Sunday, September 30, 2012

'No Barriers': A review of The Moving Riddim

Something even greater. While it remains a most rewarding and pleasant experience, listening  to all of this wonderful music, in general, it is still frequently worth mentioning and celebrating the absolute leaders of the genre - those whom we 'charge' with doing special things. Ultimately, or presumably ultimately, it is the goal of every artist, producer and label to arrive at that point in their musical lives and watching them try to get there (or not, even,  in some cases) is one of the most interesting things about being a fan of music. As for those currently at that top who have no plans on vacating the positions to make room for any peers or potential new contemporaries, they continue to dazzle and will hopefully do so for some time to come. In the case of the producers in particular, which is why we're here today, I may get exhausted by saying this over the years, but you really must not be paying any attention at all if you're currently under the impression that the aces of today's era could not 'hold their proverbial owns with those of many eras gone by. I absolutely refuse to believe that someone like Don Corleon could not have been a massive success forty, thirty or twenty years ago making that style of Reggae music and Dancehall. Similarly, I don't believe that I have the PHYSICAL STRENGTH [!] to hear an argument saying that someone like a Dean Fraser or a Tuff Lion or even some of the lesser known maestros, now and going forth, would not have been able to make a just as sizable of a contribution to the music or even more in those two cases, if they came around in a time much ahead of their own. Today we focus on someone else who very much fits into this class and someone who, again presumably, has the time to prove me correct, the masterful Stephen 'Di Genius' McGregor. No matter where you turn, if you listen to Reggae and Dancehall music in 2012 and several years prior, the young McGregor is virtually inescapable and that is a good thing because I would make the point and do so with an extreme level of confidence that if he retired RIGHT NOW and rested on his laurels of a career already completed, McGregor would already assume a class of some of the greatest producers the genre has EVER seen. Like right now. Fortunately that isn't on the itinerary (at least I hope it isn't) and instead he's delivering his latest set, which may just be one of the very best of an already storied and almost over-highlighted career. 
Stephen 'Di Genius' McGrgegor
Stephen McGregor is certainly someone known for a grand amount of versatility in his music. Besides making riddims of a different variety and sounds, he's also produced for almost anyone who is anyone in Reggae and probably more artists than I even know about outside of the genre. He's likely to have orchestrated as many hits as most of his peers combined over the past few years and in 2012, he's well continued his winning ways. But all of that doesn't mean that you can't change the course once in awhile. Usually, although he does deviate, McGregor focuses on more hardcore Dancehall music and recently I'm happy to say his output has beautifully drifted further and further away from that… Hip-Hop shit everyone was making for the last few years and even if you disagree with that, surely you'd agree that his latest release doesn't have a damn thing in common with Hip-Hop - AT ALL. 

The Moving Riddim. In the past Stephen McGregor has done, as I said, a variety of things, but one area in which I'd certainly like to hear more from him is on the more 'traditional' Roots Reggae set. Previously he has done several things (again, probably more than I know about), but what stands out most STILL for me is the fact that the younger McGregor did vibe much of the 2005 album of his legendary father, Freddie McGregor (which, I believe, most unfortunately, remains Freddie's most recent studio album - someone needs to do something about that) (good album still, check it out if you haven't already). In 2004-2005 when that work was likely mostly completed, Di Genius would have probably been all of two or three months old at that point, so clearly you shouldn't allow your mind to think - if you haven't been paying attention - that the creator of such Terror-ridden tracks like the 12 Gauge, Red Bull & Guinness and Tremor riddims ("gagagagaga") is unable to do something different… or you can if you like, but if you do, you risk missing out on one of the finest riddims 2012 has had to offer thus far. The Moving Riddim is an old school vibed piece of bonafide mastery. A few months back the riddim was teased and it was very well received and now it comes to a full official release and as the entire project rolls out, it is no disappointment at all and it even manages to impress 'despite' the very high expectations. McGregor, as you might expect, also took this one in a bit of a different direction than normally. While you won't at all find names such Mavado, Ele, Aidonia, Bramma and Laden who generally appear on Di Genius' compositions, it seems like there was more of an initiative to 'capture the moment' (biggup NiyoRah) and really make a Roots track which stood up like a Roots track (although I would LOVE to hear Agent Sasco on this riddim) and the names who did voice the Moving Riddim, for the most part, are names who would expect to hear, and do hear, typically on such pieces. The results are absolutely shining as Stephen McGregor ultimately isn't the only one related to this project with a talent which is bound to no era. Let's take a listen.  
Di Genius Records 2012
It's so interesting that, typically, Stephen McGregor's more Dancehall-centric creations are these kind of stunning and highly detailed musical journeys and when you get into this piece, it's beautiful and it is stunning, but its more of a 'less is more' type of piece. It sounds so familiar, so comfortable (but still deceptively ACTIVE in some aspects) and it doesn't come off in the same manner as its Dancehall 'siblings' which, for it, is a good thing. "It", of course, would be the Moving Riddim, the latest from Di Genius whose brand new album gets started with one of its biggest names, Jah Cure, checking in on the SWEET lover's tune, 'How Can I Forget'. I don't think I'll ever actually tire of listening to the Cure sing songs and if I will at some point, it's still far off, because to my ears the owner of the greatest voice I have EVER heard in my life continues to turn in winners and this tune is no exception and one of the riddim's finest. Anthony B a veteran (in every sense of the word) of McGregor's output is in next with 'Give Praises'. It's been a few months from the last time I've been REALLY impressed by Anthony B (check out his most recent album, "Freedom Fighter", which is excellent, in stores now), but that all stopped here, 'Give Praises' is really strong and a nearly (not quite) vintage level of Anthony B with the free-flowing nature of the track which is not to be missed. And then there is the BOOM!

"All Ganjaman mi waan si every spliff ah light
Spliff ah light
Mi fi light mi deh pon a Afrika flight
If you suffer from insomnia this mek you sleep at night
Nah go si mi touch di Charlie Brown or touch di Mr. White"

Unsurprisingly taking top honours on Stephen McGregor's Moving Riddim is his brother, Chino, who ABSOLUTELY DESTROYS things with one of the finer herb tunes you'll hear this year (and I'm only saying that because I haven't thought it out yet, it may just be THE finest of them all) 'Boom Draw' (biggup Jr. Kelly). I'm sure I've said it at some point, but I really 'slept' on Chino for far too long, but not these days. This is exceptional!

Looking at the roster of artists on the Moving Riddim, I'm just pretty happy by the fact, alone, that such a riddim would exist that would make enough sense for all of them to have a place here. And while, like I said, I would have liked to see one or two more of the regular 'hands' of the Big Ship, who Di Genius does manage to bring together more than works here. Of course we first  look at the bonafide members of the ROYAL Reggae ranks, the aforementioned Freddie McGregor and the timeless Marcia Griffiths who come through with 'Be Alright' and 'No No No', respectively. Is it awful if I call the former a 'potential classic'??? It is one divine piece of spiritually accessed social commentary. 

"I know things would be better - 
If we could only work together
Now what is the matter?
Peer negative thoughts and wasted chatter
Now who must we turn to?
Is it fear that someone could hurt you?
Or even desert you?
But Jah, HE cares for you
Each day I awake, I give praises to The King
Never lose a thing -
Jah always make me sing
In every way, each and everyday I pray
I give praises all the way
Jah alone will do yeah!" 

