Wednesday, December 4, 2013

'Facilitate': A review of "Take Heed" by Nahyubi Joseph

The factory. Watching Reggae music absolutely inhale the entire world as it has spread and spread over the years has been a fantastic thing to witness. These days, fans are basically spoiled because of not only how many people are involved in making this wonderful music, but also by just how simple it is to access and get our ears on and it figures to only develop more and more in the years to come. Top flight talents are no longer predictable - they come in a variety of wholly inexplicable shapes and sizes from just as many different walks of life and just as many personal stories of what brought them to the music ultimately. Breaking that down further, it's always interesting to regionalize things just a bit and, rather easily, one of the first places in the world (unsurprisingly) to really stand up and begin to make outstanding Reggae music outside of Jamaica was the Virgin Islands. A few years ago, when it seemed as if things hit their proverbial stride, if you were an intense fan of Reggae, you literally 'ran into' a big new artist from out of the VI on a semi-weekly basis and though things have seemingly slowed down from the virtual warehouse of artists, we are still feeling the reverberation and aftershocks of VI Reggae explosion all of these years later. These days it comes in the form of un/underknown stars who do big things in making themselves known to the masses and, hopefully, laying a foundation which will see them follow in the paths of artists such as Pressure Busspipe, NiyoRah, Ras Attitude and many others who have virtually made themselves apart of the listening lexicon of the entire genre. Just last year we all got a formal introduction to the linguistically gifted Reemah from out of St. Croix on her MASSIVE debut album, "Check Your Words". Although she had been around from quite awhile ahead of it, on that album Reemah would show herself, arguably, to be amongst the most gifted wordsmiths in Reggae music and since then has managed to remain prominent via, most notably, appearing on I Grade Records' giant Songbird Riddim (still the best compilation I've heard this year). And over the years before her we'd heard from the likes of Mada Nile's brother, Ambush ["it's an expression of my soooooooul!"] [BOOM!], Revalation Da Royal, Lady Passion, Ickarus ["mind who you lime round, spend time round!"], Sekhu and even Ras Batch's empress, Ima, who have made large impacts on fans with their debut albums and now we have another VERY impressive talent taking a similar route.  
"Mind How You Choose" EP by Nuby Dan [2009]
Meet Nahyubi Joseph. That name isn't one which was terribly familiar to my eyes, but I do know of a Nuby Dan from out of St. Thomas who has popped up over the years, but never really seemed to be very active outside of a digital EP from a few years back. As it turns out, Nuby Dan and Nahyubi Joseph are the same person and his history was far more detailed than I was aware of. First of all, Joseph (and 'Nahyubi Joseph' is a great name, even if you don't like his music (and you will), you have to give him credit for having a great name) has a brother who also makes music by the name of Jomo Dread, who I only know of from his having appeared on the previously alluded to EP release, "Mind How You Choose", which goes back to 2009. On top of that, the two actually released an album together even prior to that, "Raggedy". That album dates back to 2005 which means that Joseph has been making music professionally for at least eight or nine years now which makes him a veteran (unless, of course, you subscribe to Lloyd Brown's definition of the term 'veteran' which would mean that Joseph has more than two decades of work to put in before we can even call him a "new veteran") (biggup Lloyd Brown) (Hey Denise!). And when you listen to his new album, that's exactly what you'll hear. A veteran.

