Friday, June 13, 2014

'Looking Up': A review of "Get Rid A Di Wicked" by Lutan Fyah

Unfortunately it will likely never be the case in music that the quality of someone's work will always mirror their standing, but I do like to think that, on occasions, things do balance out. In Reggae and in many other genres we are seemingly of the attitude that certain individuals almost always from eras gone by are, essentially, beyond reproach and critique and to do so in the case of even a song is difficult to do outside of 'bad taste'. And though I like to think that nothing, musically speaking, is beyond critique (everyone does not have to like everything), in those particular cases, given all that has been accomplished and left for future generations to build upon - I'm fine with that. There're even examples which extend into the more modern scene as well and in Reggae, we're ripe with examples of that. People such as Beres Hammond and Luciano enjoy a similar level of wide-reaching respect and do you have any doubt that someday, fairly soon, they'll be joined by the likes of Tarrus Riley and Etana (and I may even begin to add Capleton to that lot. Despite all of the controversies he's experienced through the years, I fully expect the very near future to be exceedingly kind to The Prophet)? To go even further, we've also wonderfully seen instances of a substantial increase in profile from people who have really deserved it. One of the things I like to look at is what happened with Tanya Stephens just a few years ago. She released her two most popular and highly regarded projects, "Gangsta Blues" and "Rebelution", consecutively for VP Records back in 2004 and 2006, respectively and enjoyed the greatest stretch of her career. And if those two sets had never materialized, she probably would have still enjoyed a successful run because she spent those years making outstanding music and the masses let her know just how much we appreciated her efforts. Stephens' run wouldn't last, her next album, "Infallible", was a free album (and was far from its title) and the next one, last year's "Guilty", failed to make a significant impact as well, but it couldn't diminish her glowing prime. I'd also mention the work of Mark Wonder who also pushed an album, "Working Wonders", which was his most popular release and, if you recall, his release just before that, "The True Stories of Mark Wonder and Friends" was picked up and re-released a few years after its initial drop and I think his profile has risen considerably from then and that's because of all of his hard work through the years. And similar things have happened for Lloyd Brown, Ras Batch (biggup the Zion I Kings), Chezidek and others who have seen their albums somewhat suddenly become more intensely anticipated and beloved by fans. 
"Life of A King" [2013]
Just last year there was an album by the name of "Life of A King" from the great Lutan Fyah which, in retrospect, would go on to become one of his highest profile releases to date. That album, which came via Grillaras Productions, was immaculately promoted by the label (which, itself, enjoyed a very nice year in 2013) and was amongst the most discussed releases of the second half of the year. And it was stellar in my opinion. The Fyah has bona fide classic albums in his past (three, in my opinion) and is surely a favourite of ours and to see any album of his receive that type of attention was fantastic, particularly in the absence of such spotlight for a while which included exquisite sets such as 2012's "Truly" (biggup One Drop Records who you have to check on sporadically because they may have released an amazing album recently… and not told anyone about it). But as "Life of A King" did get that shine, it figured to be quite awhile before the next Lutan Fyah album managed to generate a similar buzz.  
Or maybe not. Enter Bread Back Productions. Headed by Richard Bramwell and themselves in the midst of enjoying a prominent rise in the music, particularly on the strength of an album of their own, are next up to release a Lutan Fyah album as, finally, "Get Rid A Di Wicked" has made its way to fruition. Last year, Bread Back scored a big blow as the masterminds behind "The Messiah", the GIANT album from the label's most well known and oft-collaborator, Sizzla Kalonji, which would, astoundingly, receive a Grammy nomination (common sense dictated that it deserved to be nominated, but common sense has never worked well with the Grammys when it has come to Reggae music) (for example, it is just the second week of June, right now, and I would presume that there is a… 90% chance than Ziggy Marley wins the 2015 Grammy and it doesn't really matter what anyone else does). Outside of Kalonji, the label has made a sizable impact with other names as well, such as Delly Ranx (who I believe is Bramwell's cousin), Louie Culture, Teflon, Norris Man and others (Bread Back has, to my knowledge, also been the label voicing the fiery UT Ras most in recent times as well) (biggup UT Ras), but Lutan Fyah has probably been their most active of vocalists so it was a great idea that the two decided to go ahead with a full album. As was the case with "The Messiah", "Get Rid A Di Wicked" is distributed by VP Records, this time through their unavoidably active VPAL imprint and it has also generated a significant buzz ahead of its release date. We initially mentioned this set way back in April when it was originally set to release but, a two month delay has done virtually nothing to diminish -- it's actually intensified -- the anticipation for this release. The album had a premiere, which actually streamed live online and, within a year which has been so glowing, it has managed to become one of the most talked about releases of its time - sharing the platform, most notably, with the still forthcoming "Easy To Love" by Maxi Priest. Personally, as a long time fan, I do love Lutan Fyah receiving this type of attention, especially concerning his albums and, as usual, I was really looking forward to hearing it. 

