Tuesday, July 16, 2013

'Signs of Growth': A review of "Second Souffle" by Saïk

A balance. In pretty much any walk of life and in any profession, when you hit that certain level of being at the top or at least as close to it as you can, presumably, go, there is this prevailing thought of 'what's next'? In music the course is generally already taken care of as we, as fans, will 'simply' continue to look to you and basically demand that you keep giving us big tunes, big performances and big albums and though absolutely nothing about that is actually "simple", the most talented stars find a way to consistently do it and the forthcoming most skilled artists find a way to organically begin the process as well. For the younger ones, who haven't necessarily had the benefit of time in terms of literally raising their audience (someone in their forties, for example, may very have fans in their twenties who have not experienced life NOT listening to their music and will be lifelong fans), what we've seen recently, specifically in the Dancehall (which is what we're doing today) are individuals capable of either perfecting what they do or expanding it. In terms of the latter, of course, the greatest example of expansion in the Dancehall in recent times is the most captivating case of Busy Signal. Originally gaining notoriety by being this monstrous and dark lyrical talent, no one could have predicted that just a few short years on, the same DJ who may've initially gotten your attention on the strength of heavyweight tunes such as 'Step Out', 'Full Clip', 'Think Dem Bad' and others - would someday keep that same attention, and intensify it in many cases, by singing Phil Collins songs [WHAT]! Although the case with which we deal today is nowhere near as drastic as Busy's (and I don't know if I could come up with one which is… at least not until Tommy Lee goes Gospel), I think it is definitely similar as it, too, represents a display of growth as an artist for someone who comes from such a SHARP background. Unnecessarily gifted Gwada DJ, Saïk is someone who comes in the form of a Busy Signal or an Aidonia or an old school Vybz Kartel (someone else who also experienced a transformation, although in his case it was much later in his career) or Assassin as someone from the very modern landscape of Dancehall music who just completely toys with the spoken word. His was a talent which was dominant even before most people who now know of him knew his name, and you can find full on terrifying demonstrations of it if you look hard enough. 
"Face A La Réalité" [2007]
Even if you don't feel like digging, actually, it isn't too difficult to find examples of Saïk's abilities. His very first album, 2007's MAMMOTH "Face A La Réalité" (on the cover of which, the DJ looks like a kid now) was one of the best Dancehall debut albums I've ever heard and it helped to usher to prominence someone with, again, a truly ridiculous skill. A protégé of sorts of the great Admiral T (more on him later), Saïk was always the standout. The Admiral had a group, referred to as the 'Gwada Boys' if I recall correctly, and Saïk was clearly the star of the lot and, to my knowledge, was the very first to reach with his very own album. He'd also been exceedingly active with mixtapes and performances and had such an overwhelming talent with words that his stardom seemed inevitable and it was. HOWEVER, Saïk's talent, though off the charts, was what it was. He was this hardcore Dancehall DJ who could do A LOT of work in a very short time and fully amazed fans with hits such as 'Oblije Nou Bun', 'On Sèl Doktrin' and others. He also would make a big fan out of me in the process and I was damn interested to see what this ultra modern wunderkind would come up with next. 
"M-10 Strict" [2009]
He would expand. Though it took a REALLY long time to arrive (in the interim, Admiral T, a bonafide superstar, would actually do TWO albums) (and, sitting here thinking, I actually think BOTH of Sam X's albums may've reached after Saïk's first), Saïk's actual next step, "Second Souffle", is now here. Between albums, the DJ managed to maintain a fairly high profile as, along with hyping his eventual sophomore set, Saïk would stay active in the studio and would even turn out an official street album from a few years back in "M-10 Strict" in 2009. But this is what we wanted. We wanted to see what he was up to and, as he's demonstrated in singles over the course of the past couple of years, Saïk has well diversified his game. As impressive as it was and though it was something I would have HAPPILY dealt with for the rest of his career, the artist hasn't abandoned his brand of high-tech authentic Dancehall music, but he has added to it. The aforementioned "M-10 Strict" set (which is available both digitally and physically, but I believe the digital piece isn't even a third of what the physical is) followed the debut album in terms of its style, but almost everything from that time has been a bit softer and more melodically inclined which, despite the wishes of someone like myself, is probably better for potential commercial successes of the new album. Fortunately, Saïk also managed to do it in a way which doesn't figure to alienate his older fans, which is very important. Since Saïk's arrival there have been a whole heap of advances on the FWI scene, most notably would be that of the burgeoning Kalash, who also released two albums between Saïk's two (although his most recent, "2 #Classic", is still virtually brand new) (and incidentally, Saïk, Kalash and Daly all release their latest albums in a span of just three or four weeks or so - and Admiral T is on all of them) (Mighty Ki La???) (Lady Sweety???!) (WHAT!) so perhaps there was a definite reason to 'evolve'. As I said, however, I was more than comfortable with him as he was, so the biggest question for me going into album #2 is whether or not the advances that Saïk has made recently make for an album which is still a sensational listening experience.

