Sunday, May 5, 2013

Modern Classics XXXVIII: "Reign Of Fire" by Capleton

"Reign Of Fire" by Capleton [VP Records - 2004]
As I've said in the past, when it comes to the absolute greatest of our artists we, very much, look to them to do great things and in doing so, when they do, they thrill us. It is never more the case when we get the opportunity to see and hear them do these things in or near the prime of their careers. When you take someone who IS truly great and you place them at their greatest the results are… not bad to say the least. 
"More Fire" [2000] & "Still Blazin" [2002]
Right now we're going to be taking at a look at something and at someone who perfectly exemplified this situation. Capleton is a legendary artist and at one of the various peaks of his storied time making music he did something very unique and very rare. In a succession of three albums 'The Prophet' would drop three which were amongst the very best the genre has ever had to offer. On top of that, despite several of his peers such as Beenie Man, Elephant Man and, of course, Sean Paul, having major international deals around the same time, Capleton's releases were (much, MUCH better) respected in mainstream circles as well and while he may not have been as commercially successful, unless I'm REALLY overlooking something, this genre has never birthed a mainstream album which has earned more respect for its star than these three did for Capleton. The first of them, 2000's "More Fire", was the best of them and one of the best five albums I've ever heard. Then there was "Still Blazin" two years on, already a Modern Classic on these pages. Two years after that was an album which would wrap up the trio and simultaneously cement one of the greatest 'reigns' Reggae music has ever produced. It now joins its brothers as a certified all-time great: "Reign Of Fire"

  The Music

"Reign Of Fire Medley #1"

#1. 'Jah Is My Everything'

Despite the fact that several more songs on "Reign Of Fire" have sense risen a great amount and the fact that the second song on the album has, itself, become a modern classic, my personal favourite tune on the album has always been and remains its thunderous opener, 'Jah Is My Everything'. There is just something so ROYAL about  the tune which gives it this totally different very appreciable quality to it. The tune was a praising piece, but it was one which was interesting because at its core the point was 'I/You must do better because' - "Jah is my everything!". It really pushed up THE highest standard and simultaneously, at least in my opinion, produced an amazing song under the master handiwork of the legendary Bobby Digital who produces several songs on this album. 

Best Lyrics: "There is no stumbling block that HE can't move. And always remember who prepare your food. And there is no fear HE can't cast away. Live an upful life and neva let yah life be lost away. There is no problem HE can't solve, so inna certain things no bodda get involved. Well Rastafari is the ultimate and HE alone can get all these problems resolved"

#2. 'That Day Will Come'

The single biggest commercial hit carried by this album, Capleton's cut of the MASSIVE Hardtimes Riddim, 'That Day Will Come' did mighty things and became a signature moment of The Prophet's after the turn of the century. The actual song was a social commentary, but it was one which was technologically state-of-the-art and really a great representation of the type of music that Capleton is capable of. You'll, theoretically hear dozens of songs like this, but his will still be amongst the very best for a reason which we'll certainly discuss more in closing. BOOM!


#3. 'Wise Up People'

Another Digital-B production, 'Wise Up People' is a tune which never really got the full attention that it would've deserved based on its quality. This song was fantastic and, perhaps, one of the finest lyrical displays during this 'reign'. The song was very much one which walked more than one side of things. On one of them Capleton was observant and condemning of the ills of society and those who're behind them. But on the other he was also critical of people who do nothing to change their situation and refuse to 'wise up'. A very interesting song and one which definitely warranted quite a few spins and still does (and that riddim on this song was MAD!). 

Best Lyrics: "They try to distort the minds of the youth yea. By disguise and disregarding the truth yeah. They neva even teach dem how to plant a seed, to grow a tree, to bear a fruit whoa. Alright then - dem give dem big gun fi shoot yeah. Try to turn di woman dem in prostitute yeah whoa. Rastafari couldn't be mute. Wi haffi bun this fyah cah wi nah follow suit"

#4. 'Or Wah'

On the surface, the purpose of a tune like 'Or Wah' is crystal clear. It is a hype song, it's built for hype and to have a good time to listen to on Renaissance's Stepz Riddim. HOWEVER, have you ever really listened to this song? I mean REALLY?! If you have then you know that despite its apparent and deserved label of 'dance song' or something like such, it was a BRILLIANT display of lyrical superiority in every way - but you're likely to never hear that discussed… but I just kind of did, didn't I? Hmmm. LYRICS! 

