Thursday, September 12, 2013

'Treasure': A review of "Freedom Fighters" by Chezidek

Again?! I am certainly no expert on the subject, but I'd like to think that I've learned a few things throughout the years in terms of how the business side of things run in music and, specifically, Reggae. There're many things and terms I have no comprehension of, and never will, and that's fine, but I think that I've picked up a little over time. One of them, and probably the area I've gotten the most experience with, of course, is promotion. Some label makes music, they alert big mouths like me and we talk about it if we like it and sometimes even if we don't. And even if that doesn't happen, there generally tends to be some type of promotion, particularly in the case when someone has undergone the process of making an entire album - or three. Right? Maybe I need to reconsider things because that hasn't at all been the case when it comes to the most curious One Drop Records and though it can be somewhat frustrating -- their technique -- in some very strange way, I think I might be beginning to like their strategy. I'll always give credit to labels such as I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings and Oneness and even the House of Riddim who have taken a big advantage of the times and go out of their way to give their projects a proper promotion because I think that, in full, it helps the genre. If you work harder in putting the information out there, it will bring more fans and, ultimately, more in the way of commercial success. Even further than that is VP Records who still (after all of this time) makes their projects incredibly well known when they are on their way and after they've already arrived. But not everyone has to do things the same way and what if you were to do the exact opposite of that? That is what One Drop seems to be trying to do. Make your music, make it available and then… move on. The label, in about a year has fascinated and frustrated me with their out-of-studio customs, but has been a WHOLLY impressive entity musically for one reason or another. Last year they made a mighty impression and, perhaps somewhat thinking in the line of what would happen to a label like Drop Di Bass (who released albums from Sizzla Kalonji, Spragga Benz and Madd Anju virtually simultaneously and have never done a similar thing again), I thought they may fade away. 
"Truly" by Lutan Fyah & "Hold The Vibes" by Ras Attitude [2012]
Clearly, for the four-trillionth time in my life, I was wrong. Completely wrong. What did they do. I hadn't heard anything was forthcoming, but on one day last year One Drop Records made their 'formal ' introduction in a major way by stringing together a pair of full albums from Lutan Fyah and Ras Attitude, "Truly" and "Hold The Vibes", respectively. While the latter was a decent set and a nice effort, the former was nearly special and would subsequently go on to be our choice as the year's eighth best Reggae album altogether. Looking back and even at the time, neither project really received much notice or publicity at all and though I'm almost certain big names like that did damage as far as sales, I'm still convinced that both Attitude and Lutan Fyah likely have a large number of fans who don't even know those projects exist. That's still unfortunate to me in many respects, but if, I don't know, if the same label were to come back and do the same thing for a third time, then it would leave the ream of "unfortunate" and disappointing (all of these years and I still can't spell that word correctly, 'disappointing' and 'recommend' are just difficult for me) and just become a way that they do things and just a very, VERY random but damn compelling characteristic.
"The Order of Melchezedik" [2013]
They've done it for a third time. Following Lutan Fyah and Ras Attitude is now Chezidek who brings forth "Freedom Fighters" for One Drop Records. The album becomes the singer's tenth studio album by my count and his second of the year following the MASSIVE "The Order of Melchezedik" back in April (this year is flying by, how is that album almost six months old already?). That's well saying something because it and the album before it, "Judgement Time" had both come from the same label, JahSolidRock, and had come three years apart as well and I was just not expecting to see a next full length from Chezidek for at least another year or two, so this album very much comes as a surprise to me. Also surprising is the size of this project. There're fifteen selections on this album none of which are shorter than 4:17, which ultimately leads to an album just shy of seventy minutes in length. There is a very nice little shift here as well which is a substantial development in my opinion as "Freedom Fighters" also features production work from the well esteemed Andrew 'Bassie' Campbell, one of the more dependable maestros Reggae has seen in recent times. Again, there was no great 'warning' with this one and it quietly dropped in early August without any fanfare at all and expectations, but it is Chezidek who has been in a career's best form lately, Campbell's record is very good and so is One Drop's in its brief lifespan, so I was anticipating a very good album when Bredz sent it to me (biggup Bredz) and really had no trepidation in doing that. Its set of circumstances, musically, is just very reliable. And getting back to the label, I kind of think that it may just be their intent to focus on people like You and I who're more diligent fans of the genre which is, if accurate, somewhat admirable I suppose. There are several, completely free, methods to promote things these days (like a Twitter page) and to just make people aware of things in general, but they just seem to be focused on making the music and moving on now after three albums, as I said, it has become a bit of a custom for them and despite the fact that I would LOVE to hear the same crowd that came around for the very well promoted "The Order of Melchezedik" singing the praises for this one as well, it just doesn't seem to be their way. However, if those masses did want to croon on "Freedom Fighters", as expected, they'd have a lot to sing about. Let's discuss!

