Wednesday, April 27, 2016

WORTHY!: A review of "The Rootz Warrior" by Warrior King

Most unfortunately I think that I’ve been reviewing music for so long that it’s kind of dulled my ability, at least at times, to listen to music for the sake of… simply enjoying the music. I’m always trying to pause something and make sure I heard what I thought that I heard and how it applies to what was said two verses prior and how it matches the riddim and all of these other things I tend to do in order to make a critique. That’s fine, it’s my own fault and I’ll likely not live long enough to get rid of it but I do admit  that I LOVE moments when something is either SO pleasing or has such a powerful surge of some other type of quality which either makes it incredibly pointless or incredibly difficult to think about critically. The general example of this is, of course, Soca music. I’m less than four months away from my thirty-fifth birthday (so, sooooooooo old) and I’ve yet to be able to cure that ‘infection’ and I never will. At its absolute best, or anywhere near it, Soca is somewhere beyond an explanation. You either feel it or you don’t and nothing anyone can say can give it to you or take it away from you in my opinion. When it comes to Reggae music things are different, surely, but not entirely. Yes, the genre can be presented in a form which I feel places it beyond explanation which is why, despite occasionally dipping into the vault throughout the years, we‘ve never spent much time discussing Bob Marley or Peter Tosh, but sporadically even in those cases I kind of feel the need to explain (don’t judge me) (or go ahead… I don’t care). In others still, I just find moments where I am so wholly satisfied with what I hear, that I don’t mind keeping it to myself. Today we take a look at someone whose music hasn’t usually placed him in that category because, throughout his career, when he’s been GOOD, Reggae music has noticed the output of Warrior King and done so in a major way. Dating back to his early years as a top flight artist, he’s been someone who has not only proven to be terribly difficult to ignore for fans of the genre, but also someone whose music has played and played and played! As we get further away from, it may be more difficult to remember, but Warrior King definitely enjoyed a very nice run to prominence as one of the biggest and most productive young stars of Roots Reggae music and, even these days, when he does something big, we’re still taking notice.

…well, yeah he’s done something big again. Besides just being happy to have something new from him in 2016, I’m always excited anytime I hear news on Warrior King because it always gives me a reason to go through his past. He’s never seemed to be the most prolific of vocalists (and that is ONLY in comparison to some of his outrageously active of peers, in virtually any other genre of music, his productivity would certainly be described as ‘steady’ and deservedly so) and maybe that has helped him in some aspects - an avoidance of over-saturation, but there is some CLASSIC material that the chanter [“Jah give I the powers to chant. Jah give I the powers to chant! Jah give I the powers to chant! Mi come to give the people what they need and not what they want!”] [BOOM!] has given us through the years and I anticipate the day, whether he is there to see it or not, when history shows a grand kindness to Warrior King for his contribution to Reggae music. And I’ll be happy to do it now -- definitely two of the nicest additions to my own personal collection is a pair of signed copies of his first two albums, “Virtuous Woman” and “Hold The Faith”, from about a decade ago now.
"Virtuous Woman" [2002] & "Hold The Faith" [2005]
So! Having not written what I would describe as an ‘official’ review in over  a year, I thought that I’d come back and tell you about what I believe is the fifth official studio album from the wonderful Warrior King, “The Rootz Warrior”. Apart from his initial two releases (both came from VP Records in 2002 and 2005, respectively), there was also the ghost-like “Love Is In the Air” in 2009 which flew well beneath the radars of many fans, I’m sure, and then there was the exceedingly well-received “Tell Me How Me Sound” from a couple of years on for Tad’s Records. The former, in retrospect, was an unusual blip in his career, while the latter was nearly a pillar. Of course I’ll have to explain it to you more but, “The Rootz Warrior” is a better album than “Tell Me How Me Sound”. Personally, this album has kept me company for the better part of two or three weeks or so. I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed it and had absolutely no intent on interrupting more time laying around being sick to spend what would surely take a week to write up and figured we’d find some other way to tell you about it eventually… probably (it actually would have went into the last WILT post). However, the new album finds Warrior King linking with an old friend of ours, the enduring James Lord of Irie Sounds International, which, along with the chanter’s own Rootz Warrior Productions imprint and the magical people at Zojak Worldwide, bring “The Rootz Warrior” to fruition and to all of them I, on behalf of YOU and everyone else who is going to hear this album, say “thank you, thank you very much”. Something went through my mind immediately when I first heard the album fully and it has dominated my opinions in regard to it from ever since then. “The Rootz Warrior” is VINTAGE level Warrior King. We may not (but then again we might) come away with these type of bursting anthems such as the afore-alluded to ‘Power To Chant’ or ‘Virtuous Woman’ or ‘Never Go Where Pagans Go’ (CLASSICS! ALL OF THEM! DAMN!), but that won’t be due to the quality of the music because there is some work on this release which ranks very closely to those landmark tracks in my opinion. And as an album, it goes on to rank as the Warrior King’s finest piece of work in almost a decade and a half. Let’s deal with it!  
"Love Is In The Air" [2009] & "Tell Me How Me Sound" [2011"]
Unsurprisingly “The Rootz Warrior” album appears to be a set which features a mixture of tunes fans are likely to know with other, and presumably newer, material. And it is such a downright DOMINANT track, at least to ears, which gets things started, in the form of ‘His Majesty [He’s Worthy]. In any realm in which common sense exists this praising tune is the finest offering on this album - it is absolutely spectacular!

