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!

1 comment:

    Awesome review.. awesome music.
    Thanks for this post Achis..
    Gentleman is special