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
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

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
CD + Digital

Review #390

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