Thursday, October 6, 2016

'Still Inspired': A review of "i Thoughts" by Cali P

In stages. There is something so immensely satisfying, regardless of the particular matter, in maintaining the proverbial course and sticking alongside something or someone for the long haul. Be it some sort of endeavour or accomplishment you have been pursuing for a period of time or even some hobby you've been up to for awhile, there [hopefully] comes a point when you're able to look back, retrospectively, and enjoy the ride that you've been on. When it comes to entertainment this act can shine even brighter as you can approach just about and hear a story about some concert or some game or event that they attended years ago which has still left some type of imprint on their life and will never be forgotten. I am exactly the same way and so are you. Further more, in specifically dealing with music, something which, for several reason, always resonates with me (especially these days) is just how long I have for myself been emotionally invested with the output of certain artists and just the amazing progression I have been through 'with' them as a fan from a distance in most cases. And if you go to the highest cases, dealing with people like Bob Marley and the likes, what happens is that you kind of have to share that ride -- the entire world has been on that journey from since it began and shows no interest in getting off at any stop -- but in other cases it gets damn personal! I point to names such as Pressure Busspipe who, a truly ridiculous eleven years ago, delivered to me one of the greatest albums that I've ever heard in his all-conquering debut set, "The Pressure Is On". That album wasn't extremely popular and if you're looking for it on a disc, good luck, but if you trace back to it now, considering who he has become, it is a mightily interesting musical expedition. And it doesn't even have to be entirely positive, I can name you several names who continue to either be active who I once enjoyed but do not any longer, at least not to the same degree, and have those moments be just as colourful and vivid as more constructive instances because, again, those are people who have made large impacts on my life and, even then, I give thanks. Today, however, we're turning up lights and tuning in SO MANY good memories as I get to declare myself a full veteran [BOOM!] of listening to someone who I am so happy has endured with his fans and developed, for people like you and I, a big career which is set to take yet another giant step forward - the indomitable and, like he told us all last time, unstoppable, Cali P

"Lyrical Faya" [2008]
At last check I had just turned thirty-five years old about a month and a half ago (so you'll forgive me for the nostalgia) (at least I hope you will), which means that I would have been twenty-six in early 2008 when I fully began to listen to and appreciate the WONDERFUL output of Cali P as he dropped his unforgettable debut set, "Lyrical Faya". These days, I always enjoy when he does just about anything because it gives me an immediate reason to dig up that album and go mining through absolute gems of tunes such as 'Redemption' ["IT'S A REDEMPTION WHEN RASTA TOUCH DI STREET! THEN MEK DEM KNOW SEH DUTTY BABYLON MUST GET DEFEAT!"] [WHAT!] [BOOM!], 'Right Time' alongside Queen Omega (biggup Queen Omega, new tune and new video from the Trini Roots Empress recently), 'Hypocrites', 'Take Care Of My Family'… and I could go on and on with that one. For me, "Lyrical Faya" has reached the proper age from since its release date and is a complete personal CLASSIC set in my catalogues and one of the best debut albums Reggae music has ever produced in its modern form. And fortunately it didn't stop there (… if it did I wouldn't be writing this). Since then, the multi-talented chanter who has called home both Switzerland and Guadeloupe, given his parentage, as well as Jamaica most recently, has been on a precise musical tear! If you've REALLY been paying attention to Cali P's music over the course of the past eight years, I don't need to tell you about the focus he's shown in not only making his music in a particular way, but also in presenting it to the masses in such a powerful digestible and relatable manner. He's dealt both extensively with Dancehall as well as Roots and has existed within both scopes in an interesting and stirring fashion. Most notably, of course, was the presence of the afore-alluded to "Unstoppable" from 2011 (it has been FIVE YEARS since that album! It seems like two!) which, at least to my opinion in retrospect, so wonderfully compliments its predecessor in showing the different sides of Cali P's style. And, not to be forgotten at all was two years ago when he told us all about the musical "Healing Of The Nation" on one of the more impressive Reggae EP releases that you'll ever hear. And I should also mention the prior set, "Like A Lion", on which he shared with various artists, but starred on the vast majority of the tracks and really just showed how much he had progressed in terms of popularity as that set showed that his work had found a seemingly unlikely home within the winter sports community and had done so without sacrificing any of its original form or quality. Cali P has also maintained his activity in releasing a steady stream of singles, including 'Work' on the recent Maad Sick Reggaeville Riddim from Oneness Records. If you enjoy Reggae music, of virtually any type, Cali P has done something for you and in 2016, he's doing something else.

