Wednesday, October 26, 2011

'These Strings': A Review of The Stringz Riddim

Certainly it cannot be said that we're struggling to any degree, but I do have to say that it's always very nice when we come across a new label, whether actually new or new to us, that can be depended upon to produce excellent music on a consistent basis. When we look at artists, specifically, the feeling is much different as, although they are ultimately the face of the music, it's much more of a situation of watching something develop and, eventually, arriving at a point where we may try to identify some type of historical reference for them - at the absolute highest level, of course. With good labels, however, the impact can be, and generally is, much more immediate, even if they don't stick around for very long! Good labels bring good music INSTANTLY and with the tendency of today being labels coming from everywhere, it's always good to keep an open, because you never know who may stop by. For example (!) earlier this year we stumbled upon the US based Rumble Rock Recordz which was, initially, probably my favourite find from since Philadub a couple of years back. RRR introduced themselves to us in a most interesting (and fitting for the sake of this review) manner - a BIG riddim. The Step By Step Riddim was a GLORIOUS Roots set which not only identified a certain level of class and ability in the label, but it also gave it (hopefully at that point and obviously now) a certain distinct quality. When you look at the names of artists voicing the Step By Step, the one thing that stood out at the time and still does is just how diverse they were! The mix wasn't just the more 'standard' blend of combining superstars with up and comers and everything in between (and I do so LOVE that standard!), RRR went BEYOND! What stands out for me even now, having well added the Step By Step to memory is that appearing on the riddim was Faïanatur and Oshen. The former is just odd in general (and I mean that in a good way) and the latter is someone who definitely has established a name for himself and I bring him up because of his most distant origins as a native of Papua New Guinea. Furthermore, it was just a matter of doing this for a gimmick or something - obviously - the riddim itself was big and it produced what should still be regarded as one of the finest riddim albums of 2011. So, with a name established, Rumble Rock Recordz - Can you keep us interested?

Riddims, they can do. Picking a logo, however . . .

Yes you can. First of all we backtracked a bit in the way of "The Truth Shall Be Told" which was the nice 2010 debut set from RRR favourite, Zacheous Jackson. That album, again, reiterated what was obvious, that the label was one to pay attention to. It also was very straight forward and when you combine that with the first riddim, it was assumed that Rumble Rock was a pure Roots Reggae label and there wasn't a damn thing wrong with that. HOWEVER, buried on Jackson's album was a song which was pretty much a changeup for that album by the name of 'Better Dayz'. It wasn't too much of a leap, but the tune featured a very colourful and R&B tinged backing track which was amongst the many standouts on that project. Fast forward a few months and, in the process of 'stringing' together a nice opening for themselves, Rumble Rock Recordz now brings forth their second riddim album (I THINK) for that very same riddim, now known as the Stringz Riddim. Quietly, I was waiting on this one for a nice amount of time. The SBS reached back in April and it's now six months from then and it is a nearly perfect time to comeback with a followup (although May wouldn't have been bad, or June, July . . . ) and, much like its predecessor, the Stringz has generated a nice amount of buzz online, even before we got into it, so with that and the fact that I'm already in the mind to look forward to RRR's next project, whatever it would've been, I was not only very interested in having a listen to the results, but I was also anticipating something pretty impressive as well (with big results comes big expectations).

The Step by Step Riddim & 'Right Ting' [single] by The Lambsbread

My initial impressions of the project were also pretty good. Again, the promotion has been strong (biggup Josh) and the early reaction has been good from what we've seen (although none of our peers have committed 2800 words worth of a review to it thus far - No worries, I'll do it). And I should also add that the COVER is very attention-grabbing and I think that such things tend to go overlooked and underrated, particularly in the digital medium/market. RRR also took a big step (by step) in the matter by releasing what amounts to a single for the riddim in August - 'Right Ting' by The Lambsbread - which was just a good idea on one hand and an excellent show of their dedication and BELIEF in the nature of the project and its importance, full on. And, when considering all of that, it's good that things have manifested the way that they have here, because they've again done something to be proud of here! While we can surely pick favourites between the two riddims (I think you know where I'm leaning at this point), the Stringz Riddim does manage to surprise just a bit on its full album by serving as the perfect backdrop to a variety of differently vibed big tunes, none of which, thankfully, sound completely out of place. By the end of this one the feeling quickly went from 'okay now do it again' to 'okay you've done it again'. Rumble Rock Recordz manages to cement their place on my radar and I'm sure I won't be the only one after the Stringz Riddim. Let's take a listen!

