Somewhere out there some old Reggae producer who used to make riddims using a big ass stone and . . . another big ass stone back in the . . . Stone . . . age is turning in his big stony grave - pissed off that someone has had the audacity to name a riddim after a fucking website! WHAT! If you haven't noticed (well then you probably aren't reading this right now), Reggae has, rather shockingly, fit itself into the landscape of a technologically advancing society and done so so very well as the point could strongly be made that pretty much from the turn of the century, Reggae has gone to the internet and has done it about as well as any other even semi-established genre of music. For an art form often 'behind the times' or at least thought to be, the music has adapted and continues to and probably even in ways that we're currently unaware of. One of the most obvious ways you can see this is through the proliferation of websites that serve almost exclusively to promote the music. They're not forum oriented or anything like that and you can't even buy music directly from the site. They exist to make people aware of Reggae music and that is just . . . It's amazing and I feel like crying (maybe because I'm listening to new Alison Hinds right now) (biggup Kadooment!) (WHAT!). Now! In my own personal opinion if you wanted to head to the best of these type of sites, I would recommend two places in particular - of course it's UnitedReggae.com and . . . that other one called ReggaeVille.com. I'm partial (as hell!) because I sort of wrote/write for both of them (I still kind of do write for the former, but not now because I had to catch up this blog and was too busy with it and something else, but not anymore - Don't tell Camille though!) (and I was MOST BRUTALLY fired from the latter) and they're just wonderful people involved all around (more on that later). And they both do really big things as well, besides what you would expect in the way of more typical internet journalism, such as reviews, interviews, previews and stuff like that, they also take things to the most woefully clichéd 'next level', as both (at least the last time I checked) also have magazines which you can actually have printed and purchase and other really attractive features as well, such as Festival Guides. Obviously when all of this is what you do, you also get the opportunity to establish and maintain healthy relationships with quite a few different labels as well.
VERY VERY VERY VERY healthy relationships, apparently. Being based in Germany would enable Da Ville (which is what we call them behind their backs) to strike up such associations with a whole heap of burgeoning labels from in and around the country seeking promotion and, as it would turn out, the one with which they have apparently gotten the closest is also the hottest of the day - Oneness Records. Our readers should be well familiar with the boys and girls at Oneness as they've provided us with some of the most memorable moments in the history of this blog which I'm sure we'll cover in some detail in just a moment. However, with that being said, to some degree they've managed to top themselves with their most recent release.
I don't know WHAT you have to do for someone to get them to name a riddim after you, but someone at Da Ville does because Oneness now returns with the OVERSTUFFED ReggaeVille Riddim! The piece comes as the latest (greatest???) in the line of increasingly impressive compositions from Oneness and a brief scan at exactly what's going on here reveals that they've left nothing undone and gone full-on to make a sterling project carrying the name of their . . . Good friends (someone has to be related to someone in there or . . . Yeah!) (do they have sycamore trees in Germany???). The ReggaeVille Riddim comes as, to my memory, the very first full project from Oneness of the year and although they definitely have something we're looking forward to coming in a few weeks' time, any fan of modern Reggae, new and old, are going to want to take the long dig into this one. The actual riddim, as it turns out, is a remake of an older set from the legendary Paragons which backed a wonderful tune by the name of 'Riding High On A Windy Day' (remember that) for Treasure Isle and Oneness has not only brought it back from the 1970's, they have flung it into the modern era by recording about three thousand different tunes on it - making up for lost time I suppose. And I should also say that, at least for me, these days Oneness is definitely one of the labels from whom I'm expecting big things. I always say that the proverbial leaders of the pack are the ones who should be counted upon to do the special work and although we can't quite call them that at this point, the string of success they've been on for the last couple of years or so has clearly outlined and defined a certain level of quality which they simply cannot dip below. And they don't dip it here. While I'm not going to call the ReggaeVille Riddim the best work of Oneness Records to date (because every time I listen to the Soul Riddim, I find something new to like about it), it is going to have to rank highly in their catalog. It is a beautiful project! It also demonstrates just how much the label is growing with the very wide net they have cast in picking artists to voice it. The mix is here, and I find myself saying this so often these days - which is a great thing - is one of the most diverse we've seen all year and one of the most such that we're also likely to see for the remainder of it. And if that weren't enough (and it should've been), the riddim also gives Oneness Records, in my opinion, not only their best riddim album to date, but also the best riddim album from anyone so far in 2012. Now let me tell you why.
