Saturday, April 30, 2011

Modern Classics Vol. XXIX: "Flame On" by Machel Montano HD

"Flame On" by Machel MontanoHD [Ruf Rex Productions - 2008]

I’m thankful that, in many respects, I’m a very open minded person. I don’t judge a next person negatively for doing things which don’t effect me and, in that regard, I’m pretty much indifferent to most things. It also, in my opinion, goes into my musical tastes. I can reach the absolute height of musical JOY listening to a variety of different (sub)genres. Roots Reggae music, when the riddim is perfect, when the vocalist is giving a message that I fully support (and even if I don’t, if he/she is able to completely drive their point across) and everything is in tune - It offers an experience which just taps into such a vast area of emotions and it also becomes educational and thought-provoking as well. Dancehall? You get a lyricist who just has such an impressive command with words and I’m hooked! If you have that and a genuine riddim which is just KNOCKING my senses through then the experience in that instance can be shock and awe. I literally have to pause (thankfully (not really) that doesn’t happen much these days, otherwise I couldn’t get anything done). Even Zouk music serves a purpose and, although I’ve experienced this less so than in any other of these case in my life, when you get Zouk music which is just so well done, the music becomes very ‘visual’ it all begins to form a scenario in your head and a perfect situation for it.

With all of that being said, however, Soca music, at least for me, serves a purpose unlike any other art form that you’re likely to find on my players. It is musical detachment. It is indifference (Pas mele! Pas mele! Pas mele!). It is an escape - And no matter how many times I write one of these things and try to analyze every SYLLABLE of every word and make points which probably either don’t make very much sense to anyone but me or aren’t nearly as important to the rest of you - Soca music will always help bring me back to the proverbial center as it provides a EXCUSE (a BEAUTIFUL one) for me to lose my fucking mind.

Machel Montano

Earlier this week I gave you a lyrical example of one such provider of insanity for me in Fay-Ann Lyons and today we look into the work of arguably the genre’s most famous name to date, Machel Montano who, while he didn’t have his greatest of seasons in 2008, he made a large impression me when he put it all together in a nice and neat package. Here’s a look at one of the most MADDENING of Soca albums (and one of the best as well) that I’ve ever heard. “Flame On”

The Music

1. ‘Unconditional Love’ [Prelude]

The opener to ”Flame On” is simply a calm before the fiery storm which is to follow as we join Machel in a church-ish style (complete with organs and all) on a rendition of the monster of a tune which comes next. I’ve always thought that this intro was just so cool and you start to think not only which other songs on this album might sound good in a similar style, but which other Soca songs in general as well.

2. ‘Unconditional’

If the first track doesn’t let you know exactly how much ‘Unconditional’ Machel has for us all, then certainly the full tune will do the trick. MADNESS! I’m probably going to use that word a lot (and a lot more considering that I still have to go back and write the opening) here and this is the fullest first sign on ”Flame On” of some material was actually bled over and gone onto the proverbial next level. HD sets the bar incredibly high for the album’s first tune . . . Which makes it all the more remarkable that the two next songs top it!

3. ‘Blazin D Trail’

DE HEAT! Although not my choice as the album’s biggest moment, in 2008 Machel’s big song for the road was deemed ‘Blazin D Trail’ and although it didn’t take top honours that year (because Fay-Ann Lyons absolutely lost her mind that year with ‘Get On’) it, again, reached levels where very few artists dwell. The song was just SO intense that it almost became overbearing at times and coming from someone who wish EVERY song was like this, that’s definitely saying something. MAD!

4. ‘Rollin’ featuring Patrice Roberts

My favourite tune on ”Flame On” should be to the shock of no one who reads my work to any point of even semi-consistency. Anytime you get Machel Montano and Patrice Roberts the results are going to be something which is potentially very special and while their biggest moment to date also netted the duo a Road March crown in 2006, ‘Band of De Year’, ‘Rollin’ isn’t very far behind it at all. TEARS! This song has been bringing tears to incredibly old and jaded eyes for more than three years now and if it ever ceases to do that - I’ll probably take my ball and go home!

5. ‘Wining Season’

Unfortunately insanity can’t reign ALL the time and we do have to tone things back just a beat or two and in doing so in 2008, Machel served up a tune which many people who’re hell of a lot smarter than I am still regard as his biggest tune of that year as he instituted the ‘Wining Season’. The slightly more enthused than usual mid-tempo set was just a beautiful and bouncy song which IMMEDIATELY dug its claws into the collective brains of millions of people and a few years on, for many of them, it’s yet to let them go.

Best Lyric: “This season is [my time]. Is a full cup and is [hard wine]. If they tell we stop, we go [decline]. Every man, women and child”

6. ‘Make Love’

COOL! When done at its best, there’s nothing like a Groovy Soca song. The most Rub-A-Dub-best Reggae tune definitely comes close, but its more of a darker and more personal type of feel. ‘Make Love’ is literally a Dance floor ORGY (a cool one) (no mess)! While this song has probably been forgotten to some degree these days, I’d say that it’s one of Montano’s best Groovy tunes in recent years and maybe even through his entire decorated catalog. Yeah, it was that good.

7. ‘Oil & Music’ featuring David Rudder

Next in we’re doing a bit of mixing with the first of two consecutive legends to join Machel on ”Flame On”, David Rudder. The well respected veteran joins Machel in telling us about ‘Oil & Music’ which is a dual-acting tune which serves not only to praise the land of oil and music (Trinidad) (duh!), but also the music and the culture of the music as well. The song is so interested for several reasons and one of them, definitely, is the fact that it’s a Soca song with such a powerful meaning and at the same time it is a ‘jump & wave’ type of a tune (albeit a less frenzied one than the other such songs on this album). It also, for some reason (to my ears), has a kind of an old school mentality as well which just spruce up the vibes (particularly later on).

Best Lyric: “This is the land of - The land of oil and music. When they hear the riddim! I tell yuh you can’t refuse it!”

8. ‘Congo Man’ featuring Mighty Sparrow

You want me talk the truth??? Machel also invited the incomparable Mighty Sparrow to do a remake of the Calypso King’s . . . brilliant/scandalous/ridiculous classic tune, ‘Congo Man’. The effect of this tune has lessened over the years and at this point we can really just appreciate it for its HUGE sonic appeal and it was a significant track as well (and this was the same year that Bunji Garlin scored a Soca Monarch title with a remake of the Maestro’s tune ‘Fiery’). It wasn’t a straight cover, it was more of a Soca remix actually and the added colours did well for this unforgettable piece.