'Freedom Fighters'

This album follow more closely to the "Truly" release in my opinion. Ras Attitude's album was a bit freer and, even as an artist in general, he has a looser approach and a more versatile style than does Lutan Fyah (check his contribution to 'Lost' from "Over The Top", the new album from Perfect Giddimani) who does his best when he goes straight ahead and this album is more along that vibe as well (and Chezidek can really do just about anything with that unusual voice). Also like that album, this set is a very strong lyrical piece and with a consistently impressive musical backing, I think everyone fortunate enough to hear it will be very impressed. The impression of Chezidek's new album, "Freedom Fighters", starts with its title track which is one of the finest songs on the album definitely. This song is a call to action in the purest sense of the word. Chezidek is saying that a lot of people charged with standing up against oppression and oppressive society have gotten 'soft' and need a bit of a kick in the proper piece of anatomy to right themselves. Of course he's also saying that the ranks of 'Freedom Fighters', in general, need to swell anyway, so he's really just looking for a few upful and positive and brave people on this big song ["Buzzrock warrior. Jah Jah soldier - Let dem know you are not no pushover"]. Next is the moving anti-violence set, 'Eye Watas and Prayers [Live By the Gun]'. The song is another very strong one which takes a unique look at violence in examining the ultimate end-result of it and how no matter how bad you may be, if you engage in that type of behaviour, sadness can and usually WILL find you. The tune which wraps up the first batch, 'Chemical Free' is absolutely one of my personal favourites on the whole of "Freedom Fighters". 

"I could not be living in pollution city
So I must flea to the mountain - chemical free
All I can see - everyone want to be wealthy
But I must live pure and healthy

Forward for the roots for sure
Chemical-induced, wi no waan no more
Chlorine water, wi no drink no more
Genetically modified food no more
The lamb food don't give to the poor
The bad food lef it inna di store

The beautiful and environmentally conscious piece is a dazzling one and really showcases the singer in a very strong light. Definitely don't miss it. 

Though the second portion of the "Freedom Fighters" is quite stirring, the first is brimming with sterling material. Figuratively speaking none shine brighter than the familiarly vibed 'Shine Your Light'. This song actually features the same track which backs Lutan Fyah's towerful (biggup Prezident Brown) 'Selassie I No Partial', the best song from his "Truly" album. Chezidek also gives the riddim a very powerful rinsing to the tune of another humbling praising track and one of the better selections you'll find present here. Also check 'Burn Out' which is supported by the same composition which took on the Fyah's 'Rasta Is My Purpose'. This is a very interesting piece as far as its direction. What I took from it is that it is ultimately a song about growing up and maturing. What the singer seems to be saying is that everyone reaches a point in life, whether fourteen or forty, that they have to choose a positive way or a negative one and he's hoping most of us choose the former over the latter. It is a nearly special piece to my ears and, I hate to keep saying, but a major attraction here. There is the inspirational offering, 'Never Give Up', which is pretty much what you would expect, but I do like the subtle edge on this one. There is a bit of spice here (Chezidek sounds a little pissed off at times, which is a good thing) on an otherwise delightful song which is a damn captivating set of qualities to possess on a single tune. Speaking of edges, the single greatest one on "Freedom Fighters", at least to my ears, comes on what is also my choice as the album's biggest winner, the scintillating 'Dem A Dweet'

"Nowhere to run, how dem no si di road end?
Don't go round di corner come inna di open
Dem caan fool nobody, everybody know dem
Dem sell out dem culture fi a little top ten
Dem big speech and dem outspoken
A dem owna iniquity ah no joke dem
Dem come and pose like dem a Jah Jah chosen
Catch dem inna di fyah dung inna di open
If dem a original, wi ahgo know then 

Dem ah dweet, a dem ah dweet
Dem ah dweet, a dem ah dweet
Watch what dem ah sing bout, a dem ah dweet
Watch dem and dem big mouth, a dem ah dweet
Watch how it ah turn out - a dem ah dweet
Watch how dem ah burn out and dem ah dweet 

Dem will bun out di most badmind
Mi check it out and dem ah host badmind
Mi neva trust dem from longtime -
For mi know mankind is so unkind
Exploding like a landmine
Forcing up now pon di frontline!
And dem have di lowest punchline!
Seh dem love - dem only love sometime!
Tell dem seh good and evilous caan combine!
I wonder if dem si di sign
Wonder if dem si di sign
Better get some love inside!
Better get some love inside!