“The world have seen his face
People from all different time and space
He sits upon the throne of David
Lets become members of a new race -
So all evil can be erased
His words are pure and sacred

He’s worthy
His Majesty is worthy 
He’s worthy to be praised always

He’s worthy
Haile Selassie is worthy
He’s worthy to be praised all days

He established the OAU
And for those who don’t have a clue - at the League of Nations, 1936
He prophesied World War II
Anywhere in the world He went, it was always a historic event
Best dressed Head of State, three consecutive years
He was showered with gifts and presents”

Fortunately, however, common sense has never been a strength of mine. Still, despite being my second favourite song on the album, ‘His Majesty’ SOARS and is as regal and royal of an effort as one would hope for given its subject. Next in is a tune which I think is familiar to my ears (though it may just be the horns), the also very strong ‘Stand Up In the Fyah’. This LUSH piece goes in a few different directions, but at its core what I ultimately took for it is the sense of one attempting to do the best that they can in life in all aspects. The Warrior King tackles several topics from being sure to be responsible [“You know not where you’re going because you know not where you’re from. How can an Afrikan join the Ku Klux Klan?!“] and clean and to give thanks for what you have and he finds a track between it all which makes for one very compelling tune. And speaking of tracks, the riddim on ‘Stand Up in the Fyah’ primes up after its beginnings and is subsequently DIVINE. Continuing with the theme of the opening of “The Rootz Warrior” is its third selection, ‘Rastafari Protect I’… PROBLEMS! This song is one which I think is probably going to help a whole heap of people in their journey in life as WK speaks about the basic DEPENDABLE and trustworthy nature of His Majesty and it put a SMILE on my face. It may just be the mightiest drop on the whole of the album lyrically (or just in general -- you could make that case), pinnacling, in my opinion, on a STUNNING third verse.

“Rastafari protect I from all enemies
Deliver me
He never let I down
For every sickness there’s a remedy
Burn impurity
His Majesty wear the triple crown

Keep I brave and bold
The devils seeking after my soul
They’re trying to take control
But my life is more precious than gold
All the people out there planning to destroy me like Bin Laden -
I never worry nor fret 

And sticking right there as well, definitely check the ‘shufflin’ ‘Ain’t Giving Up’. Another big addition to this album and one which rests near its head to my ears. Here’s another composition about perseverance in life and endeavouring to maintain oneself in the face of adverse situations and conditions. It also has a sweet, SWEET backing courtesy of its well proven and trusted riddim.

Another aspect of “The Rootz Warrior” which kind of made it a very ‘comfortable’ album for me was just how well it sounds. The sonic appeal of the album isn’t this kind of mechanical and rigid type of vibe which you can get from Roots Reggae music when it isn’t done well and it appears, at least, that a conscious effort was made to give the listener something which may not wholly challenge the thought, but something which can just make you feel good! Want an example? I’ll give you three of them. First check what is my Wife’s current favourite song on the album, ‘Your Love Is Amazing’ (and as I’ve said in the past, her taste in men may be AWFUL (and it is), but she knows a good song when she hears it) which was WK‘s cut of Irie Sounds‘ In Love Riddim from a few years back. This song probably isn’t going to change the world, but it’ll put a smile on more than a few faces [“Your love keeps me warm even when I’m in the fridge. It takes me to the place where The Most High is”] and that is an important power of another kind! Later we get the outstanding ‘Watching You’ which is going to put a lot of motion in a lot of necks and feet (I said that because I’m sitting here stepping and rocking back and forth in my chair), including yours and mine. And watch last year’s golden Legends of Soul Riddim from Crawba Productions glow all across the album in the form of ‘Moonlight Bright’. I could listen to this thing all day long if I had to. It has such a nice vibe and the love song appears to have been constructed for exactly such a purpose and, like I said, it will definitely make you feel good. “The Rootz Warrior” also features a pair of mixes of previous compositions, ‘The One For Me’ and ‘Signs of The Times’, respectively. The former gets an acoustic rinsing and runs not too far behind ‘Moonlight Bright’ for its sensory appeal. ‘Signs of The Times’, on the other hand, gets a Dubstep mix and is the longest song on the entire album by nearly a minute. I’ve never been a fan of Dubstep, but I’ve been quick in the past to find out that I am in a minority when it comes to that and a credit well goes to the idea of changing things up considerably.