9. ‘Jamishness’

My pressure bad bad bad. Soca history will forever remember the Leggo Me Riddim as the piece which backed Ricky T’s DESTRUCTIVE hit ‘Pressure Boom’ and justly so. That song was just FUCKED UP. The best of the rest, however (unless I’m REALLY overlooking something), came from Machel Montano when he reached with ‘Jamishness’. He kind of tuned back the intensity on this one and it was a good idea in my opinion (that riddim is just way overactive as it is) because what resulted was a tune which didn’t become labourious at all and at the same time was an IMPOSSIBLE ride not to get up and move on.

10. ‘We Will Live’

My Reggae heads (who aren’t reading this) will likely hear the opening to the big 'We Will Live' and immediately began to sing ‘Just One of Those Days’ by Sizzla because it has a very similar intro to the immortal Queen Majesty Riddim. What develops behind it is another track on which Machel goes a bit more with the powerful messages in the midst of the madness. This one is a bit more ‘terrestrial’ and familiar because it simply says for all to come together and thrive and live in piece and love - Which works PERFECTLY in Soca music.

Best Lyric: “Sometimes you hungry to kill, but please think twice. Please think twice. Please think twice. Leave home yah automatic and your sharp device. Sharp device. Sharp device. Sharp device. In the end it’s the children who pay de price. Pay de price. Pay de price. So, from now you better give dem good advice. Lift your hand to de sky. We will live”

11. ‘Wining Season [Remix] featuring Shaggy

Superstar meets superstar on this slightly amped up remix to ‘Wining Season' which brings in Shaggy. The legendary wining season of 2008 got up and spread throughout the Caribbean finally landing in Jamaica (or New York, or wherever Shaggy would have been at the time).

12. ‘Make Love’ featuring Buju Banton

To be completely honest, I wasn’t very high on the remix to ‘Make Love’ which involved another big big artist joining Machel, this time Buju Banton, because it was so much of a drastic leap from the original (which is excellent, of course). But having gone a year or two without REALLY digging into it, it sounds better than ever these days.

13. ‘Defense [The Anthem] featuring Pitbull & Lil’ Jon

. . . And the same could be said for ‘Defense’ as well, although I’ve come around more and more to it in the last year or so. This song was a remix of an original tune from Hip-Hop/Reggaeton artist, Pitbull, from out of Miami which featured fellow exuberant Hip-Hopper/producer, Lil Jon (which, itself, was a remake of ‘Calabria’ to some degree). Machel’s presence not only made this one interesting to you and I, but it also made it a significantly better song and it wouldn’t be the last time the trio would link up either.


Surely you noticed that I didn’t, as I usually do on these features, go the route of including the ‘best lyrics’ on every single tune and while I certainly could have, aside from pointing out a GEMS, that wasn’t the point here. Instead, I really wanted to reiterate the point which I opened with, which was the PURPOSE that this type of music so wonderfully serves. Soca music, in this form - With the most SPECTACULARLY of demonstrative vibes - Is the greatest musical ESCAPE that I know of. It is a burst and a release of energy which may not translate completely well to album form, but in the case of ”Flame On”, Machel Montano definitely gave it his proverbial ‘best shot’ and also gave it one of the BEST SHOTS that I know of in the genre. The album takes on the characteristics less of an album and more of a musical experience and while nothing can compare to seeing Montano take his act live, this album is a powerful ‘take home version’ of that “experience’.

And it’s more than just having a great year (which he clearly did in 2008 despite not taking home any Carnival hardware that season). In Soca, where albums are often quite random, a ‘good year’ does not always translate into a ‘good album’ (largely because it only takes ONE song in order to fuel a particular artist to a good year and it takes . . . More than one to do that with an album ), sometimes it takes something a bit more in the way of consistency to provide a good project and, perhaps, even dictating the pace of a given season with a mind to eventually deliver an album for it and that’s less of an issue for Machel than most because he does an album every year. In this case, he likely topped his previous 31 efforts in TRULY capturing and providing a musical PAGEANTRY on an album which is just odd! And it captures this from every angle - Be it the nearly overwhelming vibes of ‘Unconditional’, ‘Blazin D Trail’ and ‘Rollin’, or the midtempo natures of ‘We Will Live’ and the infectious ‘Wining Season’ or the far more slowed down and just COOL, ‘Make Love’. The album literally leaves nothing to be desired.

'Make Love'

It’s because of that (and the fact that it’s bailed me out of many a spell of writer’s block) that I’m declaring ”Flame On” by Machel Montano the first bon fide Modern Soca Classic!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Modern Classics Vol. XXVIII: "Journey To Jah" by Gentleman

"Journey To Jah" by Gentleman [Four Music Productions - 2002]

Sometimes the planets and the stars align themselves just perfectly to produce a winner - Ask German Reggae superstar, Gentleman, for him, it’s happened twice. In 2004 the artist released what was probably his biggest and most popular set to date, ”Confidence” which was simply outstanding and can likely be referred to and regarded as one of the finest albums since the turn of the century and maybe even THE best English-speaking album from a European artist . . . Ever. But that wasn’t the first great album to be found within Gentleman’s catalog.

In terms of substantial work all of his projects have been so, from his 1999 debut, "Trodin’ On” to his two most recent pieces, ”Another Intensity" and ”Diversity”, Gentleman’s album releases have been very full and healthy examples of his most comprehensive talents. Still, one could very well make the case that, perhaps, his greatest and most shining moment came in the form of a ‘little’ album released nearly a decade ago. This particular album would have been my own personal introduction to Gentleman and given the initial hype (especially on the internet) (and yes, I remember) (University days) surrounding it, it was so for many fans around the world. Given the quality of that release, I don’t think that it’s much of a mystery at all how this artist is still THRILLING the world all of these years on. Here we have a look back at another classic album from Gentleman. ”Journey To Jah”

The Music


1. ‘Dem Gone’

Opening things up on Gentleman’s ”Journey To Jah” is a sublime tune which definitely has become one of the signature tracks from this album, ‘Dem Gone’. This tune always struck me, lyrically, because it was almost as if Gentleman was speaking about zombies and, in a sense, that’s exactly what he was doing. But where zombies, in the traditional sense, have this kind of half-relationship with death and life, these ‘social zombies’ have that same duality going between negativity and positivity. They know what they’re doing is wrong but . . . For some reason they just don’t change and because of that - dem gone!

Best Lyric: “Dem gooooooone, so far. Di whole a dem ahgo regret it one day!”

2. ‘Ina Different Time’ featuring Jahmali & Daddy Rings

On the first of the album’s seven combinations, ‘Ina Different Time’, the German star links with the woefully underrated Jahmali and consistent oft-collaborator, Daddy Rings. This tune is interesting because it almost seems as if the three are kind of going along and doing their ‘own things’, but it also has a bit of congruence and unity as well - Allowing each voice to make his own respective point, but doing so in respect to the point of one another. Also, I should say that, at least for me, Jahmali steals the show, sounding EXCELLENT on this set.