Old pirate!
None a dem no I rate
Waan challenge mi spirit and dem waan come test I faith
No iniquity just can't take I space
No matter how dem envy, it no matter how dem try hate
No call no name - dem no know demself
Time haffi go tell dem, haffi go show demself
If dem no live up, dem overthrow demself!
And dem owna soul dem sell
A overboard dem fell!"

BOOM! On the song Chezidek takes aim at some of his peers who may not be living up to the 'character' they present in their music and people in general who know right and speak right but still prefer to do wrong, intentionally. 

The bridge which takes us from its first half to the second half of "Freedom Fighters" is a good one called 'Good Girl'. This is the love song on the album and though such a tune is by no means a specialty of Chezidek's (though you should know 'In My Heart'), this is a nice effort on this one and a very sonically pleasing piece as well. Later on, after taking care of the love song, Chezidek also takes care of the rest of his obligations. Most Reggae albums have love songs, they have ganja songs and they have songs to Mama and he covers the final two in succession here with 'Light Up Your Spliff' and the appropriately, but not exorbitantly, titled 'Mama' [WHAT!]. The first is nearly special as Chezidek echoes the great Everton Blender ["Light up your spliff and hold it up high!"] in speaking about "brainfood". I really did enjoy this song so much and partly because of its very simple sound which actually seems to raise Chezidek's vocals at times. He is a singer and a fine one, but because his voice is so unique, you rarely get to hear it pushed to its limit and though he probably doesn't do it here either, he does strain it harder at times which is remarkable to hear. As for 'Mama', it too features a fine vocal performance and one befitting the most wonderful person in the world and all of her virtues. And speaking of obligations on Reggae albums, "Freedom Fighters" also features a gold bar of a closer in a song called… 'Thanks & Praises'. You may very well have heard a hundred songs with the same title and sentiment, but this is another GOOD one to add to that lot with its HEAVY and intoxicating sound. 

The latter portions of the album, as I said, do feature some prime level material including one piece in 'Mr. President', which took a minute to grow on me, but certainly did at some point. The tune actually features, like 'Dem A Dweet', some of Chezidek's skill as a DJ. Like Ras Attitude's singing, this is something I do hope that he'll do more of in the future, because he does have a talent there as well. 

"Talking about false leaders and corrupted government
Talking about the people who ah feel di consequence
Talking about my people on di Afrikan continent
Talking about the people who don't have it sufficient
Talking about the children who nah get no supplement
Talking about sick people dying from dem ailment 
Talking about the wealthy countries building up their fence
Talking about the weak-hearts, seh they really need more strength"

Also really solid to my opinion is the track which follows, 'Jah Jah Tabernacle'. This song sounds like something directly from the "Judgement Time" record with its lush sounds. Its subject too, which is obvious, would have placed it finely on that album and it stands in high esteem here as well. 'Fire Must Haffi Bun' is somewhat broad, but primarily deals with the Afrikan Diaspora and, as I've said in the past, I just love songs like this which can kind of entertain and educate simultaneously and this is no exception as the sound here is very strong as well. And also check the very clever 'Head Get Swell' which examines people who gain success and then leave their humble mind and ways and begin to get turned by arrogance and such things. Such a situation, most unfortunately, is entirely too common, even on ridiculously small scales, but outside of the typical 'stay humble' refrain, you don't too often see it looked at in songs and I think that it is a fine addition, from a subject standpoint, to this album.
Overall, I will put this one in context for you: Though I would rate, clearly, three albums ahead of it -- the aforementioned "Judgement Time" and "The Order of Melchezedik", as well as his debut, "Harvest Time" -- that's it. The rest are at least debatable and in my opinion "Freedom Fighters", in a different way, is just as good as "Inna Di Road". Though it may lack the spectacular spots that album had (which included songs like the title track, 'Leave The Trees' and, of course, 'Call Pon Dem', some of the biggest hits of his career), it makes up for it by virtue of being consistently solid and occasionally more. Also, as I mentioned, it is such a FULL album due to its length, though I wish there would have been a combination or two, it doesn't leave much to be desired and is a very well-rounded set ultimately as well. So, while One Drop Records may not be in a hurry to make people aware of it, and that's fine, what they've now managed to string together again  in "Freedom Fighters" is a fine album which is sure to find an audience amongst the most passionate of fans - who are just as certain to be the only ones who know that it does actually exist. Another big winner from Chezidek and One Drop Records strikes again.

Rated: 4.45/5
One Drop Records
CD + Digital 

Review #466

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