Blooming. I'm always looking for and listening for new things and, specifically, new artists to add to my 'regular' listening rotation and although that is something which can very much be a complicated process, at times, it is almost always worth it. So, hopefully I won't live to see myself as this kind of stale, jaded and just irritating type of fan who is stuck in their ways to the point where they can't even listen to something new, whether the deviation from their usual habits is great or virtually non-existent - I may not like it when I hear (and I usually don't) - but there's always room for new things which are good and new people with talent, wonderfully. If you keep up with Reggae music today, this is something which has been completely constant in this era and, looking forward, I like to think that one of the, if not the, most significant development/occurrence in this current era of the music is that it opened wide the proverbial gates and EVERYONE came running in. By far one of the most significant areas which has taken advantage of this, of course, is the Virgin Islands who continues to churn out not only GREAT [and an unconditional level of greatness] vocal artists, but great producers, albums, songs, musicians and just a substantial amount of music which has come to help, at least partially define a generation. Going deeper, is it not so interesting to anyone else how, even when it seemed, just a few years ago, to be a great dearth of actually skilled and dominant female artists and particularly of the Roots Reggae style before the emergence of Etana and the prime of someone like Queen Ifrica (anytime with that new album Ifrica), the VI just continued to produce them. We look at people today like Dezarie who probably has some of the most passionate fans and is amongst the most respected of artists - in the entire genre, regardless of gender. And along with her are names such as Mada Nile who we recently looked at (big new album, "Dream Big", in stores now), people like Sistah Joyce, Lady Passion, Jahdesta (yep…), the Positively Nelsons, Empress Nyingro and others who, at this point, have established themselves as artists to watch in varying stages of their careers, respectively. Well we now have to shift them around, and shift everyone a bit, to make room for someone who has just so adroitly added to her name to that list and added their music to my playlists, Reemah.
|"Break The Soil" by Bambú Station |
An interesting thing happened on my way to Reemah. Like so many of her talented peers, the first time you heard of the St. Croix born Reemah was likely on her work alongside Bambú Station. The chanter would appear on the group's very well received "Break The Soil" album from 2006, guesting on an excellent track by the name of 'Chance To Grow'. Clearly so impressed with her work, Bambú Station would also go on to produce an EP from Reemah, "No Questions" in 2008, and really set her course in motion to an inevitable album and while it probably took a little longer than anyone (including you) had hoped, it got here.
I actually received Reemah's brand new debut album, "Check Your Words", a few months back - maybe sometime in August… ish. And I gave it a quick and cursory listen before moving on to a few other things that we've done lately and I got busy in general (meaning I stopped pursuing my black belt in the ancient art of procrastination). It had, basically, become one of those albums that I'm sure everyone has, where it just kind of slipped through the 'cracks' and I'm sure I would've come back to it eventually, but up until quite recently, it seemed like a perfect future candidate for a 'vault review'. What changed that??? I have great readers. One of our favourites, JP, linked us and was extremely passionate about a new album he had recently picked up… which was called "Check Your Words" by someone named Reemah or something like that. He was wondering why I hadn't mentioned it yet and if I had heard it at all, because he thought it was excellent. He was right. Even in a brief listen, Reemah can (and she did) make a fine impression for so many different reasons. First of all is her delivery. She's part singer and part chanter, but completely LYRICAL. In terms of style (not sound), I would say that her closes comparison would be to someone like the unearthly gifted Queen Omega, as they both have this sharp and ever-present 'edge' to their style and where Omega will, occasionally just seem to get ANGRY and go after a track, Reemah will do the same and when she does the results are booming. Also, you don't get to hear it too often, but Reemah also seems to either have or has the beginnings and hints of a top notch singing voice, because she has this very LOUD sounding affect to her voice. There also appears to be a slight bit of influence of the great Vaughn Benjamin in her. I'm probably the only one who'd make that connection, but the way this woman has this tendency to go on these lyrical tirades is somewhat reminiscent of the lyrical extraordinaire frontman of Midnite (there's also a Midnite-ish cover on this album). All of that goes to make one very interesting figure, regardless of who she/he would be and also someone I'm somewhat disappointed that I didn't musically delve into a bit further back, because she would have definitely become part of that constantly mentioned group I like to refer this year (biggup Sara Lugo) (biggup Toussaint) (biggup Mark Wonder). She's fantastic. But how good, exactly was "Check Your Words" and can I actually write this review without word checking it (I can and I will!). The album proves to be, easily, be one of the finest debut sets I've heard in quite some time and, if you had any doubts remaining at this point, Reemah well figures to be someone sticking around for the long ride and is a welcome addition to the genre as well. Let’s do it!