Best Lyric: [Daddy Rings] “Well mi come bun yah. Certain dirty things weh certain bwoy tek fi fun yah. Wake up everyday and blood still ah run dung yah. Rich man have it all and poor people have none yah. Beat Kette drum yah”

3. ‘Runaway’

Blessed with the BIG Celebrate Riddim from Pow Pow (which is just POUNDING!), ‘Runaway’ is, arguably, the biggest hit birthed by the ”Journey To Jah” album. I’ve always likened this tune to a more moderated version of the opener. In ‘Dem Gone’ - It’s just too fucking late for those people, they’re already lost causes, but those who still ‘runaway’ can still be caught and on this tune I think it was a situation of Gentleman giving a final warning to such persons that it’s full time to stop running!

Best Lyric: “Seh dem a di dolphin, but mi si dem a di shark. Dem stand in di spotlight and ah live inna di dark. Claim seh dem a grounded, but mi si dem ah skylark - So, to mi dem caan talk”

4. ‘Man A Rise’ featuring Bounty Killer

Although the subjectry of ‘Man A Rise’ is very pedestrian and Reggae-normative, Gentleman, alongside Bounty Killer do give a fresh take on the well weathered matter. If you’ve heard just about any Roots Reggae, you’ve surely heard a tune which is a ‘call-to-action’ type of vibes and that’s what we have here, but the rather colourful (although straight forward) long-form back and forth between the two kind of create a new idea. Bounty has always been more of a tangible, rather than a spiritual artist and here, he borders somewhere right between the two and while Gentleman, of course, has no problem placing the spiritual first, there’s this very cool common ground achieved and reached between the two and sublimely so.

Best Lyric: [Gentleman] “You already mek yuh talk, now it’s time to mek yuh walk. Words without action, well its betta you go park. Caan si no love inna yuh heart, you shoulda shown that from that start. The hatred that you teaching us is tearing us apart”

5. ‘Love Chant’

This subtly dynamic track (backed by the Firehouse Crew) is one of the better, but perhaps more overlooked on the entire album to my opinion. I don’t recall it ever receiving a significant push, but all of these years later, I think I could confidently make the case for ‘Love Chant’ being THE best song on ”Journey To Jah”. Why? You listen to how well done and presented this track is, which is a ‘love song’ of sorts - A love song for the world and a love song for The Almighty - And just how sonically pleasing it is. It’s nearly a perfect, perfect tune.

Best Lyric: “God ah want peace and love and unity. Happiness is what Jah Jah want inna di community. I see dem ah war, but dat ain’t nothing new to me. I have Jah Jah and there is nothing they can do to me!”

6. ‘See Dem Coming’

‘See Dem Coming’ was another tune which came through as a warning, but this time it was to warn righteous people of the coming of those who wish to fuck up the world and oppress people. Typically, you’d expect more discernible urgency in such a song, but the intensity here is different because it is a lyrical force and not just a sonic aggressiveness. Nice and easy on the surface, but it packed a venomous bite for all of those who actually took a heavy listen to what was being said.

Best Lyric: “Politician on their mission, try fi mash up fi wi vision. Continuously. No intermission. Well then, dem guns and all dem wars, dem try fi create a division. Wi nah go get tricked by dem religion”

7. ‘Man Of My Own’ featuring Morgan Heritage

The Morgans clan not only features on ‘Man Of My Own’, but they also provide the production (on their Never Go Under Riddim) on this ROCKING and very wordy Roots tune. This isn’t one of my favourite tune on the album, but it still is very FULL and just so well vibed that you won’t get very far into it without your head rocking and a smile coming across your face. Sonically speaking, it’s excellent . . . You know what? Maybe it is one of my favourites.

Best Lyric: [Gentleman] “If this is yuh occupation, then this is my motivation - Fi write another song, I’m sending out this invitation. To all you heads of nation, wi want di unification. We tired fi si the under-privileged ah go a station”

8. ‘Leave Us Alone’

'Leave Us Alone' is a very crucial tune which IMMEDIATELY brings in the urgency and the HEAVY vibes (screw face Roots Reggae music) for the album. Seemingly having exhausted his patience with trying to be nice and trying to be subtle to get his point his across to the wicked to change their ways before it’s too late. Well time has expired . . . Now his message, clearly, is to ‘GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!’ Probably most impressive is how he keeps lyrically focused on this track which, in all respects, is one of the best on the album (and until I began to dig into it for the sake of this post, it was my absolute favourite tune here).

Best Lyric: “Some bwoy mussi sick inna dem head. Burn down bridges and build walls instead”
“Dem tek di maximum and then give wi di minor. And babylon ah have dis yah world deh pon a timer. Fi all these guns and all the wars dem ah di designer. Wi bruk Berlin down, now wi bruk China”

9. ‘Long Face’

Follow this - At first he wanted to help you find your way to righteousness because you were running away and he didn’t want to see you just GONE, like the others. When that didn’t work, Gentleman washed his hands of you and the situation and marked you as a lost cause, but you didn’t get the message. So now, you still hang around and the man is simply tired of seeing your damn face! It’s highly unlikely that the man planned it out like that, himself, but it’s surely a running theme here. ‘Long Face’ is about those who don’t even want something good and something peaceful for others and it pinnacles with, arguably, one of the most impressive verses in Gentleman’s entire catalog.

Best Lyric: . . . The 2nd verse. All of it.

10. ‘Younger Generation’ featuring Luciano & Mikey General

One track with Luciano, Mikey General & Gentleman! I’m tempted to stop right there and I won’t go on much further. You didn’t even have to spin this tune that it was top notch. On ‘Younger Generation’ the trio aim their message at . . . The younger generation of people to correct the wrong of and achieve where their elders may’ve failed by taking the world to new social, cultural and spiritual heights.

Best Lyric: [Mikey General] “It haffi stop! Stop! Cause all this fight is madness. Let’s bridge the gap and build it up with righteousness”

11. ‘Dangerzone’ featuring Junior Kelly

Despite the fact that this song is just weird as hell, ‘Dangerzone’ was still a very powerful tune. It’s Junior Kelly’s turn in the spotlight with Gentleman and while he, more often than not, makes great strides when the vibes are somewhat rigid and he can kind of move around them, this tune has a very free vibes to it and Kelly takes full advantage of the moment by delivering one SCATHINGLY odd flow on this big tune.

Best Lyric: [Junior Kelly] “Some ah blame di politician, fi di sticky, sicky situation. Di youth dem ah buss di gun from twelve to twelve and it neva seems like di youth dem neva yet, run outta ammunition”

12. ‘Empress’

One sweet sweet (and comprehensive) love song. Perhaps we could call it more of a ‘relationship tune’ because Gentleman mixes one part standard love song with one part biblical love song to come up with the winner that was ‘Empress’. Gentleman not only gives thanks for the love of his life, but he seems to give thanks for love, itself and the PROCESS of being in love. Lyrically, it’s probably one of the better such tunes you’ll hear within the last decade or so as well.

