained by listening to his music no doubt) and most remarkably (and just downright COOL), he’s the brother of established and well known fiery St. Croix chanter, Mada Nile (and he also happened to appear on her sophomore album, ”Many Roads“). That’s it! That’s about all I know regarding his origins, but at the current moment he’s caught my attentions based on the fact that when listening to clips of his own new album, his first, ”Tinkin Out Loud”, I found myself GREATLY impressed by what I heard and not too much about the album, ostensibly, was familiar to me. I didn’t make the connection to the one or two times that I had previously encountered Ambush’s work over the years and if you go through and look on many of the VI Reggae websites, he doesn’t have a profile up or a feature or anything - His album, literally was just there and were I not the type of person who listens to EVERYTHING, even if I’m certain I won’t like it, I would have missed out on this. What is this? Ambush’s talent is a natural one. He’s not the most refined of artists and I’d venture very confidently to say that he doesn’t much, if any at all, actual technical music training, but the man is WICKED! I heard a very talented and raw chanter going on material coming from his heart and just a great deal of commitment to what he was saying but, as I said, it wasn’t commitment without craft, there was clearly some talent on Ambush as well. It also couldn’t have hurt too much that I think he sounds quite a bit like the increasingly scalding I-Octane to a degree, also (and I do hear a bit of Teflon in there as well) (good Teflon). However, with no combinations in sight, I was looking for something which seemed at least a little familiar about Ambush and ”Tinkin Out Loud” and I didn’t see it until I noticed the label. The album comes courtesy of Carrion Entertainment which you may know of as being the same label who does the “VI Reggae Gold” series (Ambush actually appeared on the second edition of that series and I was so happy to see that in an old edition of ‘Check It’, I’d remarked that I liked his tune on that album) (I’m consistent), but the label will always strike me as being what remains of “a new era in Reggae music”, Carrion Brookes Productions who, if nothing else, should be remembered for serving up the MASSIVE (and growing more so every time I listen to it), ”Jah Guidance” album fro Ras Batch (more on him in a second). So, with a bit of ‘acquaintance’ and comfort established with this release, it made me even more curious to hear the thing full on and when I finally began to dig deeper into, I just got more and more impressed and by its end, the album and its star had made a fan out of me and again, even if I’m the only one, I don’t even care.

While the album may not have much which is going to attract a great deal of fans on the surface, Ambush is actually afforded some of the best in production that the VI has to offer. On the album he works with the likes of the aforementioned Ras Batch, Tippy from I Grade, Junior P, Katalyss and even Dean Pond, on the most recognizable of riddims on the album. First up however on Ambush’s debut album, ”Tinkin Out Loud” from Carrion Entertainment is a tune completely unknown to me, but one which wastes no time at all in becoming familiar, the very nice ‘More Dan Joy’. The opener is essentially a love tune but, despite its rather joyous vibes, it doesn’t have the ‘feel’ of a typical love song to my ears (although it pretty much is) which literally made me spin it quite a few times just to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing - It wasn’t a problem, however, because the song is very nice catching Ambush in a mood which he doesn’t repeat (at least not like this) again on the album. Next in is one of the real highlights of the album and a tune which is sure to catch many ears (who hear it) because it flows through on the suddenly reinvigourated Pura Vida Riddim from the aforementioned Dean Pond, ‘See Yah Now’. This tune grabs Ambush and pushes him into a more social way of thinking which prevails on the album for the most part and it’s the first site the listener gets that we’re dealing with a potentially superior lyrical talent in Ambush because this thing flows together SO nicely as he brings just a bit of a harsh edge on what proves to be a wicked social commentary.

“See me yah now
Burning babylon wid dis yah word sound
Mi dun already seh dat I will neva bow
Even though di coward dem sellout”

And lastly form the opening lot is the title track and my favourite tune on the album named after it. Based on the title alone (and the fact that they chose it for the title, obviously) I was very curious to hear exactly what was going on with this tune and after hearing I thought it to be quite odd actually (and I still do). It has a very odd pacing too it, it’s kind of fast and slow at the same time, but beneath it all, that riddim is KNOCKING! Ambush uses that big composition to delivery a piece which is a tribute to the music itself and what I came away from it with was this notion that he views the music as something running concurrently with life and something he uses to convey his thoughts (“this rebel music: It’s an expression of my soul”). The ‘frame’ of the tune is absolutely brilliant and you may even reach different conclusions as far as its meaning and significance, but I’m almost sure that’s what Ambush intended.