Feel Line Records takes credit for this album, but heavy listeners are sure to find some familiar moments sprinkled in, musically, throughout the album and it's always nice to hear how different voices and different minds take on some of your favourite riddims, still going strong. Reemah manages to give them a second-wind of sorts and, simultaneously, she's also sure to breathe of a bit of life into your collection should you exercise a bit of common sense and pick up, and then actually listen to, her debut album (biggup Achis), "Check Your Words". Getting us going is a HEAVY piece in 'Hypnotize'. Like many songs on the album, in one way or another, the opener is a social commentary. This song also happens to be divine from a sonic point of view. It's a really nicely vibed song and it brought a smile to my face as soon as I got into it. I'm confident it'll do the same to you, but definitely pay attention to what is being said as well. Next up is the very familiar 'Better Way', which happens to utilize the Grasslands Riddim, with which you should be well acquainted already from it having 'grown' all over the MAMMOTH shot that was the "Joyful Noise" album from a few years back and birthed several big tunes ["redddddddd hot!"]. Reemah uses it to deliver a spiritually geared look at the tangible world today and she hit's a level of brilliance in the process.
"Somebody ring di alarm cause more body come
Everybody warring - tell me is it worth it?
And it's a far cry, but we got to try
And I pray that one day, we realize that this isn't working
Majority caan escape the poverty, oh Lord this is a tragedy
Why does it hurt like this?
Can't fight the feeling, to see how everybody grieving
The world is in a crisis
This is to the people out there
We've got to find a better way
Got to break free, have no fears
Let's find a better way
Everyday, another youth blood running cold, inna plain view
Somebody please make a rescue
And some a di parents not even old enough to pay rent
Lord we need a breakthrough
Looking out at society - so many broken dreams, what does it say to me?
Emptiness, Lord please feel the vacancy
HOW CAN THEY SAY THEY CARE AND STILL LET THIS BE?"
This was really the first indication I got on "Check Your Words" that I was dealing with a truly superior talent in terms of writing and it didn't stop there. Next up is a boom and a signature track from the album, the COMPREHENSIVE 'War'. This song… It made me sing with it and then it made me concentrate and it made me feel good - it's just an absolute JOURNEY of a song which examines war in society in obvious and not-so-obvious channels. As it develops, the tune well takes on something Benjamin-esque and Reemah just begins damaging!
"…Experimental disaster - human/animal chimera
Moving faster long di new wordless order
Ethnic cleansing - blood of humanity spill over
Just look upon di frontline - war and terror"
You can, without any worry at all, drop in at any point during "Check Your Words" and find something which is big and interesting with the real star, as I said, remaining Reemah's powerful word imagery throughout. Of course, I was very interested in hearing the title track to see in which direction it would go. It took me a couple of spins, but what I finally got out of it was that it was a message from Reemah to some of her peers who may be singing righteous songs, but not living too righteously. This one is DEEP and, for someone like me, a really ripe piece of musical discourse as it can well take some time getting through and I'm still really getting through, but it was long ago that I decided it was a big tune to my opinion. The song immediately following the title song was another title I was looking forward to hearing and it did not disappoint, 'Dominion & Control'. This is a song more addressing the system of corruption and those who fall (and in some cases, willingly and without knowing it) within it. This was just a very intelligent track and one, again, would be very nice to start a discussion surrounding. Speaking of corruption (and intelligence), the BRIGHT 'In Dem Purse' finds Reemah weighing in on people who… do all kind of nastiness for the sake of making money. She takes a big step further than that by directly criticizing and addressing the system which 'creates' people who are like that in a lyrically dazzling display, which pinnacles on the BLASTING second verse of the song. Check the glorious 'Wanderaz', which well sounds, at least at the chorus, like something you'd hear from the aforementioned Dezarie. Here, Reemah goes after the zombie-like and lost people of the world who appear to be like regular people and may even sound the part, but are completely empty inside.
"While they observin', ready to throw a couple of words in
Ready to tell you about your shortcomings yeah
And still I feel and know is the worst thing -
TO BE LOST WITHOUT EVEN THEIR KNOWING"
The very familiar tones of 'Jah World' which, as its title suggests, tells all to show some RESPECT for the world does not belong to you and I, but to a much greater power. Similar to that song is the fine 'Live In Love', which is a song that I have actually heard prior to this album. Again, while it's more of the mental side of things, this is a tune speaking of how important it has become for people to live more righteous and upstanding lives, if for no other reason, than to show respect to The Almighty ["life is so much more than you're thinking of. Jah dun give enough for every one of us"]. And the final tune on "Check Your Words" also follows along those lines, 'Try Love'. I was actually expecting this song to be more of a 'love song', meaning in the typical sense of that phrase, but it's more of a broader composition and a song which isn't necessarily falling in love (although there're definitely some elements of that here and if that is the conclusion you came to, I wouldn't actually disagree with you), but more about using love as an actual, semi-tangible, force to inject some goodness into yourself and those around you. Beautiful song.