Best Lyric: “Love how she kiss, how she kiss. Di passionate way, how she put me to the test. When it comes to loving, this yah Empress a di best. I don’t need a witness. I CONFESS!”

13. ‘Fire Ago Bun Dem’ featuring Capleton

As if he needed even more help (and he didn’t) Gentleman links supernova Capleton to join in on ‘Fire Ago Bun Dem’ (the Black Scorpio produced tune also appeared on Capleton’s ”Praises To The King” album). You should be able to tell by the tune’s title who’s most at home on this track where fire is applied to all those seemingly in need of some serious behavioural correction.

Best Lyric: [Gentleman] “Question: Wah dem ahgo do fi stop di fire blazer? Nuff a dem, wi si seh dem nah real, but dem a faker. That’s why we put a fyah pon di undertaker. Wi show dem that righteousness is greater”

14. ‘Jah Ina Yuh Life’

Between you and I, ‘Jah Ina Yuh Life’ has become my single favourite song on ”Journey To Jah”. Scrutinizing this album as closely as I do in order to write these things, it didn’t take me long at all to come to that conclusion and that is so despite the fact that I don’t really recall it being THAT GREAT of a song, but I was quickly drawn to it. WHY? I am going to call it a matter of ‘cool confidence’. This song doesn’t do anything in the way of changing up the vibes or trying to redefine the nature of this project at all, but it is just a really cool song. I mention “confidence” because it also sounds like a tune which would’ve fit so nicely into the ”Confidence” album (which featured, in my opinion, a version of Gentleman who was more of a complete artist) also and rings in with just a mighty sound. It is THE most linguistically impressive tune on the album as well and, again, in my opinion the album’s finest altogether.

Best Lyric: “Some of dem laws is only here to confuse you. And some of dem class is only here to amuse you. You got Jah inna yuh life and Jah Jah choose you. No mek no evil people come and ah abuse you. Bob Marley done tell di world no mek dem school you. Find a way out fi yahself, no mek dem fool you”

15. 'Children of Tomorrow’ featuring Jack Radics

Finally, we get Gentleman alongside the other artist (after Daddy Rings) with whom he is very often associated, veteran classy Jamaican big voiced singer, Jack Radics, on the progressive 'Children of Tomorrow'. First of all, before you even get to the message, sonically speaking, this tune is just BEAUTIFUL! It is LUSH! Coming through with a very full and inviting sound the tune is a very straight forward (in a WONDERFUL way) vibes which is basically leaving a message (time capsule style) to the youths of the future. How nice was it that they chose to end this wonderful album with one of its undeniably biggest lights?

Best Lyric: “Gunshot round di corner it ah echo, ah echo. Di cowboy over yahso, wid him lasso, him lasso. Di Rootsman over dehso nah go let go, no let go. Know seh dat him life, it couldn’t go so”


In this instance, I take the title of this album to be somewhat of an allusion to exactly what the main idea of it is and what I take from it after digging into to this degree is ‘simply’ the concept of MOTION. There’s so many things moving around this project that we can even rewind and take a look back at the moment when it would have been released and see that there were even things in MOTION regarding Gentleman himself. As I mentioned in the opening portion, this was the first time many people had even heard of his name and suddenly there was this more focused ‘brand’ of attention in his direction and when you line up the roster of artists he did on this album - I don’t think that comes as a surprise to you - So we can definitely say that there was an occurring shift in Gentleman’s career and, perhaps, in his ideology as well. He was in motion.

We also have the music itself (duh!) which may have been one of the more ’active’ Roots Reggae albums of its day. So many times we listen to the music and people (who are incredibly incorrect) refer to it as boring or mechanical, but this is an album which you can’t say that about. There aren’t a great deal of tempo changes, but when you listen to the lyrical approaches and just the subtle shifts (or STEPS) that the album makes, you’ll see that this is neither boring nor mechanical Roots music. In specifics, I go back to the very forceful ‘Leave Us Alone’, which, as I tried to illustrate, almost comes as some sort of forceful combination of tunes leading into it.

“Leave us alone!
Everything wi build up, dem waan trample down
He without a sin haffi cast the first stone
Dem caan do it at all
No. Dem inna dead man zone”

“Fi go diss Jah righteous youth, you make a mistake
Now di mark is upon you, you just can’t escape
And you seeking how and when and where to migrate
And Jah is watching you above the high gate
None of your daughters or your niece could neva be my date
Inna yah conference, inna yah face, you nah si my face”

Which is a pretty far trod from:

“Everyday you get up and you wish to have a meal
Now you get a cut and you wish to have it heal
And still you cannot accept that Jah Jah is real
Tell mi Mr. Man seh what’s the deal”

Which is taken from ‘Dem Gone’ and even the more assertive:

“Mi si seh Jah Jah give wi life after all
Still none a dem nah give no thanks at all
Dem think seh dem ah rise, mi si dem ah fall
Fall dem ah fall, fall dem ah fall”

Which is from ‘Runaway’. You can even see the shift in the use of the word “Jah” where the figure has gone from being this accepting and most loving of entities whose patience is wearing thin in the latter two frames as opposed to the initial two where patience has seemingly gone on holiday. And, not surprisingly, Gentleman’s own patience, or lack thereof, ties in as well. And, at least in my opinion, this is more of a matter of a gradual and natural change in tone rather than a shift in mood or just a different ‘any’ type of song (in terms of the songs just being on a different vibes and, thus, different from one another). It’s a heavier focus at that point and fully grown and matured developed ideology from other points in the album.

We could also begin to reapply the concept of a “journey” within there as well as on several tunes on the album (including the MAMMOTH ‘Jah Ina Yuh Life’) Gentleman speaks of the journey to (and away from) “Jah” and righteousness - In fact, if we’re speaking directly to the lyrics of the album, then it is the prevailing tangible (in terms of what is said) sentiment on the entire project. Obviously it’s VERY important (most important) to Gentleman that listeners are able to fully receive the blessings of Jah and it is his passion to MOVE us into that wonderful direction. In the case of ”Journey To Jah”, as usual, his results were spectacular how spectacular? Impressive enough to be considered a bona fide Modern Reggae Classic!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Video Drop #22

This week we have a healthy collection of videos from some very very big names in the music including three personal favourites of mine (including one with a bit of controversy) and a bonus clip from the greatest to ever do it.