At last count, I think that "Get Rid A Di Wicked" may be Lutan Fyah's sixteenth [?] album. He does have at least sixteen sets that one could refer to as albums (although I don't think that most people would count "Music" and that's fine) and, looking back, he's come a very long way from his first, "Dem No Know Demself”, but as it was way back then -- a decade ago now -- I still find myself looking forward to his work almost as much as anyone else these days. So while he may not register in such aspects, superficially, the Fyah has already assembled an excellent record of longevity and it's only getting deeper. Getting the excavation started on his most recent release, "Get Rid A Di Wicked", is surely one of its finest selections, 'Tired A Di Suffering'. The big social/economical commentary was Lutan Fyah's cut of BB's Washington DC Riddim and it examines the kind of endlessly negative cycle of life and earning money that so many people are stuck in today. Despite the riddim (which is excellent) it is kind of a gloomy type of piece, lyrically, but that doesn't make it bad. There is room for gloomy when it sounds like this. Things, arguably, go even higher for the album's second song, the wonderful 'Children Safe'.

"Let's build a better future for the youths of today
Give dem guidance and show dem the way
Teach dem to love and remember fair-play
Be strong, work and play
A better future for the youths of today
Give dem guidance and show dem the way
Teach dem to love and remember fair-play
Be strong

Education first -
Language and arithmetic
Give dem math, science and technologies
We need skill and trade workmanship
Self-reliance to escape microchip
Hey, just prepare dem to escape the mind game of the matrix
Watch out cause babylon no stop play tricks
Teach dem to love and put away the hatred"

This tune would be on the other side of the opener: Though it definitely does cover some very serious and harsh subjects (mainly in its second verse), 'Children Safe' has a delightfulness about it and what it seems to do is to picture that these important things are going to happen and, of course, the entire world will benefit when it does. I also really enjoy how the track on that song continues after the vocals - always a nice touch. We do return to a darker route on the familiar 'Just So Downtown Run' but, again, it is done in a major way. 'Just So Downtown Run' is a BIG tune which has a very unique vibes to it -- it is kind of rigid, but it will surely get your head moving when you listen to -- and is a strong addition to "Get Rid A Di Wicked". As he has done on many occasions before, Lutan Fyah also turns his attention to the most wonderful person in the world, Mama, on the sublime 'My Mother'. He demonstrates that wholly on the song as he places an importance on Her situation and Her comfort, above all others - saying every other woman in his life (EVEN HIS SISTER!) can leave if they have to, but that he needs Mama. One of the most impressive offerings on this album, especially lyrically, 'My Mother' is a great tune.
Despite both its title and its cover, there is a whole heap of love to be found on "Get Rid A Di Wicked". I was actually surprised to see so many love songs but apparently it is a large part of the Fyah's plan to rid the planet of the wicked - to replace it with love. Of great interest would be previous single on the Long Life Riddim, 'This Love' which is the only combination you'll find on this album, this one linking Lutan Fyah with underrated but all kinds of talented veteran DJ, Lady G. An 'aggressive duet', 'This Love' is another mighty piece for this album and it is just what happens when you bring together two such powerful talents. 'Baby I Am Your Love' has a title which is corny. It is. I can't defend it - not even going to try. The actual song, however, isn't horrible and while I most surely will not cite it amongst my favourites from "Get Rid A Di Wicked" and I do not like it, it has an interesting sound to it and maybe something unlike I've EVER heard from Lutan Fyah in the past. The chanter does once again reach high and take you there courtesy of BB's 9 To 5 Riddim with another previous single, 'Jamaican Girl'. The song is damn hard to shake and that's probably why they made it and there's nothing wrong with that as Lutan Fyah makes it well known toward whom his allegiances and affections are directed. 'Enchanting Smile' is another song that I knew ahead of this album as it appeared on the Magnet Tempo Riddim from just last year or so. As far as love songs go, 'Enchanting Smile' is clearly one of the best on the album. In retrospect, the Fyah has generally made his brand of songs like this more complex than many of his peers (the best examples of that here would be both 'This Love' and the next song I'm going to tell you about) - they tend to focus on one or two things but focus PASSIONATELY. This song isn't on the levels of some of his best work in the subject but it does follow that winning pattern in my opinion. 'House & Land', on the other hand, does reach considerably higher to my ears. 

"Hey mi got house and land fi you
Hey girl mi got car and van fi you
Hey girl mi got all sorts of plans fi you
Your love has got me there

Mi seh you need to live this big life, si di keys fi mi car
And anywhere you been, I can make you reach far
Money's not a problem, take mi wallet and gwan
And go live like seh there's no tomorrow
If you wanna sail across the ocean then walk on the glacier
Take you to Afrika, straight down to Asia
First class flight to Ethiopia - five star accommodations in Addis Ababa"

The tune also features this downright intoxicating vibe to it, which is as big of a part of its appeal as any other feature it carries and the Fyah doesn't waste the opportunity and, instead, produces one of the most pleasing songs to listen to on the album. Finally, though it isn't completely like the rest, I'll also mention 'Gospel Grind'. The artist actually had a tune called 'Gospel Winer' from 2012-13 which was very good and, I don't know if you'd call this one a remake or a remix, but they're related in some way and though the sound here is much different, it's still a very good song as he deals with a woman who is… just a little too involved in her church activities. It is not as strong as the original version but still more than solid. 

