Without a hint of a doubt, Spragga Benz is one of the most gifted deejays to ever pick up a microphone and his career, and all of its many twists and turns, has been one of the most successful that the Dancehall has ever seen. Now into his third decade of making hits, Benz has done what very few of his peers have managed to do in showing an intense level of consistency throughout the years and, seemingly, in every phase of his career he has also remained one of the most in-demand stars on the scene as well. His popularity has also extended to more mainstream circles where, although he may not get as much credit for it, Spragga Benz has also established his name in other areas, working with some of the biggest names in the Hip-Hop world, while not at all sacrificing his musical base. Today we take a look at the album catalog of one of the genuine and bonafide stars of the Dancehall. Discography: Spragga Benz
|The music of Spragga Benz|
"Jack It Up" [VP Records - 1994]
Mind & soul. Spragga Benz' debut set, "Jack It Up" would come wayyyyyyy back in 1994 (I turned thirteen that year) via VP Records and, in retrospect, was just an extremely FUN set and still very much is, even now, almost two decades later (damn, when did I get so old!). It is, at least by me, regarded as one of the better Dancehall debut albums in the history of the genre and it really hasn't faded much for an album of its age and class - it remains quite popular to this day. Of course that shouldn't be surprising as, constructed on the quality of tracks such as the title tune, 'Could Ah Deal', 'Who Next' [Grrrr!], 'Dem Flop' and several others, the "Jack It Up" album is a classic.
"Uncommonly Smooth" [Capitol Records - 1995]
Cross-under. Obviously encouraged by the enormous successes of Shabba Ranks, Super Cat and others at the time, worldwide major, Capitol Records, came calling on Spragga Benz to see if he could duplicate their achievements. Maybe he couldn't, maybe he could, but I'll maintain that, despite producing an album for the label, "Uncommonly Smooth", he never really received a fair opportunity to prove himself in either way. Although it probably isn't as bad as I've always given it 'credit' for being, Spragga's sophomore release wasn't a very good album and is, without question, the single worst album that he has ever done. While it did have its more 'organic' moments, such as 'Body Good' and 'No Matey' (both of which would have fit well onto the "Jack It Up" album), this project was clearly aimed at introducing the deejay to a more mainstream and international audience and it kind of presented him as this kind of 'streamlined' romantic musician. In the process, much of the aggression, the passion and, ultimately, the FUN of "Jack It Up" was also trimmed away. Cocoa Tea, Chevelle Franklyn and others guested.
"Fully Loaded" [VP Records - 2000]
'Weh Ya Say Star'
'Weh Ya Say Star'
Conqueror. Spragga's third album altogether and second for VP Records, "Fully Loaded", in my opinion, remains his opus and if it released a year later, I would have probably slapped a "Modern Classic" review on it. Where its 'natural' predecessor, "Jack It Up", still strikes me as being such a fun listen, "Fully Loaded", as its title would suggest, had such a great deal of material to offer [twenty-one tracks] and was a fantastic display of an entirely undeniable skill and is one of the finest Dancehall albums I have EVER heard. Highlighting were a variety of tracks such as 'Wi Nuh Like', the inventive 'Weh Ya Say Star', 'She Nuh Ready Yet', 'Some Bwoy', the hilarious 'Pum Pum Conqueror', 'Peace', 'Mur-Da-Rah', 'Do It An Done', 'Too Stoosh' which featured Hip-Hopper, Foxy Brown, and, of course, the infamous 'Backshot', alongside Lady Saw. HOWEVER, with this album, Spragga would also manage to surprise and he did so in the form of the spiritually guided 'Call Upon Jah Name' and my absolute favourite track he has EVER done, 'Sleep With Angels'. TEARS!