'You And Me' by Saïk [Digital Single, available now]

‘You & Me’ by Saïk [Directed by Moody Mike]

First up we have a video which may be the single most anticipated in the history of this feature on this blog as I’ve been looking forward to seeing the completed version for . . . Maybe two or three weeks now and here it is! Achis Reggae favourite, the abundantly gifted Saïk (!) brings forth his brand new video for the first single off of his forthcoming sophomore album release from Don’s Music, ‘You & Me’. Where do I begin? Okay so, first thing is that seeing this video makes me appreciate this tune INFINITELY more than I did before seeing it (and I did actually like it before seeing the video) and while I still don’t think it’s his absolute greatest song ever, it’s DAMN close. The video itself? GORGEOUS! The tune is a song which basically speaks about unification in the FWI and, to mark the occasion, Saïk traveled from his home in Guadeloupe and went to Martinique and to Guyane to vibes for the video (“wah gwan Gwada, wah gwan Mada, wah gwan G’yane”) and he made a WINNER! The scenery is beautiful, everyone is having a good time and Saïk finds himself in several nice situations as well (especially on a boat). We also get cameos of other artistes, particularly Kalash and Admiral T (I think I also saw the Lieutenant as well) and I was thinking about three minutes through that everything that I’d hoped this video would be, it had been and there was still another minute to go. So what does he do there? Of course, I’m hoping that they’d mix in another tune, but Saïk, arguably, does even better by apparently taking on Gwada Carnival at night to wrap up one of the best videos I’ve seen this year in a very fine fashion!

Video Rated: 5/5
Video - Song Link: 5/5

{Note: Saïk’s album, whatever it’s called, is reportedly scheduled for October release which is ridiculous, but I still cannot fucking wait!}
{Note 2: In 2011 - Paille, Colonel Reyel, Tiwony, Saïk, Daly and Mighty Ki La are all releasing albums! If you still aren’t paying attention to Reggae/Dancehall from out the FWI - WRONG!}

‘Girlz Dem Luv We’ featuring Mavado by Shaggy [Directed by Jay Will]

How do we follow that one? I’ll put it to a couple of names who definitely don’t need the help - It’s Shaggy alongside Mavado with ‘Girlz Dem Luv We’. I don’t actually dislike this tune which is probably a bit surprising (I’ve actually been enjoying the majority of Shaggy tunes that I’ve ran into for the last year or so and we’ll be checking in again with him shortly), but the video is pretty much EXACTLY what you might expect it to be. There’s a club. There’re many girls. There’s Shaggy. There’s Mavado. The really on varying thing, of course, is the different girls (one of whom looks like Ce’Cile actually) . . . But yeah. There you go.

Video Rated: 3/5
Video - Song Link: 5/5

‘Two Places’ by Hezron & Shaggy [Directed by Sean Pierre]

Next we have . . . Shaggy again. This time on an even better song with the flaming Hezron, with 'Two Places'. Most interesting about this tune (besides the fact that it’s a really really nice song) (my Mother actually likes this tune a lot) is the fact that it’s actually 2-3 years old at this point and it now reaches video, having energized recently and become a sizable hit apparently. As for said video, it’s also pretty much what you might’ve expected with a conflicted Hezron taking center stage and playing a starring role between two (LOVELY) women, with Shaggy lending and occasional bit of support. I’m just really happy for this song and Hezron, in particular, as appearing in a video with Shaggy definitely can do nothing but good for his potentially WONDERFUL career. So we hope it does very well.

Video Rated: 4/5
Video - Song Link: 4.5/5

‘Love Soldier’ by Tony Rebel [Directed by Gad Savage]

Well respected Jamaican Reggae veteran, Tony Rebel, returns with a brand new video (his first in . . . a forever that I can remember, but I pay no attention, so he probably has had several already this year) for his big tune, ‘Love Soldier’, the chanter’s cut of 2Hard’s City Life Riddim (incidentally, Rebel‘s greatest protégé, Queen Ifrica, also recently shot a video for her tune on the same riddim, ‘Times Like These‘). The video finds the Rebel and his initially rather menacing ‘gang’ descending upon a village in the bush to assist with help and medical supplies and such things. Upon reaching, however, his attention almost immediately locks upon the STRIKINGLY beautiful (she is absolutely stunning) apparent head of the camp. I really like just about everything here, with the only real negative in my opinion being the somewhat odd flirtation between the two, but I do believe that it works by its end. I also like the kind of running story which matches the vibes of the song so well and Tony Rebel (as always) appears to be having such a great time (if you were in her company, you would be having fun too). He doesn’t do things like this for nothing, so maybe he’s nearing an album release of his own in 2011, which would be very nice.

Video Rated: 4.25/5
Video - Song Link: 4.75/5

‘Talk How Mi Feel’ & ‘Nothing At All’ by Assassin

The reigning greatest Dancehall lyricist, Assassin, steps out with his latest clip for a double dosage of recent tunes, ‘Talk How Mi Feel’ and the MAMMOTH ‘Nothing At All’. The video, fittingly, is separated into two different halves with the first being for ‘Talk How Mi Feel’ which is a song on which Sasco doesn’t waste anytime in telling everyone what he thinks on certain subjects revolving around society and the Dancehall these days. He even calls a press conference for the situation which can be heard booming through a party which he also later attends for the half of ‘Nothing At All’. This one is just a nice little party with a few friends (some recognizable) and, at least for me, a celebration of this powerful, powerful talent with the exhibition of two big tunes.

Video Rated: 4.25
Video - Song Link: 4/5

‘Better Tomorrow’ by Duane Stephenson [Directed by Ras Kassa]

I don’t think that I have had quite the emotional experience for this video that several people that I’ve spoken with have, but it’s not very difficult to see, at all, exactly why they’ve felt what they’ve felt. The moving and melancholy ‘Better Tomorrow’ becomes the latest clip from Reggae star, Duane Stephenson as he, curiously, has already chosen to go in a different direction instead of furthering his most recent album release, ”Black Gold”. I’m not going to have much of a problem with that, in this case, because this video is very good. The clip paints a few really bleak situations in the lives of various people from various walks of life and it does this in a very straight forward manner and, wonderfully in black and white. That effect makes it all the more fulfilling when, presumably as the “better tomorrow” is reached, we switch to colour (signaled by the rising of the sun). It does get VERY drastic at the ultimate end just before the rising of the sun and certainly this one goes a very far way in making the point that Stephenson made initially with the tune itself.