"Go fi St. Mary fi marry dem or wah!
Go fi Portland fi land dem or wah!
Go fi St. Ann fi and dem or wah!
Go fi St. Thomas fi mas dem or wah!
Go fi Trelawny fi lawn dem or wah!"

Best Lyrics: "IF THEY DON'T - CHANGE, WE GONE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! OR REARRANGE, WI GONE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! DON'T CHANGE, WE GONE DO SOMETHING ABOUT - If yuh continue do it, them mi seh wi ahgo slew it cah wi tell yah nah fi chat, nah fi chew it, don't be stupid - OR WAH!"

#5. 'Real Hot'

Reaaaaaaaal hot! If you take 'Wise Up People' and 'Or Wah' and combine them, what you'd likely end up with would be something which would sound a great deal like 'Real Hot'. Utilizing South Rakkas' Red Alert Riddim (biggup South Rakkas), the tune was well hype and reallllllll hot! But it also had a point to make and wasn't this loose and breezy type of piece which just packed a dance floor. Again, if you really tune into what is being said in this case, you're going to find a new way to enjoy a tune which has probably had you moving for nearly a decade. 

Best Lyrics: "Di fyah bun fi a reason. Yow, tell di wicked man dem gwan charge fi treason. Yow, di corruption mi tell dem should be leavin'. Yow, wid Selassie I dem nuh fi get even"

#6. 'Ton Load'

BOOM! The album's obligatory ganja tune, the MAMMOTH 'Ton Load', was another highlight on this well lit album. Again, this is something I'll speak to more in synopsis, but there is a shining quality to this song. Certainly that has a great deal to do with Bobby Digital's One For The Road Riddim underpinning the tune, but Capleton clearly does his part as well and he does to the tune of, arguably, being one of the finest tunes of its kind that he has done at any point of his career. 

Best Lyrics: "Serious, mi serious and mi nah mek no fun. Officer, if you even si mi wid a ton, don't even worry yuh cranium. Don't even think I'm smuggling none. Cause if you want some, you can still get some. A dis mek di economy no pop dung. A dis lift nuff ghetto youth outta di slum. Welcome! New York when mi come - di whole a di ghetto youth dem seh di almshouse fi done. Dem don't want nuh coke. Dem no want no opium. A di highest set of grade di whole a di ghetto youth dem ah bun. Babylon mi seh yuh kingdom gone dung!" MAD! BOOM! GRRRR! BREAK SOMETHING! DAMN! 

#7. 'Steppin Up'

Loved hearing 'Steppin Up' for the first time in how long because it's a great song and… of course it allowed me to deviate from the task at hand by bringing back on my radars the wonderful track which supports it, Da Good Times Riddim courtesy of Grillaras (big riddim, Jah Mason, Chuck Fenda, Determine, Norris Man, Turbulence, the Bushman, Lutan Fyah, the late Daddigon, of course UT Ras and even Moses I and Military Man all were on it). The riddim was top notch as was the tune over it. Here we find Capleton going in somewhat of an unusual direction - in setting a solemn mood to deliver what was an inspirational piece of instilling and establishing confidence and sel-esteem in the masses. Fittingly, the piece also had a bit of 'quiet confidence' in itself as well and was subtly fiery as well. 

Best Lyrics: "Mi seh self-awareness. Don't get careless. And anytime wi talk - don't be earless. Rastafari is the natures of life - ever bless. From the north, to the south - the east and the west. Well, remember babylon promise more and dem still pay less. And dem tell yuh seh dem care and dem prepare less. My achievement is mine so I have to invest. Forward I'm going, I no care less"

#8. 'Never Share [Burn Dem]'

Capleton meets The King via Bobby Digital who updates the classic track from 'Forever Loving Jah' by Bob Marley for 'Never Share'. This song is a mighty one which I hesitate to call a 'social commentary', even though that's probably the best way to describe it. The hesitation comes through this kind of environmentally conscious nature of the composition as Capleton makes all well aware that he has been made aware and is pissed off at exactly not only how the people of the world are being treated, but the actual planet also. The results are extremely impressive and not to be skipped over quickly. 