For her part, Queen Griffiths turns in another big winner with the defiant 'No No No'. There's just something so sublime about this woman's voice which is just so damn… It's like a blanket! It doesn't even matter what she's singing about, it just makes you feel good and I love when she just kind of appears on modern tracks, although her presence here certainly is not a surprise. 

Joining those two is a wonderful cast of 'supporting artists' which features the likes of singers Mr. Easy and Chris Martin. Mr. Easy is someone who I just like to hear from. I wouldn't necessarily call myself a big fan of his, but I generally enjoy his output these days and the selection he brings here, which is the riddim's title track, is another stellar effort from the singer and for the riddim as well (LOVE the chorus on this tune). It seems to be taking much (much) longer to warm up to the music of Chris Martin than… pretty much everyone else in the world apparently, but as long as he continues to push up pieces like his superb love song here, 'What Can I Do', I'll join the crowd and do so very happily. Someone of whom I very much am a fan already, Hawaiian sensation J-Boog, also has a nice tune on the Moving Riddim in the form of another social commentary (which I think is somewhat rare for him), 'Change Up Your Evil Ways', which calls on everyone who may not be living in the right way to really make an alteration in their behaviour "before the trumpet sounds". J-Boog's voice is also worth mentioning here, because it may just be one of the better sang songs that I've heard from him so far which is definitely saying a lot because he always sounds very good. Di Genius, himself, also finds a proper pitch on his own vocal offering on his riddim, 'Need My Love'. You can imagine already I'm sure what this one is about based on its title and what really strikes here is just how infectious this song is. Is may not be amongst your favourites here (but it may be), but chances are high it'll be THE song most easily stuck into your head after listening through. Black Am I continues to demand attention and respect via his tune on the Moving, its final vocal selection 'Common Sense'. While normally the concept of common sense and its actuality are things I RUN from on sight, I'm completely in agreement with BAI on this antiviolence set and well do keep some attention pointed in his direction because he is poised to do MASSIVE things in Reggae music in my opinion. 

"I & I born with common sense
Mi coulda neva mix up inna no nonsense
As far as mi si it, it no mek no sense
When gunshot ah beat and man ah tear down fence
Like dem no born with common sense
Ah roll without dem soul and no conscience
And nuff mi si come inna unda false pretense
But Natty Dread ah burn out bad influence"  

And lastly is a personal favourite of mine as the eternally flaming Lutan Fyah reaches the Moving Riddim with his normal brilliance, 'Hold A Medz' which rises near the top as my second favourite tune on the track. 

"Tell dem seh mi humble but wi neva soft
Wi no lamb to no slaughter
I'm working so hard, for my son and my daughter
Let the future be secure from this time forth and after
NUH LIVE LIKE PAUPER!
And tell dem wi nuh idle, no wi nah go waste no time
Early morning as mi rise - I'm on the grind!
Then I put the wheels to my shoulder, ready to take what is mine
Then lifestyle so dandy and fine”

"Tell dem seh mi always ready to perform
MI SHOW SOME HUMILITY AND GWAN KEEP MEH CALM
Mi neva work no inequity from di day mi born
And who dem ah try diss up wid a scorn?
Tell dem seh mi write and mi bun dem wrong
Mi nah go follow no Rudeboy, mi nah join no gang
Hey, a love man come fi show and a just so mi tan
Hey, hear mi out"

And the riddim album also contains a clean version of the Moving Riddim (so you can try it for yourself at home), which is excellent and is always a nice touch so biggup Stephen McGregor for including it (because they don't have to). 
Overall, the only real complaint here is that there isn't more. Checking it at only eleven vocals, I definitely could have gone for two or three others on the riddim, but judging it for what it is, the Moving Riddim is, quite easily, one of the best riddims of the first nine months of 2012 and we've had some nice ones, so that's a pretty large distinction in my opinion. On top of that, because of how it is vibed, and this goes back to our premise: There doesn't exist a period in the history of Reggae music where this isn't an excellent riddim. I'm not going to try and tell you that it is one of the greatest of all time… but it fits into so many different segments of the music and does so by virtue of just being exceptional really. It is also worth mentioning that despite its very straight forth style, I think that the Moving Riddim is also relatively accessible to non traditional fans of Reggae music, who should be able to appreciate it as well. The set becomes yet another testament to skillful nature of the producers of today, in particular someone who will also be amongst the engineers of tomorrow - The great Stephen 'Di Genius' McGregor. Superb. 

Rated: 4.5/5
Di Genius Records
2012
Digital

Review #391

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What I'm Listening To: October

does it really matter that it's still September???


Anthony Que in 2012

If you really LOVE Reggae music and you haven't been following the works of veteran vocalist Anthony Que this year, and maybe you haven't, then you're seriously missing out on something genuinely special as he recently pushed up "No Fear No Man", which was his second stellar set of the year, following the simply MASSIVE "Meditation Time". Now, having time to have set and let everything settle - I'm not at all any less impressed than I was initially. "Meditation Time" continues to be a case where it's almost foolish of me to have NOT given that album a 5/5 as the one or two soft moments continue to firm up. For its part, "No Fear No Man", while still very recent and fresh in my mind has also moved slightly more in a positive direction if that were even possible. In terms of just album, Que has already staked a very large claim for AoTY and it'll be a SPECTACULAR moment if someone outdoes him on that in the next three months. 

CD + Digital, CD + Digital

The Soul Acoustic Riddim [Jam2 Productions - 2012]

Big riddim which reached earlier this year and now makes its way to an official digital release is the GORGEOUS Soul Acoustic Riddim from Jam2. Rarely will you come across a more aptly title riddim than this which is… rather soulful and acoustic and produces some mighty output from some seriously talented vocalists. Sizzla Kalonji, Lutan Fyah, Pressure Busspipe, Gyptian alongside Camar and Jah Vinci all score superbly on the Soul Acoustic as do Elena (biggup our Elena), Ishawna, Fiona (in a STUNNING form) and Nikiesha Barnes, all of whom help to give the composition a most necessary feminine presence (especially Fiona… WOW!). Probably one of the finest riddim albums of 2012 altogether - So go get it!

Digital 

"Inna Red I Hour" by Abja [I Grade Records - 2003]

I'm still just early in digging into "Inna Red I Hour", which I believe was the first of a pair of albums from Virgin Islands veteran Abja through the always welcomed I Grade Records. What got me going in this direction was when we recently (and FINALLY) went back and rightfully declared "One Atonement" from Yahadanai a modern classic release. Abja was on that album and Yahadanai is on this one as well. Early impressions are pretty strong with my personal standouts being 'Rebel I Lion', 'War' (the best song on the album), ''Lion Walk' and others. This would probably make for a nice vault review one day, but draw your own conclusions for right now and pick up Abja's "Inna Red I Hour" today.

CD + Digital  

The Tora Bora Riddim [K-One Productions - 2012]

Had to smile when I came across the official release of the Tora Bora Riddim from a few years back - because I didn't remember it at all until I spun its first and most well known tune, 'Hypocrites' by Cali P. The tune which appeared on Cali's wicked debut set "Lyrical Faya" was outstanding and jovial and the riddim was definitely one of the best on that album as well. Now its creator, K-One Productions pushes (amongst other things), the album for the Tora Bora, a few years late surely, but who cares. Joining Cali P in scoring big on the riddim are the likes of the well talented Straika D w/Sista Jahjay, Sweetness (big tune, 'Respecte Toi'), Jah Zee and others. I didn't love everything here, but it is well worth the digital look, especially the first half so check it out. 