ReggaeVille Riddim Mix
Certain riddims, regardless of how they actually sound, just really lend themselves well to make good music. That isn't necessarily a trait of a good (or greater) riddim, although it certainly does help, but it is surely an attribute of a good riddim album and thankfully that's what we have here. You need not venture even beyond the opener of the new ReggaeVille Riddim from Oneness Records which immediately proves to be a lasting highlight here as 'The People's Choice', Ray Darwin, gets us going with the meditative and invocation-like 'Father'. I don't know if I've actually heard a tune from Darwin from since he reached with his album last year, but this is an excellent way to restate one's position as a well talented artist and that's what he does on this tune while seeking the highest form of guidance. Next in is the very first of a few interesting combinations on the ReggaeVille as talented veteran vocalists Warrior King & Bryan Art team up for another spiritually vibed track, 'New Day'. When you place together two singers it's something which is somewhat unique anyway and, ostensibly, these two are singers of such a vastly different variety - with Art being the more traditional type and the King being this kind of 'gentle' type of hybrid singer/chanter - that it even added more to my anticipation of how this tune could possibly sound. It impresses! The track made me smile and for a vibes that isn't corny or sappy, just a lovely song. Bryan Art and Warrior King collectively pass the microphone to Roots Princess, Etana, who continues the magic of the riddim and her own personal magic as well as the star of the finest album of 2011 chimes in with the HEAVY social commentary, 'One Fist'.
“And all the worries of this world -
Not gonna burden this girl!
Cause I was made strong!
And I’m gonna trod along!”
“With fist in the air
My sword in my right hand
My heart full of faith
My eyes fixed on triumph!”
It is, unsurprisingly, the single finest moment on the ReggaeVille to my ears as The Strong One pushes for a call to action which cannot (!) go ignored (excellent backing singing on that song also! And rounding out the opening quarter (because that's how we do it) of the album, both Rootz Underground and the always serious Fyah T do well with 'Windy Day' and 'Musical Shot', respectively. I've never listened to too much of the former and I guess I need to do something about that because I really liked this song, while the former continues to give me a reason to go back and have a bigger listen to his 2011 set, "Family Wise". Fyah T always sounds kind of pissed off and that's fine because it works well in stretches on this tune which should probably come off as a bit HAPPY were it done by anyone else, but that's just not in Fyah T's range apparently and for him, that's a good thing ["Gimme di mp3 or vinyl or di CD. Gimme words of upliftment cause di people dem well needy, Play 'Songs of Redemption', cuz di people dem fi feel it. Grab a Kette Drum and mek mi beat it"].
Just looking at it on paper, the star of the next five tracks on the ReggaeVille Riddim is obviously one Mr. Tarrus Riley and he pushes all of that star quality into the brilliant 'The World is A Ghetto'. You listen to this tune more than just a couple of times through because there's so much goodness to be taken in from it and it's not the type of piece which so instantly jumps out and grabs you, but it settles down into this almost dissertation-like presentation that I, personally, was able to tune right in and get into this complete GEM of a song.
