Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Modern Classics Vol. XXXI: "Virtuous Woman" by Warrior King

"Virtuous Woman" by Warrior King [VP Records - 2002]

'Roots Reggae Music' doesn't always fit into some 'neatly' category. Sometimes, however, it does and it does so to a degree which is just SO powerful that you have a very difficult time ignoring it. Here's an example! Back in 2002 there were two projects which dominated the attentions of Reggae fans and the Reggae listening world, both of which we have already covered in this series - Sizzla's "Da Real Thing" and "Still Blazin" from Capleton. Also in that same pack, for more of the hardcore fans (and from the same label) which would, seemingly, bring to full display one of the genre's future champions, Warrior King. At the time, one of the most talked about and lauded up and comers, Warrior King displayed a talent which captivated much of the Reggae community because of its very BRIGHT sound. He made a brand of Reggae which was, besides being packed with upful and far reaching messages, absolutely sonically captivating! He didn't push the boundaries of the music; he did push its levels and pushed himself right into spotlight of the genre along with the help of one of the most underrated producers in the music, Calibud. Eventually the album would arrived so named after his most powerful moment to date - "Virtuous Woman".

The Music

1. 'Power To Chant'

To open things up on "Virtuous Woman", Warrior King and company chose not only one of the finest tunes that the album would produce, but also unarguably the most fitting tune to get things started. Instead of IMMEDIATELY swatting the listener over the head with the main attraction/title track, WK chooses to announce his presence via the divine (literally) 'Power To Chant'. This HUGE song is as much of a 'mission statement' as it is a song giving thanks as he declares "mi come fi give the people what they need and not what they want" on behalf of His Majesty.

Best Lyric: "Jah works are spiritual food. Sweet for the soul, it gives a positive mood. Uplifting the people with the right attitude. Oh Jah give I the powers to lead the multitude"

2. 'Never Go Where Pagans Go'

In Reggae we (meaning everyone) (EVERYONE) use the "righteous" entirely too much and thus, it has very much become a tired Reggae-cliché of sorts. But I'm going to use it here again anyway. 'Never Go Where Pagans Go' is a RIGHTEOUS song between two other righteous songs on a big righteous album. Throw in that COOL Tune In track and here you have, again, one of the biggest moments to be found on this album and almost any other.

Best Lyric: "Hail The King of Kings, for he giveth all the powers. Born in Ethiopia, look, it's written in the scriptures. Who are the righteous? Hey, the are the truth seekers. Woe be onto you false leaders"

3. 'Jah Is Always There'

It's easier to go through troubling times when you know that someone is behind you helping to keep you secure and that is, essentially, the message to be found on 'Jah Is Always There'. What I really like about this one, all these years on, is just how strong the song is lyrically. Simultaneously Warrior King gives the vibe to continue persevering and trying in life, but he's also sure to make sure everyone knows that within the cover of His Majesty, security is ALWAYS present.

Best Lyric: "Wicked heart ah fight mi down. Try fi push I around. I KNOW, Jah is always there. Would rejoice if I drown or get crush by the pound. I KNOW, Jah is always there.

4. 'Africa Shall Be Free'

Warrior King does a bit of channeling of the legendary Hugh Mundell on 'Africa Shall Be Free' and after listening to this song, you're just as inspired as you were after going through Mundell's timeless track of a similar name. This tune just had a ROYAL (another overused word, I'll stop now) (no I won't) vibes to it and despite the kind of superficial take on the second verse, which I have heard before, for me this one was looking at a worldwide unification, but one ultimately observing that HOME is really HOME.

Best Lyric: "Put away the guns and those evil device. Waan hurt your sister? Why take your brother's life? Have some tolerance, you should learn to socialize, for I'm a warrior of truths and rights"

5. 'Breath of Fresh Air'

A 'Breath of Fresh Air' in almost any sense is a pretty good thing and hear, not only did the song wrap itself around the title in terms of the message; the VIBES of the tune also did the same thing. Take this one out for a casual spin and it's just an upful song. It makes you smile. It makes you feel good. Everything you would expect from someone as talented as Warrior King observing the greatest music in the world.