"Unstoppable" [2011] & "Healing of The Nation" [2014]
"i Thoughts" becomes the third full length set from Cali P and amongst the many things making this year yet another stellar one for Reggae music (it has been FANTASTIC, and though I'm semi-retired, I've enjoyed it all the way through), I'm certain that you'll find room for what very quickly proves itself to be a very satisfying release. The new album, once again, finds Cali P linking up with Gary 'Riga' Burke and Hemp Higher Productions from out of Switzerland. Artist and producer have shown themselves to be a powerful duo throughout the years and, though originally the two seemed to have linked to make primarily a harder form of Dancehall music, owed to their credit are both the "Unstoppable" and "Healing Of The Nation" projects which cover different ends of the spectrum. Also on board, somewhat surprisingly, is Flash Hit Records from out of France. Flash Hit is a label that we're definitely familiar with as they initially jumped on our radars through a couple of very nice entries, the Worldwide Love and Make It Gwan riddims, respectively. Since then they have also remained active, working alongside various artists -- most notably Alborosie and Derrick Parker -- as well as pushing a few more riddim projects, including the golden Redikaly (BIG tune by Exile Di Brave, 'Talk It Like' on that track). So, even on paper, Flash Hit Records placing their name alongside a new album from Cali P can only be a most welcomed addition… right? Of course, "i Thoughts" well shows itself to be of a fitting quality set by its predecessors and is a damn fine latest step in a downright mighty catalogue. Let's go!

Speaking entirely from a musical point of view, I was very interested in what this album would turn out to be. Again, when you deal with Cali P's music, he can go in virtually any direction, sometimes simultaneously and can be well unpredictable, which is a good thing. However, for its part the new album is one which I would well categorize as a very colourful modern Roots Reggae project. Another point of interest would be the lyrical/ direction of the album. With such a title, it kind of forecasts something broadly specific (if that makes any sense, any at all), and because I'm a nerd, I focus on such things. Fortunately, on the intro and very first track on his brand new album, "i Thoughts", Cali P sets the tone firmly from his own mouth.

"Consciousness comes in from you're a baby. When you drop on your head, your consciousness now tells you that next time you definitely cannot do that step again because you're gonna drop on your head."

"I love to share genuine gratitude and happiness that I get on this life's journey. And today I share some of I thoughts."

From that I took the album which was to follow to be a statement about expression of individuality and the experiences which is built upon and even if I am completely wrong about that and the inspiration is entirely abstract, you won't catch me complaining about it. The first actual bit of music to come on the album was candy to both my eyes and ears as Cali P gives an indirect (or maybe it was a direct one) to his debut album and gives us 'Lyrical Faya'! The title has kind of evolved as a nickname of sorts for the artist and it was such a nice idea to place it in some type of context with an actual song. This one in particular easily lives up to and defends the moniker as Cali P absolutely dazzles.

"Mi give thanks fi di one dem weh si through di ting
Weh memba di foundation from deep within
Di one dem weh support I through thick and thin
And di one dem weh show up when a sound system
DEM AHGO KNOW WHO REALLY INSPIRED
AND WHO EXPIRED
Who just quiet, who is di liar
Who ah di warrior and who fraid a di riot
WHO IS A RAT
AND WHO IS A LION
I seh link up inna Zion"