"Thug Nature" [Empire Musicwerks - 2002]
Clear? I don't want to, AT ALL, point you in the wrong direction: "Thug Nature" was VERY good! Skimming briefly, I can confidently say that there're only two albums here which I can DEFINITELY say I favour greater than it (both of which I've already told you about). Checking in at twenty very healthy selections, the album, although poorly promoted and never very well known, was a nice addition to Benz' catalog and it carried more than a few big songs. 'Analogy', 'Bait [Mek Dem Talk]', 'Spin Yu Roll', 'Gi Wi Dem' with Red Square and definitely my personal favourite, 'Playa' were starring moments along with several others. HOWEVER! What was so unfortunate about "Thug Nature" was the fact that (at least to my knowledge), there did not exist a version of it which was not frustratingly edited. Take that and combine it with the "Undiluted Dancehall" portion of the cover and you have a perplexing moment on an album which was still very good.
"Live Good" [Victor Entertainment - 2007]
Rising one. Just a few short years ago, in the mid to late 2000's, it was well the trend for some of the most talented stars of the Dancehall to head to Japan to do albums. While, in the rest of the world, Dancehall albums seemed to be on a great decline (and they still are, in my opinion, with just two or three, at the most, big names doing albums annually), Japan remained not only interested in putting out such projects, but remained capable to do so as well. So, Spragga Benz would join the likes of Voicemail, Chino, Vybz Kartel, Munga Honourable and others and the result of that was "Live Good" - an album which I'm still sure isn't even known amongst some of his more faithful supporters. That is too bad because, while it wasn't the greatest and was rather fitting for its time and just a while before - where the set was, essentially, just an amalgam of previous singles - "Live Good" was… pretty good! Containing well known tracks such as 'To The Right', the dominant title track, 'Gonna Fight' and 'Guns & Girls & Ganja', there was a great deal here worth hearing for what it was. Furthermore, the album would also carry a pair of big combinations in 'One Two Order' and 'Bedroom Slaughteration', which would feature Frisco Kid and, most interestingly, the aforementioned Vybz Kartel, respectively.
"Prototype" [Drop Di Bass Records - 2008]
Triple up. The "Prototype" album forever be remembered (at least by me) as being part of trio of releases which the label, Drop Di Bass Records, used to make their formal introduction to the world back in 2008. Released at virtually the same were "Madd Bwoy Anju" by… Madd Anju and Sizzla's "Addicted". One label, at the same, does an album from Sizzla Kalonji, Spragga Benz and FINALLY Madd Anju's debut. DAMN! That is one of the most memorable ways of making an 'entrance' that I can recall (although perhaps it is somewhat interesting that, at least to my knowledge, while they have made tracks from then, they've yet to produce another album in the subsequent half decade) (and if I recall correctly they were going to do something with Calibe, who also appears here). For his part, Spragga delivered what was, easily, the second best out of three. "Prototype", like its two siblings, was inherently somewhat odd. It contained THREE tracks which were combinations between legends, Spragga and Kalonji, none of them had any lasting value and while it did have its moments, "Prototype" was far from Spragga's best. Far, far from it.
"Shotta Culture" [BoomTunes - 2010]
The piano. I think that it says a great deal about someone when they can release what is, unarguably, their most high profile set to date, more than fifteen years following their debut and do so with an album which has still never (and will never) reached CD form. That is precisely what Spragga Benz did a few years ago when he reached with the much, much anticipated "Shotta Culture". Produced by the famed Salaam Remi, the album was reportedly years in the making and there was a documentary and multiple videos and singles and really just an intense level of promotion for the project. As for the actual music, that was something else. I don't like this album as much as I once did and I also don't dislike it as much as I once did. In fact, the reason Spragga's name jumped up for a feature was because I recently went back and had another listen and was impressed again. "Shotta Culture" was solid. It was kind of DARK, with several tunes coming with a similar kind of heavy pace (including my personal favourite, the MAMMOTH 'Duppy Nuh Frighten Vampire' and two of the piece's most recognizable moments in the title track and 'Protect Your Culture'), but it had a few BRIGHT moments as well. It also had a healthy guest list, with everyone from Marcia Griffiths, to Stephen Marley, to Shabba Ranking, to Sizzla Kalonji, to rapper Nas and someone everywhere in between joining up with Spragga Benz for his most recent release to date, the very popular "Shotta Culture".