Best Lyrics: "Seh dem ah prepare di youth dem table and dem alone ah eat di food. Tell di youth dem no bring no trouble still dem send dem go rude. If you love life so much then how the gun include? Neva waan dem fi die, well ya send dem go intrude. Violate dem wid di cable, waan fi tun dem inna dude. Tun di woman inna prostitute, yuh waan dem walk round nude. Dem diss Emmanuel a judgment mi include. Rastafari seh di wicked man caan walk inna wi shoes"

#9. 'Undeniable'

TEARS! I didn't call it the best song on this album and I don't even know that I'd call it second (though I probably would these days), but I have to say in regards to 'Undeniable' (which was produced by a label of the same name), it may just be one of my favourite songs from Capleton ever. It was constructed to observe and give praises to the power of  His Imperial Majesty and it does that with this electrically charged and infectious vibes. I LOOOOOVE this tune and having not heard it in a minute and now hearing it back again has only added to the feeling. 

Best Lyrics: "First to commence: Do you remember Geneva Conference? Di whole a dem shook, in HIS presence"

#10. 'Sunshine Girl' featuring Stephen Marley

If 'That Day Will Come' isn't the most immediately recognizable moment on "Reign Of Fire", then surely that distinction belongs to cool 'Sunshine Girl', the album's only combination, linking Capleton with the venerable Stephen Marley. Part kind of fun song and part love song, there was a real substance here as well and was yet another dynamic pairing between Capleton and The Marleys. Also, it is worth mentioning the kind of 'easiness' of the track. I wouldn't call it 'mainstream' in the slightest (though you could probably say that a song featuring _______ Marley (any one of them) has that type of an appeal inherently) but pretty much anyone could welcome a tune like this in my opinion. 

Best Lyrics: "Woman yah hot like a sun so mi seh mi haffi feel yah. And right ya now, mi seh mi ready fi go seal yeah. And no boy can bargain or deal yah. And now di prophecy, mi haffi go reveal yeah. Right ya now mi seh mi ahgo seven seal yah. Mi have di blessing and mi ready fi go heal yah. Yah waan mi sunshine, no boy can kneel yah"

#11. 'In Her Heart'

Big credit goes to Alozade whose ridiculous (in a good way) Chrome Riddim backed 'In Her Heart' which was definitely the best tune on that riddim and probably its most popular as well… definitely its most popular (as I look at the tunes on it). The song is also crazy (also in a good way) and difficult to put down long-term or short-term and, like an earlier tune or two, it once again combines a show with substance. Capleton says poignant things here about what GOOD women simply will not stand for and, by extension, how certain men need to get better at… pretty much everything. 

Best Lyrics: "She love di way mi wine in it. Tell mi seh fi seek and mi search weh mi find in it. Ask if a platinum or a goldmine in it. Right ya now she mi tell mi seh she want mi fulltime in it. Daughter, mi son then mi really haffi shine in it. So she put a fyah pon di boy Joe Grind in it. Right ya now she seh a mi alone incline in it. So mi gather all mi strength and mi timing it, timing it"

#12. 'Who Yuh Callin N****'

Across the musical crack that was Black Chiney's Kopa Riddim, Capleton dissected disrespect in a frenetic and most memorable style. Here was another piece which offered elements (called 'the Kopa') which would ensure that listeners would find themselves unable to sit still in its presence but, also and as its title suggested, find themselves being educated in a major way on how NOT to address Capleton. 

Best Lyrics: "If unuh wan mi get dangerous, just pop off yah gun first. Then si a who fi face ahgo buss. If unuh waan mi g et dangerous, then chat off yah mouth first. Ya come in like a woman an ah cuss"

#13. 'Open Your Eyes'

'Open Your Eyes', another Grillaras produced selection, is a tune which has wonderfully kept my mind busy in analyzing and going through for the sake of this post. There're so many fascinating aspects of it which go to construct its central theme to my opinion and ultimately where I am is in appreciation of it as an EDUCATIONAL piece in a very different way. Capleton definitely is saying that the masses need to be educated and informed, but this isn't the type of instruction that you'd not find in an institution of learning. Instead, 'Open Your Eyes' speaks on the knowledge of the individual of the individual. It is built on the concept of self-awareness, first and foremost, before going in a variety of different directions, all of which are brilliant and make for one scintillatingly informative moment on "Reign Of Fire".  