BOOM! I really like this song for several reasons and not the least of which is the fact that it serves as kind of a 'thank you' to fans who have been listening to his music for quite some time. If you are such a fan, you'll notice little things he says throughout the piece which either sound familiar fully or will lead you into remembering something that really stood out to you along the 'journey'. Another of the album's genuine highlights follows as 'Food Inna Di Yard' is simply outstanding. There're a few songs on this album which are just really difficult to get out of your head and, probably at the head of  them is this infectious release which can probably lay a major claim to be the best song here from an entirely sonic point of view. As its title would suggest, it is going to feed the ears of everyone fortunate enough to hear it. Lyrically it is as scorching as the tune it chases here as Cali P goes in on upholding and sustaining oneself and one's happiness and SANITY through difficult times and being sure not to lose those things. What I also really like about this song is just effortless it is. There is some fire here, of course, but it also has a kind of an 'un-programmed' vibes to it which adds to its effect in my opinion: It's not difficult to be yourself at all. It's the easiest thing in the world to do. A pair of love songs actually round out the early portions of  "i Thoughts" in 'Do You Love Me' and 'On My Way Home'. The former had to grow on me a bit and it's still probably working on me just a bit in some way. The latter, on the other hand, is very, very good. 'On My Home' is just a COOL song. It features Cali P alongside Randy Valentine and the two link up to deliver a song which always brings a smile to my face and when the masses get a thorough taste of it, I'm confident that I won't be the only one smiling. You will too.

'Coconut Jelly Man' featuring Shanique Marie

Speaking of guests and combinations, Randy Valentine isn't the only vocalist making an appearance on "i Thoughts" alongside Cali P. WHO ELSE IS THERE? Try the all kinds of contagious Equiknoxx steered 'Coconut Jelly Man' which features the fully delightful Shanique Marie. This tune has seemingly been crafted for years upon years to dig its claws into your brain, rendering wholly incapable of doing ANYTHING else of substance besides walking around sing "coconut jelly man, coconut jelly man" - an example would be my Wife, at this very moment. The song provides the album with a very necessary and nice, lighter moment in its relative brevity (it is the shortest actual song here by nearly a minute) and is just a good touch in my opinion (and I should also mention that you'll also find this tune on Marie's own new album, "Uno", which is also currently available). For his part, on the other hand, "lighter" moments have never been a specialty of the mighty Capleton who addresses the other end of the spectrum of vibes on the downright ROYAL 'Dem Ago Burn Up'. To my knowledge, Cali P and Capleton are friends and this is their first tune together and if you were waiting (and you know you were), it will come as a most welcomed reward, 'Dem Ago Burn Up' is MAMMOTH! From the very first note you can hear something heavy forthcoming and what does ultimately arrive does not disappoint as the pair push  a message that, for all wrongdoers, your judgment is quickly approaching.

"Tough pon di battlefield, yuh cannot soft at life
Spiritually,  physically - you haffi fast and fight
Vampire hunting blood inna di darks of night
Nuh trust nothing! - anytime you walk at night
And look out fi di dogs, cah dem will bark and bite
You haffi hunt yuh food, every walks of life -
That simply mean food ah di staff of life
Babylon dem inna wrong, so dem ah wrath"

"Babylon if you no free di youth from hungry mouth you ahgo burn up
If you deceive di youth, mislead di youth, you ahgo burn up"

"Whether life bitter or sweet I and I give thanks fi it
Mi nah go let down myself cause mi response fi this
With di guidance of The King, we will govern di thing
Marcus meditation bring di vision within
So when mi step outta road, mi haffi step out fi win
Haffi talk how mi feel and bun out di shitstem
Cah fi di youth outta road, di leaders nah do a thing
Worldwide a di same cah people suffering"

BOOM! DAMN! The tune takes a specific aim and leaves DAMAGE everywhere it strikes. Of a similar level of successful objectives is the final combination on "i Thoughts", the very familiar 'Want No War'. This title features a BLAZING Yung JR on whose debut set, "Start The Movement", it appeared and reigned supreme just last year (probably the best debut album I heard in all of 2015). It occupies a comparable terrain on this album as it is as golden and exciting of a Roots Reggae song that you'll hear in recent times, which is saying a lot. Calling for peace all across the world, Cali P and Yung JR bring a heavy arsenal for the mission and I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear these two together again at some point in the future.