"Take Heed" is, officially, the debut solo album from Nahyubi Joseph, formerly Nuby Dan. The album comes in a year which has already featured several releases from prominent VI Reggae artists including the return of Ras Army ["Dredlocks Time"], Abja ["Songs Fa Jah"], Danny I ["Tribu Especial"] and, of course, copious amounts of Midnite ["Free Indeed", "Children of Jah Dubs", "Be Strong"] as usual. And we've also seen great contributions from the likes of NiyoRah and Pressure Busspipe as well, so it has been another tremendous one for the subgenre and Joseph makes his claim to being one of the years best (which is saying a lot) with what he has come up with in "Take Heed". The album features the work of the Roots & Fire Band who provide the chanter with a HEALTHY lot of big vibes over which to play (more on that later) and Joseph takes a full advantage of the moment and, presumably, does his absolute best here. There wasn't a great deal of discussion around this one, unsurprisingly, and (in very Reemah-esque form) it did take me awhile to get back around to it, but hopefully more and more people take notice of what happens here. As far as his style, Nahyubi Joseph very much fits into the mould of someone like Pressure, as a very straightforward chanter who is very adroit as a writer. We'll explore that more in just a second, but he is a very talented lyricist which makes listening to his music, at its best, a complete joy. Vocally, thinking of comparisons, I think I might compare Joseph to kind of a Junior Kelly type of stylist. Though he lacks that kind of 'loud' effect Kelly has, he is able to do a lot with melodies and emotions, but he presents it, typically, in this very bright, yet edgy, type of package. Also, even in hyper times, Joseph's music almost exclusively comes through with a very calm type of feeling attached to it. The results make for one mighty debut album and one which I'd love to tell you about.


Album preview

As I mentioned, you'll run into some really impressive instrumentation throughout this album. The riddims are, for the most part, sublime and help the artist in making some wonderful sounds. For example, check the opener of Nahyubi Joseph's big debut set, "Take Heed", which is the title track. This song, specifically is directed towards the youths in saying to 'take heed' of what your elders tell you, but I think it is applicable to anyone of any age. You're never too old to take advice or to learn something and you can take it and learn from anyone of any age. Also, this tune is dazzling. It has an infectious vibe about it which is sure to get heads nodding and get the album named after it off to a fine start. Next up is a very interesting tune in 'Anywhere Jah Goes'. This song is about Joseph encountering a young woman who, despite a different background, happily accepts His Imperial Majesty into her life, obviously attracting the attention of Joseph at the same time. You've heard songs like this in the past or some somewhat similar, but the way this one comes across is delightful because you actually go through this process with her and, ultimately, Joseph takes it to a broader level in showing his appreciation and love for all women of the world who have taken similar steps in their lives. A very clever and original piece. And rounding out the first quarter of the album is the one song on "Take Heed" with which I am sure I am familiar, the stirring tribute to the most Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, 'Up Ye Mighty Race'. This song actually did appear on the "Mind How You Choose" EP where it was in a slightly different version. There it was a standout and it remains so on the full release. BOOM! 

Continuing on, we next get to a very upful selection called 'Jah Love'. You know this song is a big praising piece, giving thanks to The Almighty.

"Jah love is more valuable than all those riches on the earth
And Jah works is more important
So Jah works is what I man must do first
Jah love is more valuable than all those riches on the earth
And Jah works is ever important
So Jah works is what I man must do first

Can't afford to stay in the past
And you lose sight of Jah earth running fast
Can't to afford to sit on the side -
While babylon brutalize and kill the little child
Now is the time for the youths dem to rise
Throw away yuh little jealousy and false pride
Now is the time for the Rastaman to move
Inna this gideon never you get confused"

The song is another very BRIGHT one and one which will certainly get a lot of attention on this album. It is followed by a similar piece (nice horns on this song), the inspirational 'Be Yourself'. Like I said, you'll find so many nice musical compositions on "Take Heed" and the literal piece of GOLD backing 'Be Yourself' is well amongst the finest of them all in my opinion. Nahyubi Joseph does not waste it either and instead pushes a nice message about the importance of individuality ["Mama seh 'monkey say, monkey do'. Mi nah no monkey, so mi nah follow you"]. And filling the role of the album's obligatory ganja song is the decent 'Mary Jane'. This one is not is my favourite song on the album (that actually comes next), but it is SO hard to dislike anything that plays across a riddim which sounds like this and the song is somewhat clever as Joseph, fully, prescribes human-like characteristics to his love, Ms. Mary Jane (somewhat reminiscent of Ziggi Recado's MASSIVE hit, 'Mary') ["she takes me so far away!"] [WHAT!] [BOOM!]. 