Previously, just about everything Saïk's name came attached to was done via the wonderful Don's Music and G-Zup Concept, the latter of which, I believe, may be his manager -- including the work on this album -- so I was relatively surprised to not see either officially doing the work here and, instead, "Second Souffle" comes via the same Aztec Musique who also did the new album from the aforementioned Daly ("Le Dalycious", in stores now). That was only the first surprise here. The second was the fact that the new album comes armed with a ridiculous and interlude-less TWENTY-THREE tracks and tops out at nearly EIGHTY MINUTES in length - which they clearly did because they know we mention every song and they just wanted to make it hard! Nevertheless, he does manage to keep the listener's attention throughout. The album begins with a selection which really just surprised me altogether the first time I heard it (and it was one released just ahead of the album). 'Surviv' is the type of song which you would have never heard from Saïk prior to the constructing of this album, nor would have expected it from the same person who turned in the material on "Face A La Réalité" and while it wasn't what I was anticipating, it does manage to impress on some level and I think that has something to do with even a song like this not being able to mask Saïk's most explosive of talents. Next is something which is also on a softer side but has a bit of a 'zip' to it (biggup my Wife), the also previously released 'Lan'nwit kon la jouné'. The beginning of this had me fully nervous when I first heart it, but by the time that things pick up, we do get a nice and colourful offering with a stellar chorus and, again, you can hear just the slightest of glimpses of what I actually was looking forward to on "Second Souffle". Things pick up even further on 'Laissé Yo Palé' and that brilliant piece of riddim behind that song. On the first (it just took me like three attempts to spell 'first' correctly) (make it four) album, a song like this would have been slower, but here, at least in the earliest stages, it's a nice expansion on the vibes of the album and a SWEET precursor to the madness which follows. That "madness" is the first sight of unqualified aggression on the album, 'What's Up'. One of the official singles from "Second Souffle" and its first of a quintet of combinations, 'Gimme Di Wine' is in next. This is, as you imagine, a party type of song and a decent one which links Saïk with Riddla and longtime associate and fellow Genesiz alum, Young Chang MC. This one doesn't rank amongst the album's best in my opinion, but it should serve its purpose with ease. 

'You & Me'

And then there's the boom! There're three songs on this album which, in my opinion, distinguish themselves from the other twenty (which just sounds odd in even typing) and the very first is the one which I think is the oldest here, the now more than two years old, but entirely MASSIVE unity tune, 'You & Me'. This was a song which released in the first half of 2011 and did a big damage. I would have imagined that the second half of that year would have brought what the early second of 2013 has ultimately, but through that time, it's only grew in stature. Though it, too, would not have been the type of song I would have expected from Saïk just a few years ago, 'You & Me' was absolutely brilliant and it's never been better than it is right now. BOOM! Charged with following that large tune is another captivating composition in 'Partir là-bas'. This song took me a minute to work with, but I would say that it is a good example of the 'mood' of much of the material on "Second Souffle". It kind of registers in the middle, in terms of sound, but it gives up bits and pieces of both a more softer and more fiery type of style. Despite its riddim, you can also say the same thing about the sensitive 'Mamamia' as well, which kind of got me a little excited as well. It's also something that I'm still working on, however. SWEET singing Frenchie (biggup Frenchie), Kenza Farah joins Saïk on the LOVELY 'Je mène ma vie'. These two make for a tune which I wouldn't at all be surprised to see actualize into a future single from this album. That thing figures to be exceptionally 'radio-friendly' and it's also kind of Zouk-ish, which may give it an even further reach. And that song also comes just ahead of another combination, 'Like a Winner', which features Hip-Hopper, Sadek. This dually upful and morose vibe kind of reminds you of something that you'd hear from Konshens (biggup Konshens) and although I wouldn't call this a favourite of mine, it does have something to it which is difficult to ignore and that's coming from someone who is no fan of Hip-Hop. And I'll also mention in rounding out the first half of "Second Souffle" (not really), the intense 'Handzup', which is a good song and an inspirational one (and a rather clever one), but more importantly it sets the stage for a later effort here which is the finest thing I hear on this album (more on that in a second).


