Tuesday, May 17, 2011

'The Warehouse': A Review of "Atypique" by X-Man

Although a few relatively recent conversations I’ve been apart of with a few people whose opinions I respect relatively well might lead one to think otherwise - As long as there’re Jamaican people in Jamaica, there will always be a warehouse, of sorts, of aspiring Reggae and Dancehall artists. The music can (and will) change as much as it can (and will), but neither we nor even our most descending of descendants are likely to ever experience a shortage of Reggae artists in Jamaica. However, if it that were the case (and it weren’t), there are still more than a few very RIPE and consistently producing areas of the world we could look at for future stars. Of course we’ve been through these very healthy European ports such as the UK, Germany and now the Netherlands, but here, we’re going to specifically focus on an unfortunately unwatched (in the prevailing sense) area of the world . . . The French Caribbean. Specifically, we’re going to be headed to an area to which my readers have become more and more accustomed, Martinique. Just last year we dealt with two MAJOR big deals coming from the island in the form of albums from the Lieutenant [”Dancehall Anarchy”] and Kalash [”Kalash“] (and E.Sy Kennenga) (and Yeahman‘C). This follows a year in 2009 which saw releases from both Achis Reggae favourite, Saël [”Témoignage“], and the very impressive Blenda [”Operationnel”] and who knows who else. Martinique Reggae and Dancehall had been on absolute roll leading into the year and, to my opinion, it is to no coincidence at all that the rise of the island’s vibes has run concurrently with a re-rising of Reggae, in general, from out of the (French-speaking) FWI. On the broad level, so many of the French stars and biggest names, such as Admiral T, Krys, Saïk and Tiwony, are from out of Guadeloupe, but for the heavy fans, such as you and me, going just a step beyond reveals some absolutely SHINING artists. With that being said, releases in 2011 have ALREADY been a big deal with one of the biggest names Madinina has to offer, Paille, delivering his expectedly exciting sophomore set, ”Inflammable”, earlier this year. Also, not to be overlooked, was ”Ouvrir Les Portes”, the recent first album in eight years from respected veteran, [Sista] Majesty and were that not enough (it were), also set to release later this year is another of the island’s most popular DJ’s, the always interesting (and agitated) (hopefully), Mighty Ki La. And all of that comes with me not even paying the best of attention, so obviously they’ve all been REALLY big deals there and now we welcome one more to the flock as one of the most talked about young DJ’s from Martinique makes his own debut with ”Atypique”.


As I’ve mentioned in the past a bit, Dancehall music, generally, from out of the area is much more varied and less ‘rigid’ than is the case in Gwada. And, as an example of that, we get people like Paille and Mighty Ki La who stretch the more traditional boundaries of Dancehall music (I said “stretch” not ‘redefine‘) (biggup authentic Dancehall music) and incorporate a great deal of intensity and musical ‘pyrotechnics’. This music, itself, is very ‘atypique’ and everyone of note has added his/her own brand of aesthetics to the scene. Here we meet the young X-Man who has done the same and he’s done so to the degree of creating quite a stir for himself across the past few years and, clearly, making the demand so great for a debut album that - Here it is.

The first time I heard of X-Man was maybe two or three years ago and it’ll show you what ‘wrinkle’ it is that he brings to the game because I fully thought him to be a Hip-Hop artist. Further efforts would reveal him to be an artist who combines Hip-Hop to his base, which is very much firmly rooted in the Dancehall. That’s not my favourite thing in the world, obviously, and typically I’d ignore such an artist even when there is such a great deal amount of hype surrounding them, but I didn’t do that here. Why? Because when I heard X-Man, I also heard a great deal of natural talent and while I don’t necessary enjoy Hip-Hop, I LOVE natural talent (like oxygen) and for me, the hope going into ”Atypique” was that X-Man could create some type of vibes where he could mix in the Hip-Hop, but not to the distraction of, or the detraction of, displaying his gifts as a Dancehall artist. He was successful in part. A quality which I was dumb to overlook, going backwards, is that normally these albums from out of Martinique, whether or not they’re any good not withstanding (and most are), they’re usually very FUN and this project proved to be no exception to that. So while we do learn a great deal about the artist, going through, we also learn that he likes to have a good time (as if that were under any question following the downright pornish video for ‘Piscine Party’ from a couple of years back) and that is a QUALITY which resonates throughout his music, even when he’s trying to be serious. And, as I tried to stress, that’s definitely a quality which can make your music even better - When you make music like it is an act which you really enjoy - just ask Paille. So while this one surely won’t make any personal “best of” list for me and it actually shows itself to be pretty much exactly what I was expecting, that’s not a problem because the X-Man (cool name) keeps the entertainment level throughout and, at times, puts on FULL and VIBRANT display the significant amount of talent that I heard from him going in.