Stringz Riddim Mix Pt. 1

Despite its title (and its cover) I don't think that the main sound that you'll hear on this composition is a string, at least not initially. Although, with that being said, I was so happy to read that Achis Reggae favourite, Tuff Lion, does play on the set. That, alone, is a quality which says a great deal about the quality levels one can expect to hear, as the Lion doesn't push sub-par material. Ever. What he does in this case once again finds itself in a BEAUTIFUL variety of different hands as the label continues their methods of voicing such a colourful group. A good example of that would definitely be Ms. Sophia Squire who gets things going on the Stringz Riddim album from Rumble Rock Recordz with 'I Live, I Learn'. I think that when you listen to the riddim, ostensibly, you'd take it to be more of a romantic set and while we do get that later on, Squire, for her part, puts the composition to the proverbial test with one of this lovely inspirational track. She gets nearly Gospel-ish at times, which isn't a bad thing, and she just reaches with a message of perseverance and self-determination and motivation. She does this while eschewing the stereotypical, lame and clichéd route as well and also does so to one of the best songs I've ever heard her do on this stellar opener. Next we have the first of two combinations, 'Good Vibes', which features veteran Fire Star alongside young Mountain (who, despite the fact that I do know who he is, really needs to think about getting a new, more Google-friendly, name). This was another standout for me on the riddim and one which I think could really do damage if afforded the opportunity. The message here is of a fairly general injection of more righteousness and positivity into society. I suppose you could call it a 'social commentary', but it doesn't reach me in the more usual way that such a tune does. Also, you really get a SPECTACULAR vibes here - although I do favour the opener, this tune is definitely more of a LARGE sonic achievement to my opinion. Back again from the SBS is the somewhat strange, but well talented, Jus Goodie who is the first to take the Stringz Riddim in the direction of a love song with 'Crazy Love'. Speaking of sonic appeal, that's clearly the star in this instance, although the entire track is nothing less than decent, it's more of the kind of easy-listening type of song, which has its place and I'm still impressed by and will continue to look out for more from the singer.

The Step By Step Riddim featured one really heavy, heavy-hitter in Anthony B and it's a move which Rumble Rock repeats on the Stringz and they even go up a notch this time around. 'You Get What You Want' which features Black Prophet with none other than Capleton. BOOM!

“You never cook, then how you still ah eat?
You never sew, then how you still ah read?
You say you honest but you still ah thief
And then you send di wolf dem fi come destroy di sheep!”

It's just like an energy boost when Shango starts rhyming and it really just the kind of subtle diversity in the track itself. You can take a song like this and precede it with Jus Goodie's more serene vibes and both make a great deal of musical sense in their own ways. I should mention that the vocals on the tune seem somewhat strange to my ears, but maybe that's just me. That being said, however, it is the second largest name on the riddim who takes top honours as Chezidek BLAZES the similarly vibed 'Still Want More'. This one surely is a social commentary and more 'common' one for the riddim and it is BIG! Along with offering the entire riddim its dominant lyric ("Dem no really overstand what it means to be poor. GREED IS A DISEASE WEH NEEDS TO BE CURED"), Chezidek's tune is spotless and it serves as yet another reminder of his current streak of quality. For the past two years there's been anyone hardly making better music CONSISTENTLY in all of Reggae than the singer and here’s another sterling example of that.

Another pretty big name on the Stringz is another favourite of ours, of course, Messenjah Selah, who shines brightly with his own love song, 'Wanna Get Away'. Selah's is a sound which I've yet to tire of in the years since I've been listening to him and when I hear this song, I hear such a FULL vibes. It is so well done! I call it a 'love song' and that is an accurate description, but it's a multi-faceted love song, it is one which touches the social realm, within the romantic realm and it isn't a complicated listen at all. That man just makes GOOD music and you won't find an exception on the Stringz. I was equal parts very happy and very surprised to see Buggy Nhakente present on the Stringz Riddim, but perhaps I shouldn't have been given the fact that RRR will seemingly go anywhere for real talent. This time they went to Barbados for the Reggae/Soca hybrid and the results show that it was well worth it. 'Love Remains The Same' is a love song, but it's a song which brings "love" up for the sake of "love". It's not a romantic type of song (well, it kind of is), but it's more on an inspirational type of vibes which essentially espouses on the power of LOVE in any situation.

“Oh what do you answer, when you ask yourself the question -
What keeps us together, more than any war or competition?
Unconditional love!
The same one that Mama say came from above
The same one that brings life kisses and hugs
What the world needs now, we don’t have enough!