Digital

The Bad Acid Riddim [Di Genius Productions - 2011]

Listening to the latest from Stephen McGregor (which I hopefully will get to tell you about before we go on break) and it WONDERFULLY sent me back at looking at several of his more recent pieces (even though it is pretty unique for what it is), one of which was the maddening Bad Acid Riddim from about a year ago which has so nicely infiltrated my workout playlists lately. The riddim was packed with big tunes from the expected likes of Chino, Bramma, Busy Signal (twice), McGregor himself, Ele, Mavado and Laden, but it has definitely been a pair of tunes which have made their way back into my head, Aidonia's 'Bad Pickney' and DEFINITELY 'We Dem A Watch' from Agent Sasco

"Everywhere wi turn, dem ah look pon wi 
Dem ah read like seh dem si book pon wi 
A couldn't di dressing dem find so interesting
A mussi di blessing weh God put pon wi 

A wi dem ah watch
You si a wi dem ah pree
Wi a mussi big screen TV
A wi dem ah watch
Wi seh a wi dem ah pree
Give dem a glasses, wi inna 3d
A wi dem ah watch
Wi seh a wi dem ah pree
But dem caan pause wi like DVD
A wi dem ah watch
Wi seh a wi dem ah pree
High-definition like how LED

When wi step in ah wi dem ah stay pon
VIP sitting, no regular patron
A no everybody love mi, cah mi no Raymond
But I gyal dem love di channel, nah change di station
So a wah do some man?
Caan match di speed
Dem a analog and wi a digital feed
Dem channel grainy, grainy all di colour dem a bleed
You si weh mi ah seh Stephen - caption: Read"

Digital

'Alcool & Dancehall' by Krys [Step Out Productions - 2012]

And lastly, it's been a minute from last I remember hearing from Gwada star, Krys, with any type of consistency, but he's now back with a few new tunes, one of which, 'Alcool & Dancehall' is now officially available courtesy of Step Out Productions (which I THINK may be Krys' own label - and his last album, incidentally, was also named "Step Out" from a couple of years back). Not saying that I love this tune, because I don't, but it's decent and when Krys is anywhere near his best, the Dancehall IMMEDIATELY becomes a far more interesting place. 

Digital

Thursday, September 27, 2012

'Good Relations': A review of "Dream Big" by Mada Nile

Lineage. Reggae music, as a whole, because of just how popular it has become in recent times has changed for the most part, but you still very much find the music to be a 'family affair' in certain circles. Mostly these days, it is a dwindling and somewhat rare occurrence, because of just how many people sing the music and just how non-discriminating the Reggae bug is in who it chooses to bite, but when you do find such a situation where the music has literally spread throughout a family, it can be very interesting to follow all of the various lines. Of course, the music's history is, at least partially, driven through the Marleys and the Morgans of the world and that's a quality which will never change, so even when we can find it in spots, and particularly where genuine talent exists, it's something to keep in mind and examine. Following the respective courses of both of those legendary families really begins to lead in very interesting directions given the fact that now we're dealing with third generations of them being musically involved and inclined and we're very likely to find ourselves even more inundated with future Marleys and Morgans in the years ahead and I think that's wonderful. I use those particular analogies in this instance because of, already, how fascinating it can be to educate yourself in tracing back that family tree and while we don't have to go quite so far in this case, the process of education, at least for me, was very remarkable in this case. Specifically, when you think of families in Reggae music from out of the Virgin Islands, you're sure to go the Benjamins. Bros. Ronnie Jr. and the incomparable Vaughn head one of the most powerful entities in the current arena of the music, Vaughn Benjamin with their father, Ronnie Sr., also having made his name as a musician as well and passed the interest on to his progeny who are now… legends. Now! What we have today is another matter of relatives, siblings also, from out of the Virgin Islands and it is a very fresh case in my mind. Mada Nile is a very well respected veteran chanter from out of St. Croix and while she may not (yet) be as well known as some of her peers (although she may very well be the second most popular female artist from out of the VI, as I'm thinking the only person definitely more well known than she would be Dezarie) (biggup Dezarie), she is someone who has very much made an impact on the music and last year she did it again without even trying for me. 
"Tinkin Out Loud" by Ambush [2011]
She Ambushed me. Reportedly Mada Nile has NINE brothers. Whether that is true or not is another matter, however, what is certain is that one of her male siblings is the same Ambush, with whom we dealt early last year for his debut album, "Tinkin Out Loud", which would subsequently become very popular amongst our readership. Ambush was almost completely new to me at that point and the one fact that I had did know was that he was Nile's brother and if you take all of that into account, you really see that we're dealing with one supremely talented family (and you also begin to wonder about her other eight brothers!). 

And the ancestry of Mada Nile doesn't stop there. She, like Ras Attitude, is a musical 'descendent' of the genius that is Ras Batch. The musical wizard programmed two of Nile's first three albums on his very own Sound V.I.Zion Records imprint - her 2004 debut "Rise Today" as well as its own followup, "Many Roads" from three years on . Batch would also work on her most recent release, "On My Way" as well. AND Mada Nile also appeared on some of the earliest material from that label, including the "Culturellenium" series. Like her brother (or her brother as her) (she's been around longer), Mada Nile very much has this very appealing kind of 'rough around the edges' type of approach. When you think of women from out of the Virgin Islands making music she definitely is a standout in that regard as several of her peers such as the aforementioned Dezarie, the very versatile Lady Passion, Sistah Joyce from longtime and others have much different deliveries primarily. Nile is someone who would more fit in line with individuals such as Ambush, Ickarus, Ahfyah, Volcano and artists like these who, for the most part, really just go after a riddim, but she does it in, as you would expect, more of a feminine way and the way of someone who has had a bit of development and refinement and given the fact that she's worked so closely and so extensively with Ras Batch, such a thing isn't at all a surprise (a really good comparison for Mada Nile would be someone like Queen Ifrica, instead of someone like Etana). Should you require a further look (and you should), might I suggest picking up Mada Nile's big and brand new album, "Dream Big" from Solar Power Entertainment. The set becomes her very first from 2008 and, judging by its title (and its title track), it's clear that Nile and company very much had the idea to make big things for this project and  I think that's a pretty good idea. Almost EVERYONE has had a good 2012 in terms of Reggae albums and the VI have definitely been no exception with big links coming through Ras Batch, Ras Attitude, Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite, Bambú Station and others, now would seem the perfect time to capitalize on and seize the moment by putting out some of your absolute best material and, by its end, "Dream Big" (which has actually already generated quite a bit of response from what we can tell thus far) certainly does not disappoint. While I can't proclaim it "landmark" and draw up some awful piece of cliché in saying that the album is 'going to take things to another level' or something… like that, "Dream Big" well manages to reach the high levels of music we've come to expect from Mada Nile throughout her career and adds yet another GEM to the stellar lineup of releases of 2012. Let's take a closer look. 
The music of Mada Nile
As we'll get into more in just a second, besides just a being a very nice angle for this review, Mada Nile's music is also very much 'familial-oriented'. Besides during the more obvious moments, she writes songs which're more aimed at building and strengthening relationships and families which sounds like a pretty basic thing in Reggae, but fortunately it's a bit more subtle than and fascinating that it sounds. Very attention grabbing as well is 'Look How Meh Shine' which begins "Dream Big", the brand new and fourth album from VI standout Mada Nile. This song isn’t too difficult to follow from the title as it features Nile basically saying that she (and you, by extension) accomplished her goals in the face of many people telling her that she couldn't. Thinking more broadly, it becomes a song about maintaining one's course in life and the road you are on, regardless of the adversity you may face along the way. Next up is a song which even better and one of the real highlights on this album, 'Mama Strong'. On one hand, you've probably heard a dozen tunes like this (check 'Mamma Is Here' by Turbulence, big tune) which give credit due to the Mothers of the world who are left to be both parents in the household because the 'father' has long gone away. What makes this one interesting is that Nile [I THINK] may just be experiencing that very case right now herself which DEFINITELY gives this one another dimension you haven't heard before.