NOW! With all of that being said, there were three (four, if you include ‘War') songs on "Check Your Words" which really stood out to my opinion and, coincidentally, all three selections, in their own way, feature Reemah showing just a bit more fire and edge, which really makes for such an exciting song as a listener. 'No Questions' which, obviously, was the title track of the EP Reemah did for Bambú Station from a few years back and a golden song.
"Evil in all places
Babylon working overtime, trying to destroy youths mind
Convincing words while they smile
Eradication of all but their own kind
Moral crisis and infanticide
Obsessed over credit, now it gone worldwide
Why won't you show them who you really are under your disguise?
Go to go out and burn down all babylon sign!
So don't ask no question no!
Just burn down babylon
And wid di torch inna hand -
Fire to come burn down all evil one
Don't ask no question, no!
Just burn down babylon
And wid di torch inna hand -
Fire to come purify all di wicked ones"
BOOM! Reemah goes on to outline a whole heap of disgusting-ness taking place in the world today and says that there is "no question" that things must change for the betterment of everyone. I love the urgency behind the delivery on this tune because when you listen to what she is saying, it isn't the type of thing you say with just any type of tone. You get angry and she does that, which gives this song an 'organic performance' type of a feel and maybe even something you'd hear from out of the arena of more traditional Spoken Word. BIG, BIG song. 'Judgement Red' is another piece which really hit me and while the fire may not blaze as hot as it can on this one, Reemah distributes an absolute master class of a piece, again, not sounding so greatly unlike Mr. Benjamin ["open Jah door and enter"]. And finally is my single favourite song on the whole of the "Check Your Words" album, a song which I immediately gravitated towards, the MAMMOTH 'Due Time'.
"Hear dem out
Hear wah di streets talk bout:
'No justice. No peace', dem shout
One more politician - one more doubt
One man cry represent all bout
Unfair practice dem dun spiral route
Make sure you feed your mind not just your mouth
Blind repetition cause spiritual drought
Sure, inna these times, the weak weed out
The real, camouflages make-believe
What is on your screen was already conceived
Isn't it ironic how you wipe your plate clean?
What yah gonna do when we level the playing field?
Time fi ease di tension
Inna due time fi ease di tension
Cycle repeat inna slow motion
Renegade style fi shatter the faction
Fi real - time fi ease di tension
Inna due time fi ease di tension
Cycle repeat inna slow motion
Renegade style shatter the faction
Mental slavery -
Dem still ah chain we
Dem waan wi remain ignorant and getting used daily
Religious fanatics, no dem neva speak plainly
On wid dem struggle a di focus mainly
I chant truth and I chant reality
Supply di work and still ah form charity
Hide underground and dem leave out di majority
What pon di TV, dem get caught, believe me
Living inna world where nothing no come freely
All dem deh loan what dem care bout really
ALL ON DEM KNEES AND DEM STILL A SLEEP EASY
You feel me?
Truth be told: The pressure coming back tenfold
No amount of money cannot save ya soul
Caan box me in, cah me no on ya payroll
What kinda livity wah dem ah uphold?
Some choose life and some ah choose bowl
Some choose humility and some ah walk bold
Wi no follow fashion cause dem fashion too old
Find truth that's your own cause di strong stand alone
Hey, let me read your prophecy
Full circle ah come around wid a tenacity
Sabotage life now you come out wid a casualty
No more you plead, it time fi you pay ya penalty"
I mean… just… DAMN! The track rides the same riddim used on 'Rise & Fall' from the "Black Gold" album by Toussaint and featuring Jahdan Blakkamoore and it tops that excellent piece in my opinion as Reemah comes through with a huge track and the best moment on the album in my opinion.
Overall, I don't even know where start here. My only actual critique, I guess, is that it would have been nice to hear Reemah do a combination or two with someone (and you probably could have picked almost anyone and I would have been happy with that, but if you left it to me, easily I would have chosen Queen Omega). I think that it would have been a very nice change of styles, inherently, and hopefully we can expect some of that on album #2. Until then, however, Reemah doesn't have much to work on at all, she's about as complete of an artist, for her style, that you'll find and is, in fact, already is one of the most naturally gifted female artists from out of the VI and, as we've already established - that is a very big deal. So while it may've (it did) take me way too long to get around to making it happen, "Check Your Words" finds Reemah well making another very passionate and happy fan. Me. Excellent.
Feel Line Records
CD + Digital