Like I said, there is a lot of love to be found on "Get Rid A Di Wicked" and if all of that weren't enough for you, check even 'More Love'. This song is no 'love song' in the typical way the phrase is designated, but it is the largest chunk of LOVE to be spread on this album and a GORGEOUS selection which calls for love to be used as shield against wickedness in the world. Following 'More Love', Lutan Fyah expresses his love for another living thing and his desire to shield it from wickedness as well on 'Ganja Man'. This tune appeared on Bread Back's Grass Root Riddim and, today, it is even stronger than the first time that I heard it. This tune isn't much in the way of something you've never heard before, however, what I do really like about it is the approach. It is well one of the most aggressive pieces on the album and the album needed some of that which is provided here on a still otherwise big tune. Also check 'Ambition' which is another song with a very distinctive type of vibes for a Lutan Fyah song (from the way it starts, you almost get to thinking that it sounds like a Kartel song. Which may be the very first time that you'll make that comparison) and I didn't like this song the first few times that I heard it, but it has grown on me slightly. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics are the main-attraction on 'Ambition', as Lutan Fyah says to go for your goals as hard as you can and to not let adversity, big or small, completely drag you down.  The title track changes the vibes once again and though it settles us down just a bit, the quality remains high. 

"Satan haffi drop him fork and run
Dash weh all dem nuclear, all dem bombs and all dem gun
No si weh dem tun when dem hear di Rasta come
Dem caan come take my soul or break my bones
Wi will fight cah wi find it necessary
And I know my rights and di burden is getting heavy
Also mi know seh dem system, it no ready
Oh Rastafari, Rastafari!

Come mek wi go get rid a wicked -
Once and for all
Come mek wi go get rid a wicked
Slew dem inna di brawl
Di battle line is already drawn
Di warriors ready fi kick it gideon

Mi just ah wait - 
Until, babylon fruits dem ripe and drop off and spill 
Di youths dem will approach dem with some militant skill

'Get Rid A Di Wicked', the song, is SPECTACULAR! I don't want to go too far but it is certainly one of the best Lutan Fyah songs that I've heard in the past couple of years or so and I guess it should speak even higher to the quality of the album named after it that it is not my favourite song on the album named after it. That distinction goes to the MASSIVE closer, 'Jail Wall'. You can take this song in the most literal way possible if you like and I still think that you walk away from it thinking it to be an excellent piece, but if you make it a bit more broad and apply the concept of tearing down this wall to mean just overcoming any negative obstacle in life, I think it goes much, MUCH higher. This song makes you feel like doing something important and I am sure that was the objective for it as Lutan Fyah sparkles at the album's pinnacle.

"Ghetto youths go bruk down jail wall
Too much concrete, steel and bars
Living in a system of pagan
And as you get pay, di pay gone
So mi just go bruk down jail wall
Too much concrete, steel and bars
Living in a system of pagan
I tell you as wi get pay, di pay gone 

Now they wonder why di youths get negative
When it comes to education, there's no privilege
When di violence bring di hate and all di suffering, nuff youth waan go foreign
Hey, wi been lock down inna prison
So many times wi dig deep, yet wi can't find a lick
Push wi head above di water, dem try sink wi down deep
So many youths get locked down fi a spliff
Caan take di foolishness"

BOOM! Again, I took it as a song meant to energize the masses to trample over any type of adversity we may face in our life and, in that, I found a gem of a selection. Interestingly, attached to the end of "Get Rid A Di Wicked" is an interview with the chanter, conducted by Genie Sweetness. It's well over ten minutes long and I just think that it was a good idea! These days you see dubs and instrumentals and remixes and all sorts of other things now becoming more and more prevalent on albums - but an interview? It is a nice twist and, perhaps, yet another way to help fans to pay even more attention to and to become even more acquainted with this towering talent. Of particular note in the actual interview is Lutan Fyah speaking on how the album came to be and what his intentions were behind some of the music appearing on it. A very good idea in my opinion. 
Overall, "Get Rid A Di Wicked" not only becomes the second consecutive album from Lutan Fyah that has managed to generate such a nice amount of hype prior to its release (and it is likely to be the second of at least three as the second half of 2014 will probably bring us his first album for I Grade Records and the Zion I King who promote albums as well as anyone in Reggae music today) it also becomes the second which manages to live up to that hype to my opinion. I will say that I think that this album requires a little time and I would not, at all, be surprised to see my opinion change on it, for better or worse, with the passage of even more time because of how many different things are going here. Subtly, it isn't as straight-forward as it seems to be and I think as we move further away from it, it will stand out more as somewhat of a variant within his catalogue. HOWEVER, speaking for right now (which is all I can do), "Get Rid A Di Wicked" is very strong. The blend of Bread Back Productions and Lutan Fyah continues to turn out consistent winners and should this one bring a wider fan base than usual (and it should), what those fans will find is yet another solid set from an artist who, despite being at an advanced stage of his career, may still actually be on the rise. 

Rated: 4.25/5
Bread Back Productions/VPAL
CD + Digital

Review #517

1 comment:

  1. This one is too lovey dovey I still support lutan and look forward to future releases