"Mama strong
Mama strong
Mama strong
Mama strong
Two souls she trod, trod it inna one
Mama strong
Mama strong
Mama strong
Do it on she own, but she not alone

A mom and dad a wah mi haffi be 
Right ya now that's the life that mi live
Mi haffi strive to mek di youth dem survive
Wi haffi struggle in this crucial time
Wi got a nine-to-five but wi nah get no pay
Education just ah raise everyday 
Mi doh want fi si mi youth dem get slay
Chant a Psalm mi seh everyday

Respect di fathers who are standing firm
Dem who run off, I seh you haffi get burned
Blessings to di one who dun dead and gone
Cause before you leave, I seh yah youth never want
Double-shift I said mommy haffi work
Teach the youth what life is really worth
Mi no jester, mi no pander
Single-mothers seh wi haffi work harder"

From the approach and the inherent point of view, alone, it becomes a very unique track, but as it play s out 'Mama Strong' shows itself to be a really special track . 'So Much Love' is next and it's a song that kind of took a minute to grow on me because it has a fairly unusual pacing. It is more uptempo than the two songs immediately preceding it on "Dream Big", but it's not so much so that it becomes somewhat misplaced either. The songs makes itself based on its message, however, which is one of just spreading a big amount of love to every corner of the world. 

Going through the tracklist of "Dream Big", there were several tunes which stood out on paper that I was really looking forward to hearing and, for the most part, they all live up to being sizable tracks and solid additions to the album. The first, obviously, was the title song and what I heard here was an all-encompassing type of a inspirational vibes. It is kind of Hip-Hoppish and that's not necessarily a favourite thing of mine, but it's manageable and the song really, again, is more about what is said which sounds divine regardless of genre. There was also 'Really & Truly' which struck me because it was one of two combinations on the album - this one featuring someone who I really need to learn more about, the ever-present Spla'IJah. This song is a very nice and 'comfortable' love song and Mada Nile and Spla'IJah (who has the most curious of deliveries) make for a very strong pairing despite having styles which don't quite (AT ALL) mirror one another. Love the riddim on that tune also - very familiar. I was also interested in the later tune 'Mama Neveah' (because this is an album which now has TWO 'Mama songs' which I guess is fitting from someone named Mada Nile). Where the first was very different and unexpected, 'Mama Neveah' is more of what you would think with its title. I believe Mada Nile's Mother has transitioned and that's something that makes this one even more special and I'm sure had she had the opportunity to hear it, Nile's Mother would enjoy it as much as I do and you are sure to as well because it is golden. And finally here, of course I was really looking forward to hearing what would prove to be my absolute favourite song on this record, 'Most High JAH', which features Sister & Brother, Mada Nile & Ambush.

"Who should I fear?
No one but Jah Jah
And who really cares?
The Most High Jah Jah
Who will I fear?
No one but Jah Jah
And who really cares?
The Most High Jah Jah

Through all the guns and war and all the bloody streets
Most High Jah ah seh HIM guide fi mi feet
You know HIM bless mi walk and HIM bless mi talk
Most High Jah have mi ah fly like di hawk
High above di wicked man dem so I'm able -
Fi si dem lies when dem creep under table
You si di love from Jah ah strengthen I like steel
So di truth you know mi haffi reveal
Who Jah bless I seh no man curse
You si di gunman, dem haffi face di worst-
Jah wrath and Jah judgment
Consequence inna di end

Inna my going out, inna my coming in
Everything real, nothing at all no make-believe
Ask mi who mi scared of?
No man but His Majesty, The King and Emperor" 

[Mada Nile's words are in red. Ambush's are blue] It should probably go without saying just how much chemistry these two have with one another and it really steps forth on 'Most High JAH', which is at least their second combination together. Surely you know what I am thinking at this point… Mada Nile… Ambush… album???

Of the remaining selections on "Dream Big", while they may not completely leap off the paper at you, some of them really still manage to impress. The perfect example of this is the album's ganja song (because no album would be complete without one) 'Plant Ah Seed'

"Plant a seed and watch how it grow
Watch how di roots always and it flow -
Through di nation, cultivation
It's my natural meditation

When hungry belly bite and mi mind, it no right
Straight to di garden fi herbs and spice
Spice inna di pot and di herbs inna mi nerve
Please Mr. Fed, I tell you don't disturb
You use di trees fi go make paper
Mi use di trees fi go put in rizzla 
So what di hell you ah fight mi fah?
When di two a wi ah live pon Mother Nature"

Although I really liked that song from the very first spin through, it was about the fifth or sixth time through where I began to get the thought that I was listening to something relatively close to being a spectacular song and easily one of the best on the whole of the album. Also check a pair of songs which're somewhat related and come back-to-back here, 'Face 2 Face' and 'Luv You Down'. These are pretty basic love songs with both slightly bordering on a little R&B, but the latter is a gorgeous song as Mada Nile goes a little Queen Ifrica, 'Below The Waist' style (and stays out of the ramping shop in the process). Earlier we get a nice song in 'Family, Friends & Foes', which really was a song I just did not like until I finally heard what I was listening to a few spins in. That's something I can say right now about "Dream Big" full on - it is a very mature set and one which requires a bit more of an effort than an immediate judgment, so give it a minute or two before giving a final opinion. And as the album winds down we get the full R&B (and like 1990's R&B) inspirational piece, 'Make That Change' and lastly there's the closer here, the acoustically vibed 'No More'. 

"Tired sing this song ova mi dead friend dem head
To sing a song of love and life I wish it was instead
Guns in the streets - like the rain, it ah fall
And people in high places, yes dem know what a gwan
With no love for me, no love for you 
Worse if you grow up as a ghetto youth
Dem kinda life, it shouldn't be
Dem kinda life, it no set fi mi
Jah Rastafari please hear fi my cry
And strengthen the minds of this innocent child"

This selection ends things on a lovely note and shoots near the top as one of the finest songs I've ever heard from Mada Nile on any album to date. 
Mada Nile
Overall, I did offer a bit of a condition which does deserve a re-mentioning. "Dream Big", although it does have a few different colours and 'textures' in its thirteen tracks, is probably better suited for a more experienced and mature listener. Incidentally, if you are a longtime fan of Ras Batch and/or Ras Attitude - you're the PERFECT type of person likely to be able appreciate this set. Furthermore, I just really think there is something so nice and 'OPEN' about "Dream Big" and that's so despite the stipulation on it. By its end, it's an album which actually seemed much longer than it was. So, if you are a heavy Reggae fan or something like that and you always meant to check out something from Mada Nile, "something" just walked in the room. "Dream Big" is a very good album from beginning end and another powerful testament to the talents of Mada Nile and her, OBVIOUSLY, very skilled bloodlines. Well done. 