Best Lyrics: "Open your eyes, looking around - tell mi what you're searching for. HAVE YOU EVER SEEN JAH BEFORE? Better take a closer look yeah. Open your eyes, looking around - tell mi what you're searching for. Have you ever found love before? Better take a closer look yeah"

#14. 'Leaders Let The People Down'

'Leaders Let The People Down' is another one which is well ripe with discussable points and imagery, though in this case it is a bit more straight-forward. This song is one about the powers that be not behaving in a positive manner and setting a wholly improper example to the masses. Not only that, but here is where its 'twist’ emerges: Capleton also speaks on those same powers eschewing their responsibilities and pushing the blame in other directions:

"The bigga heads ah let di people down
Try to blame it on the Dancehall and the artists and the sound"

Best Lyrics: "Babylon ah speak di words, but wi no love how dem sound. Cah dem same one ah turn it inna gun town. Nuff ghetto youth dem turn inna gun clown. Gun shot ah tear off dem head crown. Well every other day a next body dem found. Well inna dem owna blood, mi si seh dem drown"

#15. 'All My Life'

BOOM AGAIN! Bobby Digital returns for the penultimate time on "Reign Of Fire" to aide Capleton in delivering yet another stellar effort in 'All My Life'. Unsurprisingly, the current stretch continues and here we have another tune which has continued to 'develop' for me throughout the years really. Where I am with it now is hearing it as somewhat of a similar creation to the previous 'Open Your Eyes'. It speaks on self -awareness and, even more importantly in this case, SELF-ESTEEM. Capleton almost speaks of his own appreciation of himself in inborn concepts ["ALL MY LIFE - I've been strong"], but he doesn't seem to distance himself from those of us who have had to grow and mature a bit. 

Best Lyrics: "Strength up yourself this time. Never let dem blow your mind. If you don't seek and search then how yuh gonna find? How you gonna find? Rastafari is divine. Sun come shine. Moon come shine. And the stars keep twinkling every time"

#16. 'Standing Ovation'

Capleton is offering a 'Standing Ovation' to all of the wonderful women of the world [Hey Mama!] [Hi Mama!] on this equally excellent song. 'Standing Ovation' didn't get the credit it was due and, in this particular case, I'm not sure why. From a sonic point of view, while it wasn't as crazy as 'Real Hot' ["Realllllllll hot!"] or 'Or Wah'. 'Standing Ovation' sounded fantastic and, of course, the message was high and relatable to… everyone with an even remotely decent Mother. For me it took awhile, but it has become a favourite of mine and every time I hear I'm reminded precisely why. 

Best Lyrics: "Well anytime you surface, mi seh nuff a dem hurt. Its like dem forget seh that you is Mama Earth. If there is a God there must be a Goddess of the Earth. If nuff a dem did really know what life is worth - then dem woulda really look for theirs on earth. Caan diss di woman inna di blouse and skirt. A SHE GIVE BIRTH TO SELASSIE I THE FIRST!"

#17. 'Remember The Days'

Though he definitely has had his moments, love songs have never been a real specialty of Capleton’s. Because of that and just how much I have loved this tune over the years, I can confidently say that the final Bobby Digital produced song on this album is one of my favourite of its kind that he's ever done and if I REALLY thought about it and called it his best, I wouldn't be greatly shocked on that either. 'Remember The Days' was cool but intense and it was broad but precise and it was a magical moment on the latter stages of this album. 

Best Lyrics: "Wid dem one bag a envy and dem one bag a grudge. All dem ah talk, woman dem caan stop wi love. Mi seh all dem ah talk, you have di spark fi my plug. And all dem ah talk mi have di water fi yah tub. And all dem ah talk mi have di arm fi yah hug. And all dem ah talk you have di heat fi my love. So burning out dis envy and burning out dis grudge. One heart, one love!"

#18. 'Fire Haffi Burn'

The album is called "Reign Of FIRE". You'll find fire throughout it in the form of intensity and of hype, but on 'Fire Haffi Burn', Capleton brought out the much expected lyrical fire on a track which had this incredible BUILDING of intensity and even precision as The Prophet blazed in all warranted directions.

Best Lyrics: "Dem caan select wi inna dem selection! Dem caan elect wi inna dem election! Dem caan direct wi inna dem direction! Caan infect wi wid dem infection!"

#19. 'Jah By My Side'

Capleton goes all Tony Rebel on one of the biggest songs on the album, 'Jah By My Side'. Another song which will help me sum things up in just a second (I can't believe I'm almost finished with this - This was FUN!), 'Jah By My Side' blended an unconquerable sound with a just as pillaring message to make for a massive piece. You can listen to this one and nod your head and move your entire body and think nothing of it or you can slow things down just a bit and enjoy something very important which is being said… kind of like this entire album… kind of like Capleton, in general. 