Suns Music

The first thing that I noticed in regards to the behind-the-scenes issues on this album was the fact that it doesn’t come through the FWI’s biggest label, Don’s Music. The same stop which delivered sets from the aforementioned Lieutenant, Saël and Paille (as well as Mali, who is a Hip-Hop artist), would have, ostensibly, seemed like an definite fit for X-Man, but instead, he does his business with the previously unknown (at least to me) Suns Music (and doing subsequent research on them, it appears as if he is their very first signed performer). So, if big things await the X-Man (and they do) he’ll likely be doing it under their wing and keep an eye out for their future signees as well. First, however, they have to prove that they can do the job with X-Man’s debut album, ”Atypique” which gets going with a hilarious Intro track, which finds our star going through various forms of music before settling on a favourite (and we get a ‘cameo’ from what I’m sure is one of the old Main Street riddims whose name, most unfortunately and frustratingly, I can’t recall) and delving into the first actual song on the album (although he does give a ‘demo’ later in the intro), the ICE-COLD autobiographical ‘9 Novembre 1984’. Surely you’ll realize the title is the DJ’s date of birth and he backs it up with a POUNDING tune which marks not only his arrival on the planet, but his journey from his origins to your ears and mine. The tune is just so dark and has a bit of a grimy Dancehall appeal to it which works crazy with me because I’m damn close to reconsidering my choice of the album’s finest effort. BIG BIG start. Things loosen up just a bit on the dance floor aimed next track, ‘Elle Est Lá’. This tune is pretty unremarkable, save for the fact that the greatest of luck be with you in prying it and its melodious chorus from your brain LONG after the tune has ended. ‘Imaginé’ presents us (me) with the very first musical ‘dilemma’ on ”Atypique” as it is, for the most part, a fairly straight forward Hip-Hop tune and that means that I’m not very fond of it - Right? Wrong. Besides being a Hip-Hop song, it’s also probably the single best song, lyrically, on the whole of the album, a fact which distracts me from the notion that I may not be too fond of the music (although it isn’t too bad in this case) or the pacing of the tune. Definitely pay a keen amount of attention on this one.


Going through the tracklist for this album, I was somewhat surprised to find that I was actually familiar with THREE of the fourteen tracks on the album already, going in. Perhaps credit goes to Suns Music in that instance for keeping X-Man’s name about and his releases in a nice rotation that I’d, as I said, pay not the greatest of attention and still be familiar with his work (despite not actually knowing it was his work at the time, perhaps). The first tune here which I knew previously is probably the album’s biggest hit to date, the electrically infectious ‘Abondamment’. This tune has been doing a damage recently and is likely to be the X-Man’s most recognizable effort to date, as well as for the foreseeable future. It’s not my favourite here, but it isn’t far from it and for as catchy as it really it is, it’s no surprise to see it catch on as much as it has. The album’s closer, ‘Madinina Kuduro’ was also a song which I knew and some research reveals it to be older than I thought it was, but here it is, enjoying its second wind for your listening pleasure. The piece, ultimately, is TOO MUCH for me, in a very Euro-clubbish kind of way, but it certainly isn’t a horrible song, although clearly one with a purpose to entertain . . . And then entertain some more (an idea furthered along by the fact that the final forty-five seconds or so of the song has no vocals at all). And finally and most curiously, there was a song here which, as soon as I began playing it, I started to sing a long with it - the ridiculous (and I mean that in a good way) ‘Soirée Arrosée’ - And I had no idea where I might’ve known it from. As it turns out, the song is one of the older offerings on ”Atypique” and apparently caught fire about a year ago, which is undoubtedly where I picked it up. It IS one of the best songs on the album, to no surprise and for X-Man’s hardcore fans it’s a big deal. I’m not a hardcore fan of his by any means, but it’s STILL a pretty big deal for me.