I took a big notice of the change of the vibes on ”Tinkin Out Loud” because I think what ends up happening is a rather clear statement of to exactly where the strength of Ambush’s talents actually are. As this fourteen track set progresses we get five decidedly up-tempo selections and while some of those tunes are pretty good, I think we see a bit of drop off there. The first such tune on the album to my ears is ‘Wit Di Girls’ which I didn’t like at all the first few spins through, but it’s grown on me just a bit from sense then. It’s still not a powerful moment, but it’s one of the better such vibes here. It’s not as good, however, as ‘Nah Play’, another faster song which is one of the album’s best and, again, shows a very high lyrical level from Ambush and it was on this tune where I actually entertained the notion of what it may be like to hear the chanter over some top notch Dancehall productions. ‘Thankfully’ any such notions were put aside with tunes like ‘Don’t Say Notin’ and ‘Callin’ Me’ roll in. The former is wholly unspectacular and average and the latter, a ‘gal tune’ is my least favourite song on the entire album. Still, I feel inclined to point out that Ambush doesn’t sound out pf place on either of those tunes, he seems quite comfortable really, they just aren’t very good. And although it’s easily better than those two tracks, the album’s closer ’Rebel Is I’ isn’t the greatest either (although very very interesting) - With its panicked sound.

Meanwhile, back on the sterling one drops which dominate on "Tinkin Out Loud” Ambush continues to prove himself a particularly devastating lyricist. Pay a special attention to the album’s obligatory herbalist spot, ‘100 LB.’ on which Ambush declares “every man a farmer by birthright”.

“I gotta 100 pound a weed inna mi trunk yeah
I man ah ride!
Money pon di hustling, yes mi stay pon di grind
So police when you si mi you fi close your eyes
Keep mi off ya mind”

“Mi no short man
Every ounce and every gram is there
You don’t believe me balance it pon di scale
Mi no rob man
I man a business man
Come with unno money
It ahgo fair exchange”

Besides hearing what is said, I’d also recommend that you focus on this riddim because it is well interesting and it almost seems to pick up and COMPLETELY change at one point into an even bigger sounding vibes and Ambush doesn’t disappoint for his part none at all.

Rather fittingly, a big tune of a somewhat similar nature, ‘Open Meh Mind’ follows the title track sequentially on the album and I really enjoyed digging into this one as well. The song doesn’t grab something ‘else’ to draw tangents and comparisons to (as the title track does with music), but it has this COOL kind of freestyle feel to it where it seems like Ambush is literally opening up his mind and delivering whatever comes out on the track. ‘Bhal Ah Yahd’ (obviously Ambush has attended the Vaughn Benjamin school of intentional misspelling) is a similar track with its feel. This song is the given ‘mama tune’ for "Tinkin Out Loud” and it’s where it should be. It’s not one of my favourites here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few weeks’ time or so that it is. Later on we get treated to a song which is definitely one of the best on the album, the MAMMOTH ‘Movin’ Tru’. This song is really about the passage of time to my senses. Ambush speaks on how much Rastafari has gone through to get where HE exists today and how . . . It really isn’t a problem and HE is more than prepared to deal with more should it come.

“There is no love fi dem
No love no inna dem
So then ah righteousness weh mi recommend
Hey then
No love no deh fi dem
No love no exist fi dem
Ah King Selassie I mi give di rest ah dem”

The riddim backing it is ANGRY (it’s mad at you!) and the tune, full on, is a big vibes and a BIG experience not to be missed. A kind of ‘vibrantly skeletal’ one-drop backs another big tune later on, ‘Love Again’, where Ambush . . . ambushes all disgusting, nasty, negative and foul living people who don’t want to love again. And finally there’s ‘Dem Meh Bhan’.

“Mi couldn’t tell you how di suburbs feel
Mi coulda bout di ghetto fi real
Man a deh so meh bahn
Man a deh so meh bahn”

Ambush speaks on the situation he was born and grew in within St. Croix. I find this tune most interesting because, as is generally the case, there is this ‘air’ of pride within it as well and I find that with people who grew up in impoverished areas (yours truly included) we tend to speak of the hardships of these places but do so with a sense of reverence, which isn’t exactly overflowing here, but you can tell that Ambush is proud to be where Ambush is from.

Overall, I didn’t hope to paint the picture of this album to be a GREAT one. It isn’t. What it is, however, is very SOLID and it isn’t “solid” in the usual way in which I use that term. It’s kind of raw-ish solid. Ambush is definitely an artist who is ‘rough around the edges’ in terms of how he ultimately puts things together and that is something which he may not even be able to lose if he tried to (and he won’t) and I think that it’s part of his appeal actually. If you’re looking for something like what you’ll find on a Luciano album, or Lyricson, Romain Virgo or Junior Kelly, where everything seems to be so carefully and fastidiously planned out, then maybe this one isn’t for you. But, if you enjoy the kind of free-flowing brilliance of someone like a Sabbattical Ahdah or Jahdan Blakkamoore or maybe even Jah Mason, then what you’ll find from Ambush on ”Tinkin Out Loud” will be GOLD to your ears. And it’s so unfortunate that this one seems to be destined to be under heard and under played, but for people like you and I, the reward to be found is PLENTY here for doing just a bit of research. Well done.

Rated: 4/5
Carrion Entertainment


  1. Nice review!
    I am absolutely impressed by this album.
    Actually I found it the best reggae release since Revalation's "Serious Matters".

  2. That is an excellent reference point you have my friend.