Rated: 4/5
Solar Power Entertainment
2012
CD

Review #391

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

'I Want The World To Know The Love of Jah' by Tuff Lion

'I Want The World To Know [The Love Of Jah]' by Tuff Lion [I-Sight Records]

Recently released has been a new pair of instrumentals from one of our absolute favourite people altogether in Reggae music, the most incomparable Tuff Lion via I-Sight Records, under the title 'I Want The World To Know [The Love Of Jah]'. Bredz (biggup Bredz), finally sent me the tunes, with the other being called the Healing Mix of 'Prescription Peace'. Of course, I always love when the Lion brings forth something new and in this case it's something that I'd seen and heard a bit of from awhile back and now that I have the full set, I thought that I'd tell you why you should have it as well. 

#1. 'I Want The World To Know [The Love Of Jah]'

The title selection here is a subtly very colourful and vibrant piece to my opinion. Those may not be the descriptors which arrive in one's mind through the first listen here, but I found that the more and more that I listened to it (and listened to it in the way I would listen to a song with vocals - where I was trying to really tune in the lyrics, meaning constantly rewinding it to make sure I got a particular portion accurately) 'I Want The World To Know [The Love Of Jah]' really just becomes more and more open and musically accessible to the listener. After having heard it now ten times in full, and maybe a few dozen now in pieces, I'm almost tempted to call it somewhat 'flashy'. Such things aren't really Tuff Lion's style and I probably couldn't make a strong case for this one being so either, however, I'd have not the slightest bit of difficulty in deeming it EXCELLENT, because that is exactly what it is. 

#2. 'Prescription Peace' [Healing Mix] 

I actually favour 'Prescription Peace' between the two tracks here although it wasn't always that way. This thing just…. TEARS! It brings tears to my eyes after awhile and I can take this sound in so many different directions and really make it applicable in several of them. Joining it back to its title, it does very much have the nature of something you might hear after a storm or a great battle is fought. But I also hear a type of 'everlasting' peace here as well, so I don't think I'd go too far away from center if I said that it also kind of makes me think of a funeral and not in a bad way. It's so serene that it very much has that type of a "mission accomplished" vibes to it, in many different ways.
Tuff Lion
'I Want The World To Know [The Love Of Jah]' by Tuff Lion is in digital stores right now, courtesy of I-Sight Records - so go buy it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

'The Accelerator': A review of "The Next Chapter" by Delly Ranx

Press gas. You know how much I love using examples to make my points because I feel that doing so really illustrates and illuminates what I'm trying to say. Regardless of just how poorly and how well something is actually written if, ultimately, I can hold up several other similar cases and, in effect, say "this is like those", then I think it gives whoever reading it (or just me) a grander frame of reference. Sometimes, however, I can't think of many or of any at all in the rarest of cases. Today is rare. What we're dealing with today is someone who I guess I can say that I simply underrated. Now that, in and of itself, certainly isn't anything rare, I probably misread people everyday in some aspect (and you probably do as well) and that is an assumption on my part full-on, because I cannot possibly come up with any other reason HOW it is possible that someone who I had regarded as being average or maybe just slightly better has suddenly become OUTSTANDING and probably one of my favourite artists of today, which is exactly what Delly Ranx has done. The only even remotely similar case that I can think of, unless I'm really overlooking someone, is one that's well in motion currently - Anthony Que. In 2012 he's gone from being a relatively mediocre talent, in my opinion, to being someone who has now dropped two of the finest albums of the year. Surely he will require much more of a look, but it's becoming more and more apparent that the singer is simply someone who is much more skilled and talented than I ever gave him credit for being. Delly's case is different still. He's been around the music for about as long as I can recall and he's been active, leaving a much larger 'test surface' than the somewhat nomadic Que and he's also been fairly high-profile which has made his output fairly accessible, so it makes it very hard for me to believe that one day he just kind of 'GOT GOOD'. No, he was almost surely this good all along - I just wasn't ready to see it.
"Good Profile" [2009]
I am now. A few years back Delly Ranx put out what was, I THINK, his second album to date, the solid "Good Profile" for the once mighty Itation Records and that album, which reached in 2009 definitely replaced him firmly on my radars and, even in that instance, he had gone from this kind of rough around the edges DJ to being someone who wasn't entirely different, but someone who was much more capable than one generally carrying such a description. Almost EVERYTHING that I've heard from that point has been gold. And that makes even more of an impact when you consider that his very own label, Pure Music Productions, has also become a favourite of mine and, in that case, while you may not be a fan of Delly Ranx' to the degree that I now find myself being, I wouldn't even hear an argument saying that the label hasn't been amongst the most impressive in all of Reggae music over the past two or three years of so. It wouldn't make the slightest bit of sense. 

So! When you take all of that into consideration and add to it the fact that, in general, Delly Ranx has been exceedingly active for several different labels other than his own, his next move, whatever it may be, becomes all the much more anticipated and potentially crucial. Well, if you were waiting (and you were) your time is over. Delly Ranx recently gave the masses his next creation, the eighteen tracked set, "The Next Chapter". Coming via his own Pure Music Productions, the album features several of the DJ's biggest tunes of recent times, mixed in with some strong new moments as well and, although released within a year which has featured so many fine moments already and with more to come, "The Next Chapter" proves to be amongst some of the very best records of 2012. When I first saw the name of this album I kind of felt a little (surely misguided and… dumb) vindication. It was almost like the artist, himself, was saying in some way that all what came before now was different. That this was a new time coming and a new artist and that Delly felt he was hitting a new stage in his career as an artist. While that may or may not have been a part of the thinking behind the title (and the song for which it is named after), what is fairly clear throughout the album is that Delly has also started to move into a direction where it seems as if he's now well conscious of some type of shift that has taken place for himself. He's no longer an artist sticking within a pack, he's now one of the most in-demand and the most demanded of (two different things) and with that comes a great deal of responsibility and in my most overactive of brains, I'd like to think that this album and its title track are informal declarations of Delly OFFICIALLY accepting his new place. Now I may just have overanalyzed (but that's what I do) what I hear on this album, but I think it's worthy of it as it is excellent by its end. Like the "Good Profile" piece, but to a greater degree, "The New Chapter" is a record which focuses more on the Roots and social side of things and doesn’t dip a great deal into the Dancehall. I would say that, however, as a conditioner to that statement - this is a VERY modern blend of the music. It kind of reminds of what Konshens & Delus were doing on their most recent album, "Modern Revolution" from a few years back. It has different vibes and colours mixed in, and it wouldn't be as good if it were if it didn't, but in total I have no problem calling this a Roots Reggae album. Call it Dancehall. Call it Roots. Just call it Reggae. Call it Neo-Salsa if you like. It doesn't matter. Pick up "The Next Chapter" and you'll be calling it one of the best 2012 has to offer. Let's go! 
from Pure Music Productions
As I alluded to, much of the production on the album goes to Pure Music Productions and that's a fine thing as the label has definitely pushed forth some really strong riddims in recent times, but also featured are compositions from a handful of other imprints, which eventually creates a well rounded and extensive sound to my ears. The first thing your ears will receive the wonderful opportunity to wrap themselves around on the big new album from veteran Delly Ranx, "The Next Chapter", is one of the album's absolute finest tune, the stirring 'If I Knew'

"If I know the things I knew then, that I know now
My life wouldn't be the same
Cah mi know seh good things come to those who wait
And success comes with pain 
If I know the things I knew then, that I know now
My life wouldn't be the same
Cah mi know seh good things come to those who wait
An greatness come with pain