Back on his own, Cali P asks the question 'Why So Much Fighting' on a tune which has a very interesting vibes to it. Obviously, with such a title the song is a very insightful social commentary' but it also comes in charged with this lovely style of old school charm. And you hear it immediately with the big sounding backup singers (biggup veteran Nikki Burt who lends her vocals throughout "i Thoughts") and this very easy swinging vibe which make it a joy to listen to, but again, make sure it isn't the sole focus of your stop here because if it is, you'll surely miss what is a heavy message. Later (on the very next tune on the album) Cali P struggles with a very aggressive infatuation with 'Ease Off'. In some way a piece like this is entirely relatable whether you have been the pursued or the pursuer (or both) and it also has a very nice sound - there's almost a Marley-esque pulsing quality to the sound here. I think the underlying thought here is an examination of all the wonderfully ridiculous things that people tend to do for love or lust and… like I said, it is relatable (I could sit here and tell you about all the things I've done but you probably don't have that kind of time!). And finally, check a pair of OUTSTANDING solo efforts which rank as the highest class of the album for me, 'Revolution' and 'Guiding Shield'. For its part, 'Revolution' is another ROYAL sounding piece of expression and it is one which plays out on a couple of different platforms as Cali P sings the song and, at its end, he seems to reach into the heart of "i Thoughts" and just begins to speak freely. It is a monumental moment on the album for me as you can almost hear the spontaneity and untreated, organic sound of the moment. It comes through as he had something specific to say and just didn't feel like writing it down - he wanted to make it at that particular moment.

"First of all, one army alone a man fi serve:
The army of The Almighty One
Including every nation and every colour -
There is no more division
Wave the banner of The Conquering Lion and teach our children to be strong
WE ALL NEED TO RAISE OUR VOICES AND KEEP DI FIRE BURNING INNA BABYLON

Mi ready fi stand up inna this revolution
And lead out di people in di streets
I want to let the know the principles of The King-
Unity is what we need
Mi ready fi stand up inna this revolution
And lead out di people in di streets
I want o let dem know the principles of The King-
His Majesty!"

And then there is the closer, the TekaRootdown Records produced 'Guiding Shield'. TEARS! This song has no equal on this album for me. It is not only the best selection on the whole of "i Thoughts" but it's also one of my favourite from Cali P ever now ["… trod over every border and cross every water"]. Lyrically, the direction is one which goes straight to self-affirmation and confidence and knowing where and with Whom one stands in life and it is backed by this GORGEOUS composition from Rootdown: The Straight From The Fridge Riddim. It is the star attraction here and one for the time capsules of music from the obviously still inspired Cali P.


'Guiding Shield'

The only criticism I would have of "i Thoughts" would probably be a greedy one: I wish it was longer! Its two predecessors were monsters -- both checking in at over an hour long -- while the forty minutes of the new release is far closer to "Healing of The Nation". However, with that being said, I was actually under the impression that the next time we were to hear from Cali P on an album was to be a combination with legendary maestro Bobby Digital (and I think the album even had a title, "Musicali Speaking" or something like that, if I recall correctly). So hopefully, full album #4 isn't very far off for those of us who would absolutely LOVE to hear more of this.

Cali P
Until then, "i Thoughts" should be more than enough to keep fans of Cali P, both new and old, very happy. This album fits so perfectly into his catalogue and' when we are able to look back at some point' it should provide us with some type of very significant points in his catalogue. Of course there is 'Guiding Shield', but along with that is 'Dem Ago Burn Up' and 'Revolution' and 'Coconut Jelly Man' and 'Lyrical Faya' and 'Want No War'. And if you see the similarities (RIGHT NOW! THEY ARE CLEAR RIGHT NOW!), this is how I think of "Lyrical Faya" and "Unstoppable" and "Healing of The Nation": They were these projects which had their winners and their biggest moments surrounded by pieces which not only complimented them, but made them even stronger to some degree because you remember them as pairs (or at least that's how I remember them). "i Thoughts" may already be there for me and it will be damn exciting to see how it develops - almost as exciting as it has been to watch Cali P, himself, develop musically after all of these years - in stages. Well done.

Rated: 4.15/5
Hemp Higher Productions & Flash Hit Records
2016
Digital

Review #536

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