Speaking of clever, check the very focused 'Info ou Intox', which definitely is something along the lines of what I was anticipating from Saïk here. It is a very impressive lyrical display and has an arrangement which makes for a dazzling moment. 'All Night' has a nice vibes to it as well, but it leads us into something really nice as Saïk hits with an excellent lovers piece (which I haven't heard in a while), previous well-received single, 'J't'emmène'. This song came with a video (biggup Bredz if it's in here somewhere) with a VERY beautiful co-star to Saïk, which probably made it even more of  a standout in my eyes, but it has star-quality which was, presumably, why it was pushed so hard last year and why it did so well also. While I call three of the songs on this album superior to the rest (and 'You & Me' was the first of them), were I to expand on that at all, it would surely be in the direction of 'Fly Away'. The song which isn't the greatest exhibition of it on "Second Souffle" (we'll get there shortly), comes with all kinds of an edge, but it does it in a package which supports a chorus which you'll need much luck in ridding your head of after you hear it… which isn't really a problem though. Saïk later espouses on the virtues of the world's greatest body part on 'Poum Poum Poum' before reaching the pinnacle of this serving. 

The MAMMOTH 'S.A.Ï.K' is not only the single best song I hear on this album, but it also comes just before the second best and two songs which're the biggest combinations on the whole of "Second Souffle". As for this tune, it is precisely what I was looking forward to and is a continuation of the style which made me a fan of Saïk's. It is next level wordplay from one of the greatest to do it. And then there's 'Karibean Island'… TEARS! This thing is beautiful. Shockingly the composition links Saïk with walking divinity, Trinidad's incomparable Destra Garcia and together the two revel within the beauty and the PRIDE of the world's most wonderful place. Also, I like how the vibes of the song exist somewhere between Soca and Dancehall with just a enough of both so that both Destra and Saïk seem, appropriately right at home. Also, just how fantastic is it that I've been waiting on this album for so long and they do something like get DESTRA to voice a tune. Well done! Unsurprisingly, the aforementioned Admiral T also makes an appearance on "Second Souffle" on the very popular 'Dancehall Evolution'. These two can do virtually anything together musically and they have over the years and it's always a special moment when they link on a single song. This is no exception and it absolutely will not be the final time it happens either.

'Dancehall Evolution' featuring Admiral T

Rounding out the album is another four songs which may not (do not) have the appeal of the three just prior to them, but all have nice qualities. 'Viv Vi La' is basically a Zouk song and one which I would have LOVED to hear a singer join Saïk on (like Methi'S) (biggup Methi'S, new album, "On Dòt Solèy", in stores now). 'Mic An Mwen' is wild and a highlight, at least for me, from the album, while the poignant 'Unis' slows things down and the closer, the delightful 'Piblik an Mwen' keeps them relatively slow. Of these songs, the last is the biggest for me, with 'Mic An Mwen' also being impressive and placing a nice bow on the record.

My only substantial critique of "Second Souffle" is obvious - it's too long. Eighty minutes is a lot of album for any style and I'm also wondering how, if at all, it might change once it reaches a physical release (it doesn't, the CD has all twenty-three tracks). I think that, even with a lot to say and to accomplish, somewhere in the area of sixteen or even eighteen songs would have been better.
Overall, however, I'm still a fan and I'm very impressed at the latest occurrence in Saïk's progress. What I really enjoy is how he continues to show that while these songs aren't what we're accustomed to hearing from him in the consistent sense, what we ARE used to is still in there. When he feels like it, Saïk is still capable of lyrically destroying any track he reaches and while I would have enjoyed to get a few more of those moments baked into this "Second Souffle", I am ultimately pleased with the final meal. And just as I mentioned earlier (that seems like a month ago that I wrote that!), I think that changing things up will eventually prove to be a sagacious decision in reference to his commercial success - and it probably already has. "Second Souffle" proves to be a very interesting successor to one of the better Dancehall albums in recent times and is a powerful statement to the ever evolving talent of someone in Saïk whose eventual skill level may have NO limit. 

Rated: 4.40/5
Aztec Musique
CD + Digital 

Review #455

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