Saturday, June 8, 2024

What I'm Listening To: LATELY

'Never See Us Fall' by Marlon Asher & Sizzla Kalonji [VAS Productions]

First up this month is a tune which brings together two [THREE] very big names as Marlon Asher links up with the great Sizzla Kalonji.... on a Don Corleon produced track [!] for a big new tune, 'Never See Us Fall'. At the risk of becoming a 'prisoner of the moment' (what I care), I'm going to go ahead and say that 'Never See Us Fall' is the single best tune I've heard from either artist in a minute. On paper, such a combination is truly ridiculous and when you put a wizard at the helm what you expect becomes giant.... 'Never See Us Fall' is giant. 

{Note: Wouldn't be surprised at all if Asher had an album forthcoming this year}

'No Competition' by Daman & Sara Lugo [Soulbeats]

Now look at this one and skip ahead one really quick and then come back.... after seeing who we started with (a combination featuring my favourite artist EVER... produced by, arguably, the greatest producer EVER) and you'll notice that music has been very good to me recently. The great Sara Lugo returns, herself on a combination, this time with an artist I have never come across by the name of Daman (who also produces), for the expectedly delightful 'No Competition'. For me, I took this one as a bit of a 'de-stresser' for life. The thought being that you're not living in a way where you're constantly pitted against someone or something else... EVERYTHING ISN'T OBSTACLE. A beautiful sentiment and one built atop a sweet riddim which has just a hint of old school Dancehall. A fantastic tune.

'Big Fraud' by Reemah [Feel Line Records]

I TOLD YOU! Also on my radars, as it has been for a bit now, is the latest (give me a second, let me confirm that.... yep, it's the latest) from the incomparable, the brilliant Reemah from out of St. Croix, 'Big Fraud'. The song comes via the same Feel Line Records with whom the chanter has been aligned with virtually the entire time since she's risen to prominence and it is of the same MAMMOTH levels that she's displayed.... virtually the entire time she's risen to prominence.

"Wi come to mash and trample every old scheme
Latest on di news is just another smokescreen
Push di dirt unda di table just to keep yuh nose clean
Meanwhile di things you do is contradicting
Di way you play two-sides, oh it sickening!

The woman is simply on another level from the rest of us. She is evidence of something MORE.

The Wild Crocz Riddim [Swick B]

Probably the nicest piece of new Soca I've come across lately has been the Wild Crocz Riddim which [I THINK] was built by one Swick B from out of St. Vincy. The Wild Crocz is a BOUNCE. It's just all kinds of fun and to maximize the moments some truly big names are brought it. Skinny Fabulous teams up with Jab King, RIDICULOUSLY Problem Child & Lavaman vibe together for 'Doh Bother Me', constant duo Lil Natty & Thunda are joined by the always exciting Muddy ["If you think I ignorant then you hit the nail on the head"], while Keith Currency, Lyrikal and even Patrice Roberts go solo. Every single tune here is at least pretty good and, like I said, the Wild Crocz is VIBES! 

"Ganja Man" by Linval Thompson [Irie Ites]

And finally this month, in the place of what is typically some random old set that has gotten my attention as of late is a vintage artist who may just hit vintage levels with his brand new body of work. The legendary Linval Thompson brings forth "Ganja Man" and does so with a pair of some of the most comfortable hands in the entire genre, those of Irie Ites which (presuming this goes up when it's supposed to) (nope! It was a day late) has just been released TODAY and has been dominating a large chunk of my busy morning. Just about anyone releasing an album with II is a really big deal but that becomes magnified several times over because it's literally Linval Thompson, more than half a century into his . Early impressions are good with 'What Time Is It' probably leading the way, but solid contenders come in the form of the title track, 'Marcus Garvey Says', 'Ghetto Youth' and one or two others. Thoroughly enjoying what I'm hearing at the moment and... I may just slap a review on this one in the next couple of weeks or so. Let's see. Eek-A-Mouse and Trinity feature. 