6. 'Boast Not Myself'

The somewhat dark 'Boast Not Myself' was the first changeup on the album and one which has definitely gotten more of respect through the years. On the song WK has almost a straight deejaying delivery at times and it works for him. Of course, he never waivers on the message (can you imagine one day hearing Warrior King doing a dirty, violent song???) (biggup Norris Man) while giving the listener a slightly different look on his abilities.

Best Lyric: "What is to be done never leave it for later. Just do the work and never be a time-waster. For Rasta know seh yow, seh time ah di master. And work along and you forever ever prosper"

7. 'Love Jah & Live'

While the opener wasn't quite a straight forward praising tune, 'Love Jah & Live' is that EXACTLY and I'm going to say that it's probably become the second most underrated tune on this album. There is just something about this song that taps into a very LARGE scale of quality, at least for me. I listen to it and I FEEL rumbling. It sounds like something BIG is about to happen and by its end you realize that something BIG just did.

Best Lyric: "You know I am an optimist. I look at the brighter side of life. I'm not a pessimist. I'm not a racist, nor neither am I prejudice. I show love to all the people. Now listen to the words from my lips"

8. 'Rough Road'

Much like the tune preceding it, 'Rough Road' just has a kind of a deeper feel to it. In this case, however, I think that because of the riddim and the backup singers and just how well the song is 'dressed', it's more of an immediately appreciable quality. On its message, the song is close to 'Jah Is Always There', speaking on maintaining one's course and holding firm, but this one, like that sizable track has nothing in the way of problems distinguishing itself. It is LOVELY!

Best Lyric: "From you fail the others - Try again. And if you fail once more, you better try again. Jah say once there is life, there is a way my friend. Rastafari a di head, so wi haffi set di trend"

9. 'Education is the Key'

Put some brains in your head to follow along with 'Education Is The Key' which was, quietly, probably amongst the second tier of songs which would go on to damage from the "Virtuous Woman" album. What I'm left with here, besides the obvious (and this definitely isn't a rare subject) is WK's approach to the tune and I'll go into this more in synopsis, but "EDUCATION" in his mind isn't simply something that you learn.

Best Lyric: "'To gain more knowledge yow, you have to spread your wings', says the Minister of Education - The King of Kings"

10. 'Baby Don't Worry'

'Baby Don't Worry' was one of a few second-half love songs on the album and one which ultimately leads to the forth coming BOOM on "Virtuous Woman". Here's another tune which has gone forgotten over the years and this is just so COOL that that is really unfortunate. The Calibud produced track was an old school vibed piece done in a very modern way and proved to be a lovely addition to this album.

Best Lyric: "I'll be your lover, a friend and a brother. Jah made us one, so no one put asunder. Always remember, we're here for each other"

11. 'Empress So Divine'

Another "lovely addition" to the album and one of its best remembered songs has become 'Empress So Divine' and a most simple run through reveals exactly why, even nearly a decade later. This song was MAGIC! You may find others here that you enjoy more (and you're about to find one very shortly), but this one had a downright magnetic quality to it - Like all of WK's work at its best.

Best Lyric: "Black Woman so divine, ever looking fine. Woman you shoulda know you mek my love light shine. You're humble and so meek. Righteousness you fi seek. Want you by my side, seven days of the week"

12. 'Virtuous Woman'

I speak a great deal of 'modern classics' and how artists, songs and album will become the "classics" of the future, but here's a case where that has already happened and in a time not so far away as well. 'Virtuous Woman' the song is an undisputed classic tune. Along with being THE song which would introduce us all to such an impressing talent as Warrior King, this was just a SENSATIONAL song. It showed a level of progression which wasn't of a 'one-hit-wonder' level. The album named after it would subsequently prove that to be the case - Coming in after its absolutely HALTINGLY BEAUTIFUL (it just makes you pause a bit and smile when you hear it, don't?) headliner.