Best Lyrics: "Jah is gonna be by my side to give di wicked man a surprise. Jah is gonna be by my side, yes I have to stay alive. Jah will have to be by my side, so my kids and my wife will survive. Jah is gonna be by my side my family fi stay alive"

#20. 'Number One Song'

And finally on "Reign Of Fire" is a tune which seems to, very much, be a piece of the moment. I'm convinced that one day in 2003-2004, Capleton woke up one day and was alerted that he had the #1 song, thus was born 'Number One Song'. The actual song is kind of relative, because it is, essentially, about all things positive and just enjoying yourself. Of course it is not THAT simple and Capleton's idea of enjoying himself is destroying his way through oppressive society (if we could all think like that…), so you get the kind of varied approach that you expect. If I haven't mentioned it also (and I haven't ), ‘Number One Song' is an excellent song. 

Best Lyrics: "Well Mama Earth ah prove herself, seh she couldn't be wrong. And this coulda neva be no disillusion. Reality was my only conclusion: Burning babylon! Well now I've got to get this thing together. Defending my sisters and my brothers - from all those evil endeavours. Love is the ultimate that's all I need to treasure"

"Reign Of Fire" Medley #2

The point I've been wanting to make here (but I'm happy for myself that I did actually write this thing in order this time) (at least I think that I did) is one which is related to the three albums at which "Reign Of Fire" was the end and, by extension, Capleton's music in general, when he is at his best. Like several others, Capleton is someone who I don't really feel gets enough credit for what he has done and what he is capable of. We look at him as being this fire-breathing figure who casts fire on any and every one who exists in negative and filthy ways and, to an extent, that is what he is. It is an image which he has organically cultivated throughout his career and, even today, it persists and fits, and I don't think he minds that at all. HOWEVER, when we listen to his music, I believe that often times it is that burning force and passion which can distract for THE thing which I feel has made him successful and a bonafide legend in Reggae music. 

Capleton is one the most skilled talents in the entire history of Reggae music. 

I say things regarding skills and abilities and I stand by them, but in his case, given his history and longevity, he registers on an even higher level than most but, with that being said, there exists virtually no one who I would say is FAR more talented than he is and that is why I feel that "More Fire", "Still Blazin" and subsequently "Reign Of Fire" were and are so respected. Collectively they represent three of the finest displays of talent in the modern history of the music. In the particular case of "Reign Of Fire", there're several moments which stand out as pieces which so vividly display what Capleton can do and how, exactly, he does it. 'That Day Will Come', obviously, is one of them. The tune received such a large amount of attention and recognition in its day and while it deserved it, I wonder how many people who love the song love it because of this amazing merging of song and riddim, from a sonic perspective and how many have tuned it in on a lyrical level. And it was different here because, personally, in contrast to its two predecessors, "Reign Of Fire" was a 'slower' album. It wasn't one which was as immediately gratifying and, for the most part, it didn't leap out at you in the same way that "Still Blazin" and definitely "More Fire" did. And it was a PERFECT way to conclude things because of its style in my opinion. The mightily forceful side is one which had been explored and re-explored into perpetuity throughout the first two albums and it was just a nice idea to musically take the foot off of the gas for an album, which was what "Reign Of Fire" did. 

Looking back now, things definitely have changed since then. "I-Ternal Fire" was definitely a good album, but not on the level of the three prior to it and certainly the six years in between it and this album had something to do with it and that would be the final time (presumably) that Capleton would make an album for VP Records who did all three of the great ones. So while this album didn't conclude an actual 'reign', it definitely did give it some semblance of historical perspective and, basically, lock it off for analysis. And in analysis: We've never seen anything like them and are unlikely to ever see it again. "More Fire" was one of the greatest albums of all time, "Still Blazin" was also and on that same level was "Reign Of Fire": A bonafide Modern Reggae Classic! 


  1. After dropping my I-Pod..I needed to restore the settings which deleted all my tunes. It took me five years to load everything the first time around! The point? The first two artists that I reached for was a vintage 3 disc Blood and Fire collection from Big Youth and all the VP releases from the mighty King Shango! Nico

  2. This is probably Capleton's best album, truly a modern classic. Nice choice!