Friday, May 31, 2024

Bounce Back?: A review of the Recoup Riddim

Come again. As I'm sure I've said in the past, one of the worst things about getting older, specifically as a music fan, is having to powerlessly accept and/or just deal with just how much things have changed. When I was younger I steadfastly wanted to ensure that I wouldn't become some spiteful old creep walking around talking about, "back in my day...", essentially pissing on current music and artists which is why I tend to just refrain from talking about such things except when I'm impressed (biggup Eesah) and keep the negativity in my head. Looking at how Reggae is these days, there're several things which I definitely do miss and not the least of which is my beloved DANCEHALL. The saying is that 'you don't know what you've got till it's gone' and that is SO true and applicable in this instance because I don't know that I would have ever been capable of processing just how precious something that I considered to be so BASIC was. Who knew that we'd all wake up one day and 'DANCEHALL' would not be Dancehall anymore??? How the hell did that happen? Where was I?? What is referred to as Dancehall these days is basically Caribbean Hip-Hop and it's something that we all have to manage. I do foresee a return to that candy-like two-drop sound (that's what I call it. Roots is the one-drop. Dancehall is two-drop) at some point, but I may or may not be around to actually experience it and that makes me sad! The days of a producer making a riddim (of actual Dancehall music) and spreading it around have become increasingly rare over the past half decade or so (I remember Red Rat having something to say about it a couple of years ago). Expanding on that sentiment, one of the products of that older sound is the once downright overly-prevalent riddim album. In the not too distant past, Reggae album shelves were dominated by albums (by people named Marley) featuring multiple artists going on the same riddim which were seemingly released multiple times over by albums starring a single vocalist. Some of these were very big deals as well as both genre leading labels, VP Records and Greensleeves, once released such sets as part of their running series, Riddim Driven and Greensleeves Rhythm Album, which were very popular in their day; with the former even birthing a still active (as far as I know) clothing line of the same name. Personally, I reviewed quite a few of these things (once upon a time, some idiot I know even went as far as to catalogue both series). They were FUN in their day and now, looking back, I miss them both... a lot.

And OCCASIONALLY we get to go home. Coincidentally, as Riddim Driven as a functioning entity was coming to an end, one of its most frequent contributors was a producer by the name of Kemar 'Flava' McGregor and, if you enjoyed Roots Reggae music during the late 2000's/2010's or so, Flava's is a name with which you should be well familiar. The once mighty producer of No Doubt Records was responsible for supplying the genre at the with some of its largest releases from the likes of Richie Spice, Nesbeth ["Mi boardhouse bun dung inna gang war wah day. Now mi nah have nowhere fi stayyyyyy!"], Ginjah, Etana  (more on her later) and others. He also released some of the biggest riddims, several of which featured prominently as apart of the aforementioned Riddim Driven series and if there is never another edition of the series (and I would be surprised if there were), Flava McGregor and No Doubt Records will be known as having produced the final Riddim Driven ever in the form of 2010's VICIOUSLY SWEET Classic Riddim ["We only got one, life, to live. We should make no apologies"] [BOOM!]. He'd also produce full albums for many including Anthony B, Sizzla Kalonji, Turbulence (personal favourite of mine, "Join Us"), Natty King and was just... EASILY one of my absolute favourite producers going during his day. When No Doubt Records was on top, they were consistently spectacular.... but nothing lasts forever.

There would come a point where I would legitimately come to DISLIKE what McGregor was up to or at least someone using his music. At the start of the digital/streaming age a few years back, SOMEONE would end up flooding the market with release after re-release after re-release of.... the same shit everyone had already heard. It seemed as if a couple of weeks or so wouldn't go by without SOMETHING being released on that front with a new cover and, as for McGregor himself, he seemed to be spending more time making news for goings on inside courtrooms than what he was doing in the studio and it made me sad! I had given up on Flava McGregor and and No Doubt Records and had no reason to return.... at least not until very recently. As I said, though the days of that giant Dancehall riddim (and subsequent album) just destroying absolutely everything in sight may be a thing of the past (for now) OCCASIONALLY there can be exceptions, or at least ATTEMPTS at exceptions. The case could be made that the single greatest producer that the Dancehall has ever seen has been the great, enigmatic and downright reclusive Dave Kelly. For the better part of four decades the brother of the great Tony "CD" Kelly (also still going strong and one of the greatest Reggae maestros EVER) has been responsible for what has to be considered some of the most colourful and ingenious tracks in Dancehall history, largely for his Madhouse Records imprint (my own favourite would be.... maybe The Return Riddim?) and, were you to go traversing through Kelly's amazing vault, eventually you'd stop around 2000 or so and land on the Bounce Riddim. The Bounce, done for X-Tra Large Productions, didn't necessarily carry the biggest of hits, but it was BRILLIANT! These days it is likely best known for a pair of Baby Cham tunes, the unforgiving 'Man A Man' and 'Babylon Bwoy', but stellar efforts also came from the great Spragga Benz, Beenie Man and, ESPECIALLY, General Degree who scored a nice sized hit with his 'Ooh Yeahee'. Now [!], had you told me at any time during the last decade or so that we would get to a point where Flava McGregor would be remaking an old Dave Kelly riddim, I would have laughed my entire ass off at you and I would owe you an apology because, lo and behold, here is the Recoup Riddim from McGregor, it's a remake of the Bounce and it is, in fact, 2024. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??! It defies all logic and common sense, but I am here for it! Why is this happening? I don't know and I probably don't care. CLEARLY, McGregor was a giant fan of the track and thought to himself that, if he had the chance, he'd love to do a remake and it's worked out. The Recoup Riddim comes through a channel simply called Kemar McGregor (that's the literal name of the label it's on) and it is a relatively unchanged remake of the original, nearly quarter of a century old Bounce Riddim.... but how good is it, REALLY??