“Don’t you know, that it’s true -
That for me, and for you -
The world is a ghetto
Everyone hustling, bustling
Everyone suffering, suffering
And for the finer things in life, we work hard to survive
Night and day, things remain the same
Hey, don’t you judge me, cause I’m just trying
Give thanks for living, still, we all are dying
They made my choices, silence the voices
Only resort is, deadly devices
Who created, sad faces
Broken homes, desolate places
Well it’s a nightmare
I’ve got to state this
Couldn’t be my fate, I must mistake this”
Iba Mahr (who also appears on the forthcoming 2012 edition of "Reggae Gold"), also has an excellent tune here in 'My Day' which is a solid track, as is the curious 'Love Mi Fi Me' which links together Shag . . . Skarra Mucci & the murderous Kiprich. Just a few years ago 'Kippo' went to the mountain top and got a truckload of skills which hasn't failed him since and Skarra Mucci is also well talented (and has a new album of his own for 2012, "Return of The Raggamuffin", on which this tune also appears). It gets a little funny, which is a penchant of both artists as it progresses and it's just nice in general. Also very nice is the sublime 'Roses For My Baby' courtesy of soulful up and comer and well traveled backing singer, Erica Newell, whose mere presence on the ReggaeVille Riddim is a big addition for both it and Oneness Records. BUT if you look at the other song in this quintet of tracks, 'High & Windy', you notice that it features two artists who definitely have their own star potential, Kabaka Pyramid excellent name) from out of Kingston and some woman named SARA LUGO! WHAT! The favourite of everyone with a pulse continues to BLAZE with quality releases and here, she drops what may just be the best combination I've ever heard her do which is definitely saying a lot. The tune is the first single from the riddim (to my knowledge), a bonafide remake of the aformentioned Paragons tune of a similar title and it's clearly one of the highlights here as both lights combine to form one absolute master class of a track.
'High & Windy' by Sara Lugo & Kabaka Pyramid
'High & Windy' by Sara Lugo & Kabaka Pyramid
The next five tracks on the ReggaeVille Riddim album are marked by combinations and the presence of a Reggae legend. Said legend, Sizzla Kalonji, gets it started with the very strange 'That's Y'. I do not like this song (I don't hate it either), but what I've learned over the years is that the high-pitch voiced edition of Kalonji has more than a few fans who'll probably eat this up. The first duo here is an actual duo as longtime musical brothers Sugar Roy & Conrad Crystal appear with a real winner of a piece in the inspirational 'Don't Give Up On Life'. This song well does have a big message, but I have to say that it's also one of the more sonically pleasing efforts here as well. It sounds lovely! I don't know precisely what is going on with 'The World Is Yours', a link between Danny Ranks & Ganjaman, because it's partially in German, but that doesn't stop it from being a pretty nice set on the riddim to my ears. Longtime Dancehall fixture, Hawkeye & [former Sara Lugo collaborator] Ephraim Juda come together for another nice selection in 'Give Thanks For Life'. Hawkeye has been on a nice streak as of late as he continues to (sound EXACTLY like Bassie from TOK) run in the latest stage of his seemingly infinite career. For his part, Juda just has a great deal of potential and he arguably outshines the Hawk in this, one of the album's finest. Speaking of FINEST and a "nice streak", none in this portion register as highly as its final drop, 'Farmerman', which gives us the very unique pairing of Ras Muhamad from out of Jakarta, Indonesia with the nearly three years BURNING Naptali The Great. LOVE this tune! It has a 'surface' type of connection, stemming from its title of course, but what it really is about is just the commonalities of life - how one person can come up in Clarendon, Jamaica and have SO MANY mutual everyday experiences as someone from the other side of the world in Indonesia. It reminds one of 'Glory', the big tune last year from Afrikan star, Takana Zion and Reggae supernova, Capleton and it's on that quality level as well as (love how Muhamad mixes things up later on in the song) Reggae music continues to make the entire fucking world THAT much smaller and closer together! HUGE TUNE!
I have not the slightest of an idea what Nakria is talking about (or who he is) on his tune 'Un Canci Mai', because it's done completely in his native Italian - I do like the chorus, however. Oneness has made a point to add in so many different artists with different styles from different walks of life and Nakria is the latest as his tune definitely spices up the final batch of tunes on the album. Jamie Irie also does that with his 'Marijuana'. I'm not completely new to Irie as he also featured on some of House of Riddim's output as of late, but I don't quite know what to make of him entirely just yet either. He's a very unique artist and this tune will show you a bit of what I mean. The always reliable Professor Teacha Dee comes in with the extremely intelligent 'Sound System', which isn't even remotely what you think it is about . . . but it kind of is.