Cause people change and seasons change
But love remains the same
Seasons come and people go
But love remains the same
Time goes on and we move on
But love remains the same!”

BIG BIG tune!

Of the remaining tracks, of course the previously mentioned pieces from both The Lambsbread and Zacheous Jackson are highlights and they're joined by a typically interesting lot assembled by Rumble Rock for the Stringz Riddim. Such a fascinating individual is Ras Arcane, who I only heard of for the first time on the SBS Riddim - Arcane is back for the Stringz with an arguably even stronger tune in the biblical 'Hymn Book & Bible'. Arcane is someone to deal with for several reasons, not the least of which is his delivery which is so straight forward that it's strange. He just talks and kind of adjusts himself to the riddim, at times, but clearly command of melody isn’t his strongest attribute. That being said, however, he's just obviously talented and his tune here is another demonstration of that. Also back from the previous release is O-Shen who this time wants you to know that he's 'Sorry' for what he's done. I do really like this one (especially the chorus) although it goes a bit too rappy for me later on, when it does, O-Shen still manages to impress. Rastar is also back (and is also rappy) for the Stringz with 'Love U Jah'. This song definitely isn't one of my favourites here, but I am still reserving what I think about the artist because I have heard talent there.

Sarai Knowledge

Jhaytea who has been having an excellent few months or so (highlighted by 'All The Love', a big combination with Glen Washington) is also here with the lover’s piece, 'Like Heaven' which is another strong piece from the Roatan native. Jhaytea has serious star potential in my opinion and I can well envision a 'J-Boog like' run from him on the horizon. His song on the Stringz would also figure to have mainstream legs if given the opportunity, but something tells me that he's headed there whether it does or not. Excellent track and one of the riddim's finest. The HEAVY Ras Professor also scores min a mighty way with 'Meditation Time'. Here's a song which kind of put my mind to something I'll speak about more in closing, but here I'll just say that this is such a STERLING track. It's kind of rough at the same time, anything the Professor does and has ever done will always be kind of rough around the edges, but there is an almost extreme beauty here and on so many levels in my opinion (am I could really go for an album from Ras Professor now???). The divine-voiced Fabian Williams wraps up and delivers 'I'll Try' to the Stringz Riddim. I don't know a great deal of Williams, but he makes a nice impression with his tune and hopefully RR has him back (I'm sure they will). Finally is the only name on the Stringz Riddim which is COMPLETELY new to me - Sarai Knowledge (cool name). Knowledge (who sounds a bit like Ce'Cile to my ears) comes with 'Jah Light' and from what we've read, she typically focuses more on the Hip-Hop side (which may explain why I don’t know who she is), but she sounds pretty nice, while infusing Hip-Hop vibes while the song progresses.

Stringz Riddim Mix Pt. 2

Rumble Rock does include a clean version of the riddim (always a good idea) where the strings do become more apparent to my ears. This riddim, as I alluded to a second ago, really began to strike me as being incredibly accessible and VERSATILE. You hear it initially and you automatically go to thinking just how nice it would be as a modern Lover's Rock riddim and it does serve that purpose, but it can also do modern Roots (see Ras Professor) and a variety of other things, such as Hip-Hop and even Gospel.

Overall, I will be back for a third time. Again, I'm going to try not to directly compare the Stringz Riddim with the Step By Step, but even if I did, it's definitely on a similar level in terms of quality, which makes it obvious that Jimmy Cui and co. at Rumble Rock are exercising quite a bit in the way of quality control. Chances are, I think, that we've probably already heard their next riddim to be featured and whatever it is, I'm well looking forward to it. When you are fortunate enough to find a label who can consistently provide top material, even in Reggae where, as I said, we aren't experiencing a dearth of such entities, it's important to stick to them and support them because the benefits to you, as a fan, are potentially HUGE. It'll take more than two big riddims and an album ultimately to keep my attention, but if Rumble Rock Recordz continues their winnings ways, you won't even have to ask me what I think. Nice.

Rated: 4/5
Rumble Rock Recordz

Review #335


  1. NICE. NICE. NICE. I sure am feeling the vibes and the message music on the Stringz Riddim. Bless Up Rumble Rock - & merci beacoup Achis and Bredz for reviewing & sharing this symphony of reggae sounds - dynamic roster of artistes, loving the message of love on the Buggy Nhakente track. Just got it on iTunes. Big Tune!

  2. Wonderful things! Thanks for reading Elena!

  3. Just downloaded the riddim. It is something else!