Mi nah go put mi trust inna no mankind
Almighty mi ah praise from longtime
Look how mi teach dem fi do di ting
Show dem di juggling
And how dem gwan like dem waan take mine
To alla di ladies I've hurt before -
Mi did ah play a game and did ah try fi score
PLEASE FORGIVE ME FOR MY CHILDISH WAYS!
Mi know mi nah go do dat no more

This ah di present mi prepare for di future
My mind so focused like a computer
Mi get inspiration from Martin Luther - King
So mi know seh dem caah trick di youth yah 
Nuff people fake and ah gwaan like dem real
Ah smile inna yah face when dem ah try stop ya meal
My success dem did ah try steal
But dem haffi hide when di truth reveal

To alla di people weh use mi and tink dem win -
Remember: everything is everything
Mi caah turn back di hands of time
So Delly deh pon di grind and ah gwan hail The King
Mi nah hold no grudge 
Mi nah cuss nobody 
Mi nuh waan nobody feel seh mi a mad smaddy
Mi nah regret di good nor di bad
Mi just ah step like di child of God" 

MAGIC! When you take this tune from where it originates, on Delly's Turnpike Riddim, and drop it right in the lap of the listener on this album, it really takes on a different type of vibe. This is the best song I hear on the album and it's one of the best songs I've EVER heard of Delly's. It also kind of captures my mindset now and is, otherwise, very relatable as Delly just goes through and admits his faults and his mistakes and owns up to them and continues along. BEAUTIFUL! Next up is a piece which is sure to be a highlight, 'Life After Lifetime' which features the also very much currently in demand man of the moment, Bunny Rugs (new album, "TIME", in stores now). Besides being a very strong piece on its own, this song also somewhat continues to express on the subjectry of the opener - to maintain and continue one's place and pace in life - and although you'll make more than your fair share of mistakes, definitely attempt to right things and go right along. Big tune. 'Two Ways' is the final selection of the opening lot and it's quite a bit different from its two predecessors. This song is one speaking on relationships and it has a very unique point of view on the well visited topic in Reggae. Delly's point here is that, in a relationship, you have to kind of perform the 'give and take' for the betterment of that relationship and he also ties it into just a more 'basic' friendship as well which gives the song a greater texture and a greater impact to my opinion. 

"The Next Chapter" is an album which impresses on several different surfaces. Not the least of which is the fact that it's probably lyrically one of the (if not THE) best albums I've heard in quite some time. Delly puts on a memorable word-ish display throughout and when you have that type of a base for your music, it makes so much fall in line succinctly. For example? Check the downright STUNNING 'Africa Here I Come'

"Afrika, Afrika here I come!
Wid di right energy, di vibes and di fun
Afrika, Afrika here I come!
Wid songs of joy outta mi cranium
Afrika, Afrika here I come!
Come mek wi play Reggae music inna di stadium
Afrika, Afrika here I come!
Fi dance round di fyah and beat Kette drum

Hey mi ahgo live my Afrikan dream
Nuff love goes to my Afrikan Queen
Black like a tar, inna mi life she fit in
She virtuous, so mi and her make a team
She know fi wash, know fi cook, she know fi clean
Love making she can create a steam
Another man look har she nah let him in -
Because she ah live her life clean"

I read a bit of an interview from awhile back where Delly said that his personal favourite song on the album was this Snow Cone produced set and it's really hard to argue with that as it brings both entertainment - being sonically one of the best tunes here - and education on one piece. Big tune. Similarly, I'd point to the somewhat different aforementioned title track. First of all, very interesting here is the SOUND of this track which is very much one part Reggae (especially as it develops) and one part Zouk, which well makes for an interesting sound. Here, we really just find Delly accepting a different stage in his career (and his life to an extent with how long he's been doing music) and doing so with confidence and humility at the same time. The tune which immediately follows the title track is another real winner, the album's obligatory herbalist track, 'Nuh Bun Dung Di Herbs'

"Mi haffi talk mi mind and mek di people know how mi feel
Seh babylon ah try fi give wi a raw deal
Dem ah push wi to di edge fi go steal 
Cause everyday dem get up and bun dung ganja field
Di high grade, high grade, dat keep mi higher
So mi haffi biggup all high grade supplier 
Biggup Natty Chris and mi friend Bongo Nyah
Babylon lock off yah fyah!" 

Want more??? Try a tune which I had somewhat forgotten about , 'Nine To Five'. That song came from an excellent riddim from Breadback where it was the title track which also featured big tunes from quite a few different artists such as Lutan Fyah, Norris Man and others. Again, you feature it on the album and you give it another life and hopefully people pay a great deal of attention to it here, because it is so good. 'Work Hard' echoes the thoughts of that song as well and it's probably the stronger between the two as well. The latter well has a more of a economical statement to make and I LOVE how this one is written and utilizes the crystal clear City Streetz Riddim from Dynasty and Twelve Nine Records, respectively. More diamonds still come in the form of 'Money Haffi Make', which I probably wouldn't normally highlight in such a way, but on it Delly tackles one thing in particular which just impresses me SO MUCH.

"A long time mi ah work and ah sweat, now di money haffi make
Money haffi make
Dem ahgo seh mi and mi kids fortunate when di money dun make
Di money dun make
My family haffi live copaset when di money make
When di money make
Mi nah go spend cash, mi ahgo write only cheque after the money make
When di money make 

Alright, when mi money make mi nah go gal out mi ting
DOH WANT NO KNEW GIRL COME CROWN MI DI KING
A MI LONGTIME GIRLFRIEND MI AHGO GI DI RING
CAUSE SHE DEH DEH WHEN MI NEVA HAVE ANYTHING
SHE DEH DEH THROUGH DI STRUGGLE AND DI PAIN
WHEN NUTTIN NAH GWAN SHE NEVA COMPLAIN
SHE NEVA RUN DOWN FORTUNE OR FAME
SO SHE HAFFI GET DI UMBRELLA WHEN IT START RAIN!" 

WHAT! The man says that when the money starts to roll in, it's time to repay those that have stuck with you when you had absolutely nothing (and less than nothing) and never replace them. That's a powerful point in my mind and the tune which surrounds it is a real highlight during "The Next Chapter". 

Almost shockingly there is no tune on this album which features Delly Ranx' constant sparring partner and good friend, UK sensation Gappy Ranks, but in his absence, Delly does assemble a very colourful group of guests to join in. Along with Bunny Rugs, definitely the most recognizable to you and me is Buju Banton who chimes in on the outstanding remix of 'Thunder Roll' which comes through on Delly's own Mad Referee Riddim (biggup the NFL). There is just so much going on with that LIVELY tune that it wasn't to be missed and a year on, it hasn't lost a bit of its shine. Speaking of remixes (and Delly's riddims), Chali 2na, a veteran Hip-Hop artist, features on a remix of Delly's already sublime 'One Away Soldier' and only adds to the flames. THAT riddim, the Sweet Corn, was one of the best of last year (and it featured Lutan Fyah SMASHING it to bits on the MAMMOTH 'Trails & Crosses') and while I am not a fan at all of Hip-Hop, I have to give credit where its due and 2na's very different kind of LARGE delivery gives this one another sizable dimension ["God gave me five fingers and five toes to find gold"]! Still, I'd be willing to bet a whole heap of something to an equal amount of absolutely nothing at all that the moving 'Baby Cry' is the most special of combinations on "The Next Chapter" to its creator as it features a Gabrielle Foster who happens to be Delly's own daughter alongside her father. 