Best Lyric: "Woman to keep I strong, which is part of Jah plan. I leave my Mom & Dad - find a woman and be one. With a woman I make my bond: Perfect combination. I am a Black Man, so mi love mi Black Woman"

13. 'Oh Mama' featuring DYCR

The always interesting (and somewhat chaotic) DYCR was tapped for 'Oh Mama', the obligatory Mama tune for the album. The very colourful Dub poet pretty much changes EVERYTHING he reaches (I've grown to enjoy DYCR to an extent through the years) and, as we see on the album's closer, that was evident here. He dominates large stretches of the tune (his 'verses' were half-minutes longer than those of most people - The album's most ROUSING moment.

Best Lyric: "Mama - your love, I will recommend, to nurture and guide your grandchildren. Mama, to me, you're more than a friend. My love for you will never end. For you, Zion gates, will be opening. You've taught me true beauty lies within. Mama you're one of a kind! You're always on my mind. Mama you're one of a kind! And you are so divine"

14. 'Health & Strength'

TEARS! 'Virtuous Woman' is the tune which gave this album so much more along with 'just' its title, but as far as its actual BEST composition - Here it is! 'Health & Strength' was MASSIVE! It was just a beautiful vibes and a strong message (and one which goes along with WK's always prevailing sentiment which we'll deal with in closing) was present as well. Lyrically it was an underrated song and it has pretty much gone forgotten and overlooked since its release which is really terrible. The best song on one of the best albums you'll ever hear - TRULY a big deal.

Best Lyric: "From health and strength is there - I have to do my Father's work, my Father's work. From health and strength is there - I have to till the earth, till the earth"

15. 'What's Going On' featuring JahMali

Sweet singing JahMali joined in for what is definitely the album's recognizable track (in the 'mainstream' sense) - A remake of Marvin Gaye's classic track, 'What's Going On'. I've well grown to appreciate this one more and more over time and while I'm not sure exactly why, I'm happy that it is the case. What I'm hearing now, tangibly, is the very exciting ending to the song which I don't know if I just didn't notice before, but the stirring stretch is a big highlight on the track.

Best Lyric: "Let's bring back the love and harmony. Me for you and you for me. Let's bring back the love and harmony. We are obligated to The Almighty"

16. 'It's Been Awhile'

Absolutely delightful is this quietly very well regarded track, 'It's Been Awhile'. Yes, it's buried down here on the album, but it's probably one of the best songs on it and it also carries a vibes which is virtually guaranteed to make a listener smile. The song is just so straight forward and SIMPLE that, although the riddim is very nice, it pretty much allowed WK to do whatever he liked on the love vibes and it really comes through that he had a great deal of fun doing the song (probably most memorable is the fact that he slips in the name of his producer on the chorus).

Best Lyric: "I am an upful and I ah deal with progress. Now tell mi now woman if I ah have your interest. For I love the words you speak and I love the way you dress. I am of royal lineage, so won't you be my lioness"

17. 'Make Me Feel'

This song is another which has gone largely neglected and overlooked and another which I've grown in appreciation of as well. 'Make Me Feel' is a love song and it is one on an R&B vibes, but what happens on the song, at least to my opinion, is that WK actually manages to 'overcome' the vibes of the song. He literally gets into a portion of the song (and if you've heard it, you know what I'm talking about) where he OVERPOWERS the vibes of the song. WK's voice is one which, even today, is probably still largely untapped as far as its ceiling, but here we got a very interesting demonstration of its, perhaps, greater than expected heights.

Best Lyric: "She will always love the Rastaman. She loves I for who I am. She will always love the Boboman. Trodding with his broom in his hand. And always love the Binghiman, because I'm firm and strong"

18. 'Mama' [Remix]

And lastly is the version of the previously mentioned 'Oh Mama' (now, curiously, just called 'Mama'). I'm now fond of the 'other' version, but this tune which features WK alone is an entirely stronger one in my opinion. It's more melodic and large stretches of the song aren't turned over to a most determined DYCR (whose appeal, partially, comes from the fact that he delivers in a way which suggests that he might be in a rush!). On that one, while nice, the appeal is an INTERESTING and FASCINATING one. Here? However you want to look at it, it's just a damn good song and one giving a big praise to where it belongs. Hey Mama! Hi Mama!

