|"Beauty For Ashes" by Midnite [I Grade Records - 2014]|
So it was my intent to attempt the ridiculous and write a Lyrics! feature for Vaughn Benjamin (as if narrowing that down to ten favourites is just… something I could do in an afternoon or something like that) and I'd actually started on an album that I had been listening to a lot lately, "Cipheraw" (Vault Review coming soon) (or something like that) and I got some material from it and it really helped me get started re-writing a review for that album and I went through a few others as well - trying to spread it out. Still, I have to say that it was "Beauty For Ashes", Midnite's pillaring set from earlier this year for I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings which has most caught my attention as, definitely, two of my favourite verses that Benjamin has ever done were written for that album. And I knew that in the back of my head but listening to the album brought it back crystal clear. I should also say that there're so many more from that album and, from a quality standpoint, I may even prefer one or two that I’m not going to mention but these two have just trapped my entire brain and absolutely refuse to let me go!
The first is Benjamin's first full stanza from 'When Jah Arise' (although I suppose you could call it his second if you like), a tune which features him alongside another dominant lyricist, Lutan Fyah.
"Almighty Jah who is partial to none
Reigneth upon all!
Receiveth rainwater for the body -
MOISTURIZE YOUR CIRCUITRY
Stand tall and don't fall
Recall the reason that the sun serves us all
AND THE EARTH IS THE LORD!"
This is fairly simple when compared to some of the wordy acrobatics Benjamin performs on other tunes (like 'All i's On You', still the best song on the album in my opinion) ["Twenty million hits with diverse fused news, a ruse to diffuse a social current that is in marching shoes"] [WHAT!] but it hits me so hard because, if you follow it, it is nothing but directions to prosperity. The first two lines, like the final one are statements and between them Benjamin tells you what to do. The one which stands out most, obviously:
"MOISTURIZE YOUR CIRCUITRY"
Is halting! Not only is there a musical pause of sorts just ahead of it but if you were to "moisturize your circuitry" … doesn't that sound so nice! The song makes you thirsty! And I think that was the intent of Benjamin's to have listeners focus on the smallest details, like a glass of water, which can be amongst the most fulfilling. And the, sequentially, from the very next song on the album, there's this:
"It's these kind of things to be careful with
Rasta seen countenance fall and broken spirit
Just uplift out of it how Jah create and insist
And the legislative whip was the laws of uplift
Whip is governmental title inna politics
Whip was also inna slavery, ah perform wickedness
Dem psychology trigger nerve and how dem touch it
Personal responsibility to each human unit of livity
THAT MEAN EVERY SIMPLE ONE INNA I-MANITY
Simple respect make a people in prosperity
The ebb and the flow, the give and take of living, moving currency
King Selassie I speak out against isolationist policy
Human sovereignty where people still retain their dignity
And play a part inna how things run inna fi dem community
Situation where none can shut up loyalty
Gonna do the best they can to enhance the country
And some of them will face the sun
Some of them with tenacity
There's a fusing of culture and diversity"
This one I love for so many reasons but the prevailing one is that I think that it is THE passage of the album which tells you everything that you need to know about "Beauty For Ashes" (but you know you need to listen to the other twelve songs on this album, right?). For me, what was so impressive lyrically about that album was how Benjamin, essentially, took one topic -- UNITY -- and dissected it and ripped it apart and reassembled it in thirteen songs. Bringing people together is one of the major topics of discussion in Reggae music, you'll find more albums focusing almost entirely on the subject and probably thousands of individual songs as well. But strictly from the written aspect, I don't know that anyone has ever done it like Vaughn Benjamin did it on "Beauty For Ashes". There are genuine gems here but these days I look closest at:
"THAT MEAN EVERY SIMPLE ONE INNA I-MANITY"
Alone, that doesn't make any sense, it isn't a complete thought but when you place it in the frame of the words ahead of it and behind it, it starts to GLOW! That is particularly true when you attach it to these two:
"King Selassie I speak out against isolationist policy
Human sovereignty where people still retain their dignity"
He's saying that no one is to be excluded! And, in total, you can say that the album is one about standing up for "every simple one inna I-manity". All of us! Surely I'm still in the process of breaking down this album and I'll likely only be finished when I stop breathing (or lose my hearing) but right now 'Same Boat We' and 'When Jah Arise' are proving to be ample sources of downright DELICIOUS mental food.