Earlier on during the record we get a trio of selections which are going to attract for different reasons, with the largest one being that they… just sound really good. 'Got It Forever', for instance, is a tune which kind of adopts the melody of a classic old R&B tune by the name of 'Cruising', and puts it across this electric and almost Groovy Soca-ish type of set which is DAMN hard to get out of your head. Trust me. I've tried. 'Gimmi Di Ting' is a very clever kind of old school piece which goes as far as it does through the use of very nice metaphors, but when you REALLY tune this song in, you'll see it's more than just smoke and mirrors, although those are nice too! 

"Gimmi di
Gimmi di
Gimmi di
Gimmi di ting weh di doctor order
Gimmi di
Gimmi di
Gimmi di
Di same ting yah madda give yah father"

And the final piece of the three is probably the best of them, the leaving NOTHING to the imagination, 'Push Wood'. Infectious, captivating - call it all of those. And there's something nice to be said about making music like this which just gets heads and feet moving and these tracks really add something of their own to "The Next Chapter". 

And lastly, rounding out the album is an interesting trio of tunes in 'Good Friend', 'Brave & Bold' and the actual close 'Keep Me Elevated'. The first, although certainly not a bad tune at all, is probably my least favourite here. It has an odd 'display' where, at least on what I hear, Delly's vocals almost seem IN FRONT of the riddim, the reloaded edition of the Addiction from Flava Squad, which makes it sound unusual to my ears, but like I said, the worst of this album isn't very bad at all. 'Brave & Bold' is just about exceptional in every way as it finds the DJ calling for women of the world to stand up for themselves and to begin to demanding more from those who they spend their time with - in a very nice message. And for its part, 'Keep Me Elevated' is a very MATURE love song with a big vibes to send us out on a high note. 

"Woman you give me happiness and take away the pain
The love weh you give me just ah tick inna mi brain
When mi ah sleep a night time, mi shout out your name
You give mi sunshine when it rain
Although mi miserable girl you understand -
Because you keep it real, you no change di plan
You neva mek ya family try fi mash up di union
A you a di one weh dem get di word 'true' from" 
Delly Ranx
Overall, yes I wrong. I was stupid. I really, REALLY fucked up! Delly Ranx didn't just get all of this talent over the past two or three years or so, it HAD to have always been in there somewhere and I just didn't read it correctly. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. Thankfully, however, I'm still here to see the day when his talents have reached a point where you just cannot ignore the man anymore. 2012 has been LOADED! You know if you come around here often enough that I'm well making it a priority to remind you to stop and enjoy everything that we've gotten thus far and "The Next Chapter" becomes one of the biggest pieces of the picture that I'm trying to paint. So it may've taken me a little longer to arrive at this point, but I'm a fan of this chapter and will be of the next and the next and the next. This album is fantastic.

Rated: 4.75/5
Pure Music Productions
2012
CD + Digital

Review #390

Monday, September 24, 2012

'More Than Just a Very Very Very Very Very Very Very Pretty Face': A review of "Conflict" by Shelly G

Look who's back. I can write a hundred (or four hundred) of these things and write maybe a few dozen about the same individual and probably never tire of doing even more and more. Some people, in my opinion, just warrant that amount of attention and, through our time, I have made it abundantly clear that I have not the slightest of difficulties in chanting it out every chance that I get when someone has impressed me greatly for whatever the reason (which makes me a really, really good fan!). On top of that, even better for me is when someone in particular isn't necessarily a 'household name' and may still be very much in the process of building their fan base. This, of course, presents me with a selfish opportunity when, a few years on, they've destroyed everything, everywhere and I can essentially sit back and say, "I told you so. I told ALL OF YOU!". Very mature. I know. Naturally, you can look at the history of these pages and see that I have that most interesting type of fascination of artists such as Stevy Mahy, Sara Lugo (it's Sara Lugo!), Toussaint, Messenjah Selah and others who musically (and visually in Mahy's case) (DAMN!) have absolutely dazzled me and while they may not be the most well known of artists, yet, they're amongst the most popular for me and very much so amongst the most talented as well. Someone else who I don't get the opportunity to talk about as much as I'd like to in terms of the current sense - although I go out of my way to do so, and will continue to - is the sweetness that comes within the human body of the magnificent Shelly G (that sounds so dirty). Shelly, like we mentioned in regards to Sahra Indio not long ago, has been somewhat of a 'project' listen for me. She's always been someone who had something about her which kind of made it difficult to categorize and characterize, because you ALWAYS get the impression that her work, whatever it is, is not only still in progress and process, but it's probably been closer to the start for her than the end. Much closer! I still feel that way, actually, despite having already had a very interesting career and I REALLY look forward to what she does next each and every time. 

Like now. Up until a few years ago, to my knowledge at least, the vast majority of Shelly G's work came via a Dyamix Music, but in recent times she's hooked up with what has been, by far, the most visible and active label in her native Guyana, Vizion Sounds Records (not to be mistaken with the completely similarly named Sound V.I.Zion imprint from out of St. Croix - biggup Ras Batch). With them - BOOM! She's been more and more active these days and the former Guyanese Soca Monarch (does anyone know who won GT Monarch in the last two years??? Anyone at all?)  (biggup Bones Man!) (wasn't it Bones Man who took OECS Monarch stage and slowly, but surely turned into a stripper???) (WHAT!) (I digress) has also branched out the nature of her music and has gone from being this really colourful and sultry Soca artist to being an incredibly versatile and adapting artist, capable of almost anything. As I said, she's also been more prolific and, in doing so, has released a handful of albums in a very short time, all of which cover a variety of different styles, from Soca to Reggae (which is the historical specialty of Vizion Sounds) to Pop and everywhere in between (little Chutney in there as well). Oh and… yeah. Shelly G is VERY attractive so her being more visible is also a VERY good thing.
"Socadisiac" & "Just A Text" [2010]
Good days are upon us. Now, Vizion Sounds once again taps into the most unique talent that is Shelly G and pulls from it another album, "Conflict". It's a very interesting title for the album and while there isn't a title track, my most overactive of brains definitely steers it in a direction of my own because there're so many different styles and vibes which go into this album. Somewhere in my mind, as I believe I've said in the past, I'm STILL waiting for Shelly G to just COMPLETELY lose her mind on a record, and I think she may deliver on that one day (she's still young), but hearing her do such a wide variety of music and having ALL of it be so obviously and completely within her skillset is just so impressive and so satisfying for me - having so loudly sung her praises over the last few years. Shelly has been someone who I've also thought has had a great aspiration to become more of a mainstream act as well and things like that happen in ways which're, ultimately somewhat ridiculous, but listening to her now, I think that she's everything that she's ever been and more and while there isn't a GREAT emphasis on Soca music on "Conflict", one gets the impression that had the label and Shelly chosen to mix in more of the 'jump up' it would have proven to be similarly successful as well in its quality. She's in her prime to my ears, for if she gets even a little better, well then we may have to start reconsidering the issue of not being "necessarily a household name" (she is in my house! Dammit!). The album, I THINK, is her fourth or fifth. It is, almost surely, her third compiled set for Vizion Sounds as it follows "Socadisiac" (which is a really good name for a Shelly G album, in retrospect) and "Just A Text", both of which reached on the same day back in early 2011. The "Conflict" album is kind of 'expansion pack' of the latter in more ways than one, which can be a good thing, because "Just A Text" was pretty good and the only significant critique one could have with it was that it was… basically an EP  at just eight tunes. Checking in at FIFTEEN pieces, that's no such a concern for "Conflict" which, despite its lack of insanity is probably the finest album/obese EP that Shelly G has ever done. Let's do it!
'Let Me Love You Remix' featuring Glen Washington digital single [now available]
Along with this album, Vizion Sounds Records has also released a "Special" version of the project (which is actually called "Conflict Special" DUH!), which features originals and various mixes of tracks here. You can also probably call that "Just A Text Vol. 2". As for the first (and likely only) edition of Shelly G's "Conflict", it gets going in a most familiar of ways in the form of her previous sizable hit, the cool 'Mr. Right'. Shelly just has a very interesting way of infusing a great deal amount of sexiness in her music. I look at other artist (Sara Lugo being one of them) and we talk about just how they're able to place their PERSONALITY in a track and it's all apparent here for Shelly across this GORGEOUS riddim for the big opener and one of the album's best. Next, things take a bit of an unusual turn in the form of the R&B-fied 'Let Me Love You'. The tune itself is pretty decent with Shelly G adopting a sort of Macy Gray-ish tone of singing. However, most noteworthy of this song is the fact that there is a remix of it, which just happens to feature the currently flaming Glen Washington. It is also currently available and a bit better than the original and a very nice move on the parts of Shelly G (also sounds dirty) and Vizion Sounds, respectively. And wrapping up the opening Batch of songs here is the similarly vibed 'In Love' which features singer Rudy and might be the biggest track of the opening fifth (if it isn't, it's not very far from 'Mr. Right'). Again, we have a heavy love song, a duet in this case, featured across one LOVELY one-drop. I'm not going to say that this tune is decidedly and clearly a GREAT one, but it's really going to be difficult for me to hear how it isn't very, very good at least, for what it is. 