Best Lyric: "The ancient way you have grown me. The beautiful things you have shown me. You taught I the power of humility. Love and affection you have given me. The bond we share will always be. Mama you know you mean the world to me"


There are now two things which dominate my perception of "Virtuous Woman". The first is the one which I alluded to in opening. The SOUND of the album is really, by comparison, so much more than you would come to expect from many albums of the Roots Reggae variety - even today. Warrior King, at his best, makes really CATCHY music - Attention grabbing music. This, of course, makes it very easy to listen to his music and as opposed to someone like the aforementioned Capleton who also makes very infectious music, WK does it in a way which isn't really going to get more mainstream heads interested, but it takes more established fans of the genre who are used to hearing to recognize just how much of a deviation that he is to a degree. And for a subgenre often regarded as being somewhat of the 'template' or 'cookie-cutter' variety, he manages to stand out without standing out too far (if that makes ANY sense whatsoever).

Secondly is the message of the album (DUH). Here, again, Warrior King makes a very small deviation, but one which is most glaring to big fans of the music. The music is all about UNITY and how it is attained and the benefits of maintaining it and approaching it. This is never more easily comprehended than on 'Africa Shall Be Free'.

"I look towards the future with lots of confidence
Good over evil - No waan no violence
The righteous will be rejoicing
And I know
All Africa shall be free

Put away the guns and those evil device
Waan hurt your sister?
Why take your brother's life?
Have some tolerance, you should learn to socialize
For I'm a warrior for truths and rights
Listen to my words, you can even analyze
Words of wisdom will surley open up your eyes
Unity is strength - Why are we living so wide?
Division is weakness so we need not fight"

That's pretty straight forward and just well done, but WK's consistent take on the topic comes in a very refreshing way. From the most well known tune on the album named after it, to my choice as its finest moment, his idea of bringing people together starts with strengthening the FAMILY and then branching out. He does this superbly and glaringly on 'Education is the Key'.

"Knowledge makes me whole, it makes me stronger
Developing intellect, it makes me wiser
More precious than the gold and the silver
Oh! I'm appealing to the youngsters
Children, never you waste your time and fall fool
Go ahead and learn the golden rule
Mama always say 'never be stubborn like a mule'
For education does not stop inna di schools"

However, it is a concept prevalent throughout "Virtuous Woman" and really, throughout WK's entire catalog when you're dealing with the best of it. This isn't a rare concept (see 'Black Woman & Child' and hundreds of other tunes), but it is quite unusual for an artist to have this as the MAIN basis for their music. And further more, I think it's also pretty rare to have someone who has any dominant message for their ENTIRE body of work, outside of the 'fire bun' concept that is.

At the head of WK's ideal structure of unity is the 'Virtuous Woman'. Thus empowering the Woman and empowering the perception of her is very critical.

"No real man can live without a woman
Like night to day is a woman to her man
She's essential to his purpose and his mention
A good woman is a glory to her man"

The first line of this passage, taken from the title track, has always struck me as being extremely significant because what it seems to do is to essentially make a stand and a very important point and one which may be somewhat complex in actuality, but is compoundly attenuated by WK here. It reaches to the core pride of a man and very blandly and bluntly says (in a good way):

"No real man can live without a woman"

I take this to mean so many different things and I've come to add to it my own line of thinking ('no real man can live without respecting a woman') and he well shows that on other tunes such as 'Empress So Divine' and definitely 'Oh Mama' and its remix. You can even hear it present on the somewhat 'loose' 'It's Been Awhile' - Where it is about romance, but it isn't ONLY about romance.

Finally I would like to touch on 'Health & Strength' very briefly. This is another tune which follows in the concept of strengthening the family and showing (and giving birth to) unity. In this instance the method is incredibly significant and it IMMEDIATELY makes itself known on the most beautiful moment on this album.

This wonderful wonderful album, "Virtuous Woman" by Warrior King, A Bona fide Modern Reggae Classic!

Review #323

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