Video Rated: 4.75/5
Video - Song Link: 5/5

‘Le Coeur A Ses Raisons’ by Thayna [Directed by Bruno ‘Deejay’ Slam]

And lastly (technically) we have the latest video from another of my favourites. It’s Thayna from out of Guadeloupe with ‘Le Couer A Ses Raisons’. Certainly this must mean that we’re to be looking forward to a next album from the Zouk star in 2011 and . . . Yeah, definitely looking forward to that (apparently it’s coming via Warren this time and not Kaysha, however) (looking forward to it in any case). I haven’t heard much from Thayna, at all, as of late, but she is a big deal in the colourful world of Zouk and THANKFULLY she’s obviously reenergized and is set to do the magic once again. Here she links with my favourite Zouk video director, Deejay Slam (who did all of those wonderful videos for Kénédy), and just when you think everything is running ‘status quo’, the video throws you a bit of a curveball. I won’t spoil that for you, but I will tell you that its very . . . Interesting! Perhaps not as surprising as I may make it seem, however, and the video, as a whole, is quite nice. In the future, I would like to see Thayna a bit more active physically [your joke here], because she doesn’t really move around too much in this video and others either. But she does look damn good and I do, of course, like the song.

Video Rated: 4.25/5
Video - Song Link: 4.25/5

**Bonus** ‘See Me’ by Sizzla **Bonus**

Lastly (really) is someone who probably doesn’t approve of that previous video too much! Sizzla’s latest clip is for his relicked older tune ‘See Me’ for a returning Xterminator on the Royalty Riddim. The actual video here is just following Kalonji around on tour and through various performances with nothing, at least ostensibly, directly related to this song. I don’t care! It’s a great video, I do like the song and really we can write about others until our collective fingers fall off our collective hands! You know who’s the musical King around here, so big him up, every time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lyrics! - Fay-Ann Lyons

The last time we ran a lyrics feature we focused on the spellbinding linguistic acrobatics of Trini Soca word merchant, Bunji Garlin. In the realm of Soca, through the more traditional classes through which we measure skill, Garlin is at the head of a small pack of names which includes the lyrical likes of Skinny Fabulous, S.K.I.NN.Y. from out of Dominica, of course Ms. Alysha and just a few others as well. These performers make music which sounds entirely more lyrical and something similar to what you might find in the Dancehall on Soca (and Bouyon) riddims. However, what we don’t look at very closely very often is that one of the (and probably THE) major themes of Soca music - The ‘Jump and Wave’ - Can also be very syllabically impressive. Too many times we relegate these to merely being different ways of saying the same thing. While that may be true on the lower level, at the absolute highest, it could not be further from the truth. Over the past few years no one has ‘displayed’ this more clearly than the Soca-fied inferno that is Fay-Ann Lyons. While many of her tunes are of the ‘jump & wave’ variety, no one makes the masses jump quite as high, nor wave quite as frenzied as Lyons and particularly not consistently as of late. Her style is a bit different (obviously) and very wordy as she exhibits this scalding edge to her music which injects nearly supreme amounts of attitude and super-techno-femininity into it. The result is a force which will someday be credited with redefining and reenergizing the ‘basic’ jump & wave tune. Today we observe 10 completely random examples of lyrical napalm supplied by the human embodiment of the spirit of intensity - Fay-Ann Lyons.

“Bunji Garlin
I am your wife and I’m very glad
You see tonight
Inside dis fete, I beating yah bad
So take yah licks, just like a man
And don’t call meh phone
And go home!
And wait for me
I taking yah throne!
-2008 Soca Monarch Performance of ‘Get On’

“Well I ask mi Daddy one day -
How to mek people break away
Listen close now, cuz I’m about to tell what it is that he say
He say point yah rag to the sky
Let your national colours fly!
And when di place start to mash up
Di whole place rock up
Is then they go realize!”

“It’s my turn now!
To mek yah get on bad in di party
My turn now!
To show you what I got
My turn now!
So put up all yah hand if you wid mi
My turn now!
To go jump up on di spot”
-’My Turn Now’

“See the sun, shining down
On the land
Highlight the masqueraders
As they move, to the beat
Of the band
To the stage of the Savannah
Feel the vibe
Hear the sound
Mass accumulation!
Glittering in the sun, like diamonds on the ground!
Side to side goes the sound
As the band moves along
People ah waving and waving
Taking out their rags”

To see everybody jumping!
To see everybody waving!

“Somebody make a mistake -
They say Carnival done
Heading to the Savannah
Under the blazing sun
Masqueraders want to jump up
Wine up and carry on
But when they reach the big stage -
They realize it gone!”
-’Make A Stage [M.A.S.]'

“They trying to flop me
[Tell dem ah keep moving, don’t stop]
And no, they can’t stop me
[Tell dem ah keep moving, don’t stop]
Long time they waan drop me
[Tell dem ah keep moving, don’t stop]
So they underrate me
[Tell dem ah keep moving, don’t stop]
Let. These. People. Know.
Tell dem I am not my Father
I’m bad lak him, but the truth be told:
Like me, there will be no other
This. Is. Not. Ah. Show.
Who God bless don’t put asunder
If you don’t believe that this is true!
Meet Super Blue”

“Been hearing dem lately
[Tell dem ah keep moving, don’t stop]
‘She doh act lak a lady’
[Tell dem ah keep moving, don’t stop]
Make no apology!
[Tell dem ah keep moving, don’t stop]
So who don’t lak meh could bite meh!
[Tell dem ah keep moving, don’t stop]
Let. These. People. Know.
This is the continuation
Musically bad from since I born, legacy for generations
This. Is. Not. Ah. Show.
Fyah Man meet Silver Surfer
If you don’t believe that this is true!
Meet Super Blue”
-’Meet Super Blue’

“We got the base, to tear it up and make people jump
We got the vibe, to lift it up and do what we want
Hold on de pace, and keep it up and don’t make it drop
Cuz when we start, we going long, like we doh waan stop
Who got the riddim pumpin, de people jumpin up there?
We got it!
Who got de energy to keep people breaking away
We got it!
And when you see de band coming down for Carnival day
We got it!
On my command I want to see every colour display
-’Get On’

“Most man cyah ride wid it
So they get park-up, one side wid it
See they cyah hold on
So they cyah stay long
So they [slip, slip, slip] and slide wid it
Move over skinny bumpa gyal
Move over narrow bumpa gyal
Flat bumpa get left behind, kill dem wid di heavy t wine”
-’Heavy T Bumpa’

“It’s not unusual to see on Jouvert morning
Old and young partying
You can’t stop dem at all
They chipping, to the music they playing
When the big truck passing
And having a ball
So when you reach on the stage
And yah flag start to wave
And you get inna rage
Start to misbehave
Just JUMP!
And JUMP now WAVE and JUMP and WAVE!
And display yourself!”

Show meh yah colours
Put dem up in di sky
I want to see everybody put up something to beautify
Show meh yah colours
Put dem up, put dem up
In the back, in the front
Do what de hell you want!”