As I said, the "Conflict" album is one which really builds on the tunes set on the "Just A Text" release. Because of that (and because I just listen well), there're more than a couple of recognizable moments throughout this record. Certainly the most familiar of them all is 'Just A Text', the song. I liked this song from the first time I heard it and I don't know exactly how popular it was, but for me it stands a GLARING example of, again, Shelly just being Shelly on a tune and I've even had the honour of talking to her, herself about it as well. So biggup Shelly G until it hurts.


'Just A Text'

There's also 'Rastaman' (also talked to her about this song), which is very interesting in regards to the "Just A Text" set. That release contained an instrumental of this tune, almost like a preview and surely this took a bit too long to come through, but you now get the full version which is a sweet, SWEET tune.

"I need the Rastaman in my life
He should be here to spend quality time
When I get him, gonna make him mine
Can you tell me where can I find?

What do you like?
Ital stew, bring di callaloo
Baby I'd change my dish for you
I'd even go to the mountain top -
Weh di meditation don't stop
With the sweet vibration, inspiration
Baby me and you: The perfect combination
I won't do like other girls do -
Cause you know frustration"

It's another sexy song and one which comes from a bit of an original perspective as more times you'll hear a tune from a male saying the same thing. Turn it around and make it a woman and becomes something entirely different and a real winner in this case. there're also 'Freaky Freaky' and 'Never Never' (wonder why I lumped those two together), both of which came through on "Just A Text" (and I think that 'Freaky Freaky' is much older). Neither are amongst my favourites on the album, although neither are bad tunes either, with the latter coming out on top to my opinion. There's also 'Love Me', which I do like, despite the fact that it's somewhat gimmicky.

"L-O-V-E me
T-O-U-C-H me
K-I-S-S me"

You get the point, but it's a better tune than that and its golden riddim sounds like something directly out of Don Corleon's catalog - it's fantastic and the tune on top of it is one of the best on "Conflict".

Still, easily the most recognizable moment here is also is best, 'Your Love', which features Shelly G alongside Jamaican Reggae star, Jah Cure. This tune jumped up back in 2010 originally I believe and while I don't think that it was ever REALLY afforded the spotlight it deserved, it still managed to do a considerable total of damage and made a big impact on many ears - including mine and hopefully yours when you check it out. It's such a beautiful and vibrant tune and hopefully appearing here gives it another run. 

As for the material which is new [to me] on "Conflict", there're a few standouts still. Check a tune like 'Stay With Me' which has more than a little BITE to its sound, eschewing the more typical direction a love song, which is what it is, goes in normally. 'Checking Him Out', for its part, is absolutely delightful and it's the better part of the already quite infectious 'He's Making Me Hot'. There is just a TINGE of Soca on the second of those and it really sounds like something you'd expect to hear from Ce'Cile, which is a compliment at this point because Ce'Cile is wicked. Two more combinations are featured on "Conflict" with Vizion Sounds staples Fojo and Alabama joining in on 'No Games' and 'Bye Bye', respectively. The latter is the star of those (I like how I can just keep grouping these tunes together like this for the review, it's made it go very quickly) (biggup Achis) (or Archis or Archie, whatever you people still call me after all this fucking time!) with Fojo sounding like a lost member of the Morgans on the excellent track. Lastly, the album's closer 'Officer' is not only new to my ears, but a very new direction for Shelly G as well as she ends things with something of a social commentary. I told you - she can do it all.

"Mr. officer please, nuh lock mi up 
Mi de yah hustle, hustling deh pon di block
Mi seh please, nuh lock mi up
A hustle, man ah hustle, man fi make a buck
Mi seh please, nuh lock mi up
Come level wid me
Come mek wi sort this out
A mi seh please
Officer please

Yea mi dun school
Mi get my degree, but mi caan get a job
I was in di music industry, didn't know much about it
So di vipers dem used mi
They thought this was the end of mi
But mi mother treat mi well so mi nah waan become no thief 
Mi no waan pick no fare, mi no waan get hooked pon cocaine
It's a honest life mi ah try lead - hustle
So officer, mi ah beg your pardon 

Yeah mi mother is a Christian 
Mi fadda die fifteen years ago
I watch mi mother suffer for years trying to mind four kids
Two jobs she had, mi watch she cry everyday
Nobody neva help and every night I pray -
That when I'm old I could put a smile pon she face
It's a honest life mi ah try lead
Many nights mi seh mi deh pon mi knees
Cause mi waan fi give mi mother everything that she need
Officer please!
Nuh lock mi up"

Everything about this one is a star tune and something different from the artist. It features her delivering differently - basically deejaying and talking at times - and it really shows a serious progression of skills in my opinion and it's also something I hope she revisits in the future. 
The fun I could have with you. . .
Overall, this is Shelly G's best compiled piece of work to date, but I have not the slightest doubt that she'll soon top it. She's undergone such a nice transformation in her career and while the lasting visual image in my mind is of Shelly wining at Monarch (because it was awesome in every way), I don't even see her as that anymore. "Conflict" is a VERY far cry from that and the fact that someone who could make this could also deliver a Soca Monarch crown, taking it all in, is SPECTACULAR - it’s an amazing trait to have in a single human being. So while I don't know if/when mainstream success will come to Shelly G and I don't know even if/when she'll become that 'household name' in Soca/Reggae circles, in my mind and wherever we end up writing, she'll always be someone who I most look forward to discussing. Why? Check out her new album, "Conflict", and you'll know. Well done. 

Rated: 4.25/5
Vizion Sounds Records
2012
Digital

Review #389