'Madinina Kuduro'

Definitely if you know my work, you can rather quickly and simply predict what my favourite tune on this would be and be accurate in doing so in fairly short order. As he has done in the past for many a young artist, the incomparable Admiral T lends a helping hand to the X-Man on his debut album with guesting on a tune, ‘Dancehall Feeling’. On so many other levels I could lift a next song above this one for various reasons, but this one grabs me with an intense sonic appeal - I could listen Admiral T rhyme all day and night and when you take that vibes set and mix it with X-Man, who definitely holds his own without having to rely on any type of gimmick or trickery - I’m HOOKED and this is the best song on this album. The Admiral isn’t the only guest stopping by on X-Man’s album. He’s also joined by star Zoukie, Teeyah. I should probably be a bigger fan of Teeyah’s than I am, given her sweet and STERLING style is generally what I go for in Zouk, but I honestly haven’t followed her as closely as I wish. Perhaps her offering her on ‘Déchirure’ will point me in the proper direction. I hate to say this but I actually think it may’ve been even stronger sans X-Man (who goes with a flow which, with its kind of ‘hitch’ is more rapping than it is deejaying, which is what I’m used to (and like) over Zouk riddims). Again, I wouldn’t go as far as to call this one BAD by any means, but for me it serves greatest as a showcase (another one) for Teeyah. And the X-Man also teams up with the very familiar Elegant (yes, the one you’re thinking of) for the agitated ‘Clap It’, which sounds exactly how you might expect it to, but it isn’t bad and the wordplay, on both sides, is impressive. Also impressive is the chorus which just seems to JUMP out of nowhere in a very LOUD way - a good thing, when you consider that it is one of the better hooks on the album.

'Dancehall Feeling' w/Admiral T

The balancing four selections of ”Atypique” all have things which make them stand out and for various reasons. ‘Mon Antillaise’ was NOTHING like what I was expecting it would be, because it is a Hip-Hop track and not one which I’m too fond of (although big respect goes to the nameless backing singer). And both ‘Nou Kay En Drive’ and ‘Pa Fé Yo Sa X’ sound like I know them from somewhere, but that may have something to do with the fact that they kind of sound like one another. Both are excellent, but the latter, with its intoxicating riddim, is a SPECIAL tune and if you wanted to deem it THE single best song here, you’d get no big arguments out of me. Finally is ‘Coup De Foudre’, which I paid a great deal of attention to because it features a slightly ‘warmed up’ version of my favourite Dancehall riddim of 2010, Ward 21’s Cosa Nostra. I have NO idea how that link would’ve come to be and how it all may’ve worked out, but we can very safely say that, at the very least, X-Man (or his manager), has VERY good taste which is evident not only by the selection of this particular riddim, but by the standard maintain throughout his debut album.

Overall, even though it may not be as much straight Hip-Hop as I made it seem initially, I can confidently say that if you enjoy that genre of music more than I do (and you probably do), ”Atypique” will be even better to you and that’s saying something, because I like it as well. Besides the compositions, X-Man also demonstrates a great deal of the pacing and cadences which are more closely associated with and found in Hip-Hop music and French Hip-Hop, even less than English Hip-Hop, has always sounded somewhat ‘choppy’ (I believe I described it as a “hitch” earlier) to my ears. HOWEVER, with that being said, what I do WELL enjoy on this album and from the X-Man, in general, is the same thing I mentioned previously - His natural talent. X-Man has potential to spare and I’d REALLY like to see him focus more and streamline his style into the Dancehall because, like many of his peers, I feel that he has the potential to the proverbial ‘next step’ and become an even bigger star than now. If he does or not remains to be seen, but the one sure thing is that, in either case, I’ll be listening and you will too.

Rated: 3.5/5
Suns Music
CD + Digital

X-Man @ Facebook

1 comment:

  1. Hey nice to see your post dude. I hope I will implement these steps in my music album. Thank for sharing the post.