“Always criticizing and debating about my style
Cuz when I step on the stage they found does behaving wild
But I know the people rate me and of me, they are very proud
So show dem how a real artiste, should really mash up a crowd”
-’Ah Thinking of Something’

“This can’t be good!
Nobody jumping
No hands ain’t waving
The party stand still!
I in the mood -
To create something
Activate something
You don’t know until -
Everybody start the jumping and,
Everybody misbehaving
Ah reeeeeeeach
When you see the hands dem waving and,
People waistline wining, wining
Ah reeeeeeeach”

“They want me to -
Mash Up [eight thousand times]
Anything, Everything
Anything, Everything
Anything, Everything
Consider it done!”
-’Consider It Done’

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

'On Common Ground': A Review of The Message Riddim

Reggae music is often criticized by non-fans who look at the structure of a producer taking single riddim and recording it behind a variety of vocalists. As I’ve discussed in the past, many non-fans look at the practise as somewhat “lazy” and “boring”, but for you and I, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact that it is done and done in over-regularity and we still have a system where songs on any given riddim are looked upon as individual tracks, on the whole, for me at least, is a sign of just how talented our artists and producers are and can be. Now with that being said, I will admit that amongst some of the lower level producers, voicing some of the lower level artists, this is definitely a problem . . . Which is why they both, collectively, remain on said “lower level”. On the top shelf, however, such a thing doesn’t even come into question. Currently (and for the past decade or so), residing on one of the highest branches of the tree that is Reggae music is definitely Don Corleon. To my line of very modern thinking, while you may favour others slightly over him, you simply are going to be unable to put together an even remotely coherent and consistent argument that Corleon isn’t one of the greatest producers, all-around, that Reggae has ever seen. A producer of his talents can ‘get away’ with anything and although it may not seem like so, given the fact that he’s become so ingrained in the music and so familiar to its fans, Corleon has taken his listeners on quite a few different trips throughout his storied career. The biggest would also be the first which was taking himself from a producer known as ‘the guy who made all that stuff Kartel came up rhyming on’ to ‘the guy who made the Drop Leaf Riddim and those two STRANGE Sizzla albums’. And if you think about all of that, which ended ~ five years ago, THAT alone, would have been an interesting career, but all of these years later and Corleon’s not only still going, but he’s, arguably, better than ever. These days the super-producer is still serving up surprising moments. Two of his most recent creations, The Major & Minor Riddims, ended up as co-portions of the same double riddim album and reportedly he’s also working on a dub album (which I cannot wait for!). Sandwiched in between those (and whatever else he’s been working on) was this very interesting from Don Corleon which, quietly, may be one of his most colourful and conceptualized to date - The Message Riddim.

The Message Riddim Mix

Sometimes when you hear a riddim, even sans vocalist, you can just tell exactly what type of tunes would appear over it - What type of songs it was made to support. I can remember back to one of the first reviews I wrote on this blog for the Sweet Riddim, which was a modern Lover’s Rock composition and that was pretty clear to hear and that’s how it played out and how it was ultimately marketed as well. Similarly, I just made a mention of the Lovers Rock Riddim which, unsurprisingly, backs mostly love songs as well. Sometimes everything just makes sense. To me things aren’t so crystal clear listening to the Message Riddim. While I do listen to its typically sterling sound and am greatly impressed by it, it doesn’t ring through as loudly as some others being directly made for a purpose. And, perhaps, it wasn’t actually constructed for a specific ‘theme’ at all and what ended up happening with it was purely a matter of circumstance and/or coincidence. Of course it doesn’t really give a shit what I think on the matter, however, what is important and prevailing in terms of the eventuality of the Message Riddim is that, apparently when we finished with it, Don Corleon heard something very powerful and very specific. He heard an impact!

It’s so interesting that the twelve tracks on the Message Riddim are all (with one exception) what we would socially and/or spiritually aware songs, but I and a few other people apparently don’t really hear a substantial change between it and the Drop Leaf, the Seasons, the Minor Riddims, respectively. Sure, they all have their idiosyncrasies and things which make them unique, but had you played me this riddim back in 2004 when the Drop Leaf was in the process of metaphorically walking on water because it was so damn good, I don’t think I would have been very surprised that THIS is what Don Corleon would have moved onto six or seven years down the line. So, with the composition being not such a drastic leap from what he normally brings (and I would like to reiterate that this thing is BEAUTIFUL. It is a GORGEOUS riddim), it was retrospectively surprising that he chose to voice artist who only were coming with something BIG to say about society and topics more often found in Roots Reggae than in Dancehall or Lover’s Rock music. Just as interesting is when you consider that you won’t look up and down the roster of vocalist Corleon draws on to voice the Message and see names like Luciano and Sizzla Kalonji or even Lutan Fyah or Tarrus Riley (both of whom have been on his recent projects) or some of the other names more closely and actively associated with the type of song which appears here. Nope. Instead, Corleone draws on a very eclectic group which is full of regulars, old and new and a few surprise names as well to build the ranks of tunes on the riddim and for me that was such a refreshing idea. Like I said, when you get into this level of production - the music is at its greatest really - the proverbial boundaries of not only what is acceptable, but what ACHIEVES become more and more blurred. In this case, it comes in to the degree that, amongst literally dozens and dozens of others, the Message Riddim produces one of the most fascinating riddim albums of Don Corleon’s career to date.

'Rise Up' by Ce'Cile

I am a fan, generally speaking, of these type of ‘concept’ riddims. I do think it takes a great deal more planning by the producer and the artists and that is particularly true in this case as, as I said, we don’t get a healthy dosage of the ‘usual suspects’ when it comes to voicing cultural and social material. That is never more apparent than on the first tune on the riddim album for Don Corleon’s latest master class, The Message Riddim, as not only making an appearance, but also coming through with the single biggest and ‘signature’ moment of the riddim is a surprising Ce’Cile with ‘Rise Up’. The songstress has a big and consistent history of serving up big tunes, but normally it’s the hype Dancehall tune or, as of late, she’s been keen on dropping dominant love songs, but this one just stretches her borders a bit more and brings forth some of the versatility for which she is known behind the scenes and deposits it right in front of listeners. At the same time she sets the tone for the situation around the riddim, perhaps, as well:

“Mi juss fi like fi sing a love song pon a big, bad riddim so mi drive go link Don
Him seh Ce’Cile -
‘Yow wi haffi find a plan’
‘Gwaan hold a meds, mi waan yuh gi di people a culture one’
So mi look inna myself
Dem seh ‘word is powerful’
That mean mi powerful wid every note mi utter
With this power that I’ve gained -
If one life mi caah change, then I shouldn’t even bother”

“Wi haffi rise up!
Haffi wake up!
Look pon wi good country wi mashing up
If wi waan things fi betta
Wi haffi talk up
You juss as bad if you keep yah mouth shut!”