'Same Source'

Warrior King, himself, charts a very interesting course when he heads to The Gambia for the tribute to the country’s sitting Head of State on ‘President Yahya Jammeh’. I may be wrong, but I can’t think of any other time WK making such a musical acknowledgment and it was somewhat surprising (although certainly Sizzla Kalonji approves). But what develops consequently is nothing but a tough addition to this album. Tougher, still, are a pair of drops later on this album which help to form THE class of it in my opinion. The first is its finest moment in my opinion, the MAMMOTH ‘Same Source’. I talked about songs present on “The Rootz Warrior” which seemed to serve a primary purpose of just making the audience enjoy themselves and the music and there were pieces at the beginning which were of far more mentally gripping ilk, ‘Same Source’, at least in my opinion, combines elements of both. It is a JOY to listen to and Warrior King takes full advantage of the instant to make a grand point of unification throughout the world. It has such an easy way about it and it so wonderfully plays into the vibes of the song as, while it may be a critical message (and it is), it is something which is BASIC to humanity [“I HOPE YOU KNOW, WE’RE ALL CONNECTED!”] and something which doesn’t need to be injected into your mind because it’s already there. It just needs to be refreshed. And there’s also ‘Greater’ which is fantastic. It is the type of song which, buried way down there at track #13, may go overlooked but that’ll be your loss because ‘Greater’ may just be one of the best songs that Warrior King has ever done. 

“Good, better, best - nothing less
Everything I do, I’m always aiming for the highest
Cleanliness is righteousness
Who Jah Jah bless, I say no man test
Anything that’s common to man you can do
Equal capacity, we have that fi true
Don’t put no limitations pon your mind
Mi bless by The Most High, so divine

Anything that you can do, Rasta can do it too
And do it greater
And Greater!

Any game that you can play, Rasta can play it too 
And play it greater!
And greater!”

Finally, there is a pair of  combinations on “The Rootz Warrior” featuring a couple of really big, big names. ‘I Wouldn’t Do That’ features the legendary Beres Hammond (wouldn’t it be nice if we got a new Beres album in 2016?). This is actually a remake of an older Hammond song with Warrior King now adding his portions and making for another very soothing effort -- but I could listen to Beres Hammond sing absolutely anything and find it soothing. There is a message here in the vibes of making the not so obvious but BEST choices in life to live in a proper way. Specifically, the thought is to eschew what may seem to be the ‘best’ things in life because things that are shiny always come with a shiny price tag, whether you realize it or not. And Richie Spice runs red all over ‘Heartbreaker’. On paper, a combination featuring Warrior King and Richie Spice is all kinds of interesting and although I wouldn’t count ‘Heartbreaker’ amongst the biggest highlights on this album, it doesn’t disappoint in the end. 
Overall (2700 words + that wasn’t too bad), “The Rootz Warrior” is the best album Warrior King has done in fourteen years, in my opinion. And, as I mentioned, THE class of this album ranks alongside the very best material that he has produced at any point in his career. What really stands out, in retrospect (besides how proud I am of myself that I actually finished this thing) (and I don’t think it‘s terrible, I‘d probably give myself a 2.75/5), is just how COMPLETE this album is. I may not be in love with EVERY song on it,  but I don’t look at one area and say that it could have definitely been improved if they’d done _____. I think it is as good as it could have possibly been and saying something like that in reference to a piece of work by someone as entirely gifted as Warrior King almost always means that WHATEVER it is, is probably special. “The Rootz Warrior” well has something special about it as Warrior King reaches vintage levels on his finest album release in a very long time. Well done. 

Rated: 4.35/5
Rootz Warrior Productions/Irie Sounds International/Zojak Worldwide
Digital {CD Coming soon}

Review #535

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