Though its first half is damn impressive with tunes such as 'Up Ye Mighty Race', the title track and others, "Take Heed" really hits another level and maintains it during its second half which begins with what is the best song on the entire album in my opinion, the GIANT antiviolence set, 'Gun Play'

"Gun play in the city
Man moving like dogs and kitties
Today was full of joy  - tomorrow nah go pretty
Cause - so much violence and utter pity 
Corruption - in the town
Any day a great showdown
Certain places you shouldn't go round
TOO MUCH JOHN WAYNES AND JOHN BROWNS

One set a youths seh, dem nah go tek chat
Seh dem aim fi yuh face and lick yuh head top
Seh dem nah no conscience: Skull rotten and head bad
Rebels ah rise and mek dem fool dress back 
I si dem busting it without a cause 
Best to shield wi from corruption cause it nah go last
WICKEDNESS GET BLOWN AWAY WITH DRAFT
Begging di youths dem put di gunplay pon pause 

Another set seh - dem no business
AK-47 they will bust it up quick
Some of dem juvenile, delinquent and misfits 
Seh dem love di it sound so mystic
Idle thoughts is dem tragedy 
But when you si di righteous youths, don't bodda ye -
Or else you end up in tragedy
You shoulda know monkey don't climb cashew tree"

The song is SATURATED with an impressive level of knowledge, which is then DIPPED in a sound which makes it downright joyous to the ears (and listen to how that track just develops! Eventually you hear an organ and many different beautiful sounds)! Following the peak is another tune which keeps us in the skies, 'Lyrics Galore'. I'll speak more on this shortly, but this song really speaks to a quality which Nahyubi Joseph has which definitely differentiates him from many of his peers. Despite its title, this tune does has significance and isn't merely a display of skill (although it is that too!). Check 'Searching', which is somewhat of a general song, but what I took from it is that Joseph is discussing people who just live in the system and reuse to even attempt to rise above it (even though they know that such an avenue does exist). 'Jah Reign [Psalm 97]' is another very inspirational piece which owes its origins to a biblical source. This song finds a… paradise of vibes in its simplicity. If you just listen to it straight-ahead you find this point where Joseph is just THROWING lyrics at you and is unwavering and unfaltering in making his points on one of the brightest of highlights on this album. Speaking of unfaltering, 'Fittest' may be an even stronger piece.

"Is only the fittest of the fittest shall survive 
So man I beg yuh, know Jah 

The Rastaman ah yod it up
What a journey!
Hail King Selassie - no one coulda twist, neither turn me
Even though a million and one gyal who adore me -
Still I have to put righteousness there before me
Times are rough but Jah made me rougher 
And are tough but Jah made me tough
Things never did nuff, but Jah Jah make it so nuff yah
Give thanks and praises for the blessings and the powers"

 And wrapping up Nahyubi Joseph's "Take Heed" is the very broad, but GORGEOUS 'Feel No Pain'. This song is about many different things (including being an ode to Joseph's homeland), but I think that the major attraction here is Joseph's style. As I alluded to reference to 'Lyrics Galore', something that he does as well as just about anyone in Reggae today (Pressure is also very good at it) is maintain this kind of loose feel. This gives another dimension, entirely, to some of his music because Joseph can really go in just about any direction and make it work. On ‘Feel No Pain' he goes in several of them. The results? Yet another big, big song. 
Nahyubi Joseph
Overall, while Jah9 long ago wrapped up the discussion of the best Reggae debut album of 2013 (and in about four weeks' time she will have also placed a bow on Album of The Year) (unless someone does something ridiculous), "Take Heed" is definitely in the discussion following her mammoth contribution. Along with serving as a fine introduction to an artist, it also, just like Reemah did last year, makes you focus again on the Reggae music from out of the VI and just how completely dependable it has been for Reggae fans for such a hefty period of time now. Nahyubi Joseph comes to this album as a nearly finished product and what he is able to do here is fantastic. Call it another winner piece as Nahyubi Joseph absolutely blazes his way through "Take Heed". Masterful.

Rated: 4.45/5
Nahyubi Hodge
2013
CD + Digital 

Review #480

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