“The only good system -
Is a sound system to me
You see di babylon system -
It ah deal wid di people like leach
Babylon yah system a evil
And it ah kill off di decent people
Unuh no si how far it ah reach now
No dem ah deal wid people like slave
But when you hear a decent system ah play
The artist voice, they come through dem enraged
When you listen to di tweeter and di bass
Now music ah hit you, you will feel no pain
Babylonian - your system a fraud
It hold down di people dem a yard and dem abroad
Wi caah buy nuttin - look how wi work hard
Every other day you hear two inna di morgue
Why dem system so hard?!
Why dem system so hard?!”
Teacha Dee, as his name would suggest, always brings a fresh and generally colourful way to look at things and this tune is no exception. Also throwing down in this final portion of the ReggaeVille Riddim is the man himself, Mark Wonder, who comes through with track #2 from his forthcoming guarantee of a TOP NOTCH album, "Working Wonders" (also from Oneness Records), the very upful 'The World Needs Love'. This song is another one which just made me SMILE! I don't want to ruin my appetite for it, but it heaped even more anticipation for the album, which I'm suddenly having a great difficulty waiting for (another nearly three weeks!). Oneness, as they usually do (not on the Soul Riddim however), also add a clean version of the ReggaeVille Riddim, so you can try it out for yourself or just really enjoy it. It's such a nice composition and I'm sure I should be using a whole heap of technical words like 'synch' and shit like that, but it is BEAUTIFUL!
NOW! You'd think that after nearly three thousand words, I'd be ready to quit writing, and I am, but I have to keep going, because Oneness Records has also done a Bonus EP for the album, which I think you can have for free - I'm sure you can find out more about that on ReggaeVille.com. It includes six different tunes and here we go again. The most recognizable of names on the bonus portion is Ky-Enie, whose 'Breathe Again' is also the second best of the bunch. Not far behind him is G-Mac with 'Don't Judge Me', a tune which sounds like it came right out of Buju Banton's catalog. That tune is powerful and you will surely hear more from this up and comer in the future and in a major way. I saw the name Skanky here and thought that it couldn't be the same GRUFF voiced artist from out of Martinique, but that is who it turned out to be and GOOD! He teams up with Simple FX on 'Psychose' and biggup Skanky, he had an album from a few years back called "Que Sera Sera" which was surprisingly very strong. Also check Blade Malachi's nearly BRILLIANT 'Rasta See and Know', which probably shouldn't be free, but you should be thankful that it is because it's a big tune (this is Bredz' favourite tune on the riddim altogether) (biggup sitting on the phone, eating donuts, trying to help your brother-in-law write a review, when you're supposed to be studying for a test). The Reggae Rajahs also tell you 'Make Up Your Mind', while Skillinjah (who I think I have heard of) and Josh Heinrichs (who I'm sure I have not) come together on the somewhat awkward but still fairly decent 'Call of Duty' - a tune CLEARLY born as a result of a great deal of herb smoking and video game playing.
And you can have all of that for free. Or at least you could at one point.
Overall, yeah - this is a great project, so go and get the ReggaeVille Riddim. It's something which I would imagine having legs with just about any type of Reggae fan from the old and jaded type (like YOU), to the most casual of Marley heads. With four hundred different songs, it truly has something for everyone. On top of that, definitely biggup Oneness Records for once again showing themselves to be one of the most outstanding relatively newly arrived labels around and, already, one of the strongest European brands. THEY MAKE EXCELLENT MUSIC - ALL OF THE TIME. Period. And biggup and congratulations to Julian (even though he fired me!) and Markus and all the nice residents of ReggaeVille for being such wonderful individuals. If you were going to name your riddim after someone, you could not have picked a much finer set than theirs. The single best damn riddim album I've heard in 2012. Very Well done.