BOOM! Although it’s well unexpected, Ce’Cile has pushed to the point where it seems as if (just as in the point I’m trying to make about Don) EVERYTHING is within her grasp and while I’m sure she’s done socially energized tunes in the past, I can’t think of anything which struck on such a powerful level, so hopefully she goes in that direction just a little more often. Chasing Ce’Cile on the album, with the biblical ‘Words’ is an artist who may just have as much potential as anyone with Reggae music today, Da Professor. He’s impressed on just about everything I’ve heard from the artist at this point and this tune certainly isn’t the exception. Following Ce’Cile, who essentially does a social commentary, Da Professor gives a big praising track and you really start to hear the kind of slight ‘expansion’ in the riddim. Like I said, I didn’t hear a certain level of specificity within it, but Don did and it STILL manages to ‘travel’ just a bit even within that scope. More impressive, still, is (CUTIE!) Ikaya who meshes together the spiritual and the social/cultural with her BIG tune, ‘Flyaway’. Equally at home deejaying and singing (and she has a very powerful voice to my ears, Ikaya is proving herself very ‘useful’ in Reggae music and to date, ‘Flyaway’ should well be considered one of her strongest efforts and we hope to hear the audio and visual beauty on more of Don’s productions in the future as well.

'Brave Ones' by Ky-Mani Marley

Along with Ce’Cile the Message Riddim does feature its fair share of other big names as well. In the grandest sense, the biggest of them all is probably Ky-Mani Marley who bring us ‘Brave Ones’, which has probably become one of the single biggest tunes (in terms of being a hit) on this riddim. I haven’t been the biggest of supporters, particularly not as of late (and pretty much from ever since he dropped his last album, ”Radio” back in 2007), but I do give credit where its due because ‘Brave Ones’ is a very very nice song. And Marley has been working more and more with Don, so I’m well looking forward to his next album.

“We need to make a stop
Beg you some clearance
Why dem ah judge mi fi mi Rasta appearance?
No, dem ah seh dem nah no vacancy
And ah seh dem ah go call so mi fi wait and see
Selassie Sons -
Wi ah di brave ones!
Wi nah no time fi go mingle wid pagans
Trod di right road
Even if a poverty
Try hold on in this world of calamity”

In the more localized and colloquial sense, the biggest name to voice the Message is the previously alluded to Vybz Kartel. His tune, ‘Poor People Land’, is decent and somewhat odd (I’m not going to make the obvious lyrical joke here, I’ll leave that to you geography heads), but it’s nothing too out of the ordinary from Kartel when he makes this type of song and it may be one of his better ones in awhile also. Richie Spice (who is kind of the type of artist you expect on such a project, but he doesn’t seem to be as active as some of his peers) is probably the next biggest name on the riddim and he’s well within his element with the inspirational ‘Got To Make It’. This song is interesting because I think that it opens the riddim even more. You’d listen to it for just about any other vocalist and it seems very straight forward, but normally when Spice does well he does so over a set which has more of a ‘free’ nature to it and because he does quite well on this tune, you’re inclined to think that, perhaps, the Message isn’t as straight forward as first suspected, at least not to me.

'Take Control' by Protoje

Another couple of very expected Don Corleon regulars, Protoje and Pressure Busspipe, also show up for the Message Riddim with ‘Take Control’ and ‘Jah Love’, respectively. It took the former some time to grow on me with its kind of LOUD style, but it is a nice track. The latter, on the other hand, like much of Pressure’s stuff with me these days, IMMEDIATELY struck me. Seriously, these days you’re looking at less than a handful of artists who’re consistently doing work on Pressure’s level and even though his song is somewhat stereotypical in terms of its theme, when he gets rolling and begins to collect a lyrical momentum, Pressure is just DISTINGUISHING himself from the rest of the pack and doing so just about every time out.

“War and crime nah go mek things betta
Everyday another youth dead by di Beretta
Ah tell mi how dem bad and head hot like peppa
And ah come and take life lak dem ah di life maker
Love fi run di place and assault all matters
When time food fi share even if a some crackers
From you nah no love you gonna bun lak copper
Jah ah rise and all enemies scatter”

And finally we have four artists who are relatively new to Don Corleon productions to my knowledge (or just new in general). First is Kartel spar Jah Vinci who, although I don’t pay a great deal of attention to his work, definitely does have some genuine talent which is on full display on his tune on the Message, the praising ‘Wicked Heart’. VERY welcomed is Swedish powerhouse Million Stylez who calls for ‘Brighter Days’. Stylez, like Ziggi, like Gentleman and a few others is an extremely naturally gifted European artist and even though it took me an embarrassingly long time to get that point, I’m well on board these days and keeping an ear free for his output. Wonderfully there’s another female voice on the Message as a flaming (CUTIE!) Sophia Squire (she’s been on a great roll over the last year or so) checks in with ‘Love’ which is one of my personal favourite tunes on the riddim. Despite its title, the song is one which is more geared towards the tangible world and what she’s saying is to flood out the place with LOVE and we’ll get better results in the world. Of course, I’m making things sound more simple than they are, but you’ll well need to focus on the lyrics on this tune because they’re powerful and it is one of the most INTELLIGENT songs on the riddim. Lastly is Vital with ‘Don’t Say No’. Okay, I know of a Vital, but this singer (who sounds somewhere between Gyptian, Jah Cure and Horace Andy) isn’t that same HARD edged DJ (at least I hope he isn’t), but whoever he is, he does well on his tune which becomes the changeup on the riddim. ‘Don’t Say No’ is basically a love song. It’s probably a ‘complex’ love song, but a love song nevertheless and the only of its kind on the riddim. The song is good enough to make me wonder what may’ve become of the entire project had Don decided to make it a lover’s set or a mixed bag altogether, but in retrospect I’m glad it turned out the way that it did.

'Love' by Sophia Squire

Overall, I will say that the only real complaints that I have here is that everything seems to go by far too quickly. There’re twelve tracks in total with the majority of the songs being between 3:30 and 3:47 (actually all of them with the exception of ‘Brave Ones’ which is 3:24) and it just goes by too fast and I wish Don would’ve taken it to people such as Lutan Fyah and maybe even Jah Cure. Also, following the Major & Minor Riddims, the Message Riddim becomes the second consecutive (at least) riddim album from the producer which DOES NOT feature a clean riddim version and that’s just mandatory these days! As it stands, however, the Message Riddim is EXCELLENT and it produces a set of tunes which (although not enough of them) are just as strong on this THEMED colourful set. It will be interesting to see if Don Corleon does similar things in the future and if he does I’d challenge even the most casual of Reggae heads to claim that THIS is lazy or boring - It isn’t!

Rated: 4/5
Don Corleon Records

Don Corleon Records