...meh. As far as the vocal artists appearing on the Recoup, it is a very healthy mixture of heavy-hitters and kind of next tier names, with up and comers. Generally speaking, to my experience, that is EXACTLY what you want to see on a big and well populated riddim. What happens when that does occur is that you, as a listener, are more likely to  gravitate towards something that they'll enjoy from someone that they are familiar with and (perhaps most importantly) you may come away with a new name to look forward to hearing in the future. Taking the first shot at the Recoup Riddim is, arguably, the heaviest of of the heavy hitters as Buju Banton blesses the track with his 'Slogan'. You take a moment and realize the magnitude of what happens here: This is Buju Banton on a classic Dave Kelly riddim that he never voiced. That is a really big fucking deal and what results is, clearly, the single best moment you'll find on the Recoup Riddim, although I'd stop just short of calling it a bona fide "GREAT" tune (although it is close). 'Slogan' is fun -- hear that chorus -- but it isn't necessarily vintage Buju. 'Fun but not vintage' would also be an appropriate description of the second tune here, 'Vibrating' which features the great Beenie Man alongside Denyque. This track has a very cool R&B vibe to it when Denyque comes on with those sterling vocals, making a most compelling blend with Beenie's consistently fairly aggressive delivery. It's at this point during the album for the Recoup Riddim where strange shit begins to happen and none are more downright bizarre than 'Mirror' by the aforementioned Etana. Let's get the review stuff out of the way first: 'Mirror' is bad. It's probably the first time I've ever said that about a piece from the August Town certified veteran (and may end up being the last time), but IT IS A BAD SONG. It's full of worn, tired and dirty Dancehall cliches and someone of Etana's abilities could probably roll out of bed and top what you'll hear on 'Mirror' with the slightest of effort in my opinion. On the other side of that is the fact that the tune is somewhat 'controversial' as the vocalist does go on the more sexual side of things, but I'm fine with that aspect. Many (like almost all of them at some point or another) of Etana's famous male peers have done similar things (including August Town's most famous resident) and we've gotten used to it through the years, so I'm not going to judge her harshly AT ALL for the direction here... but it is trash. I-Octane throws even more petrol on the dumpster fire with his effort on the Recoup 'Love Punanny'. To put it context: 'Love Punanny' is considerably better than 'Mirror' but it is still a few hours' drive away from being decent (and, it should also be said that Octane & Etana have dropped 'Ganja For You', a tune far more befitting of both of their monstrous gifts, also for Flava) (wouldn't be surprised if that's a single for McGregor's next track), Last year, I-Octane released a collection of songs called "Dancehall Gift" which proved to be a complete curse, it was terrible, but demonstrated the direction he's been working towards more often these days. If that is your type of thing then 'Love Punanny' will work for you because it's better than the vast majority of tunes featured there. So when you need someone to right the ship, who do you call after a couple of less than stellar offerings??? Of course you call the Energy God (are we still referring to him as that?? Ele's probably almost fifty years old and he has a comic-strip villain nickname) and Elephant Man doesn't disappoint (and when I saw his name on board, I had full confidence that he would shine on the Recoup) with 'Nuh Shaky' and he does while outlining the fact that he cut no corners and he earned his way to the top, legitimately

The bigger names return later on, while the middle portion of the Recoup Riddim album is, for the most part, carried by second tier names with up and comers and... it does not feature much [anything] in the way of memorable material at all. The biggest winner of the lot probably goes to 'Seh Dem Bad' which comes courtesy of wide voiced vet, Singer J (Singer J has a VERY unique voice if you REALLY listen to him). 'Seh Dem Bad', to be completely fair, is quite strong and very interesting as it features a route taken on the Recoup that no one had gone prior to it.

"I seh him mother call him
Tryin fi warn him
Sit him down neatly and inform him
Seh, inna badness thing - she don't want him
Di bwoy laughing, nah tek no talking"

The very next set is also well done as D'yani comes solid with '911', which takes the guidance of the previous tune and steps it forward in adding a more general social context to it. D'yani, effectively, comes up with a social commentary in a region (biggup JahSolidRock) where you probably weren't expecting to find one and, again, it won't be the best of its kind that you've EVER heard but with where you must go to locate it, '911' formidably serves its role.... and that's about it! The other three offerings in here, 'Say Yes', 'Glue' and 'Top Class' from Tifa, Honorebel and Zed Regal, respectively, range somewhere between 'nuh-uh' and ABSOLUTE RUBBISH. The worst??? Maybe 'Say Yes' and I say that probably relating it to 'Mirror' in some way or another (which probably isn't fair), but 'Mirror' is better than 'Say Yes' and we've already established that 'Mirror' is horrible. It, too, is built upon well traveled and should-have-been-buried concepts which, in my opinion, are not at all empowering of women as they are intended to be (suggesting, at least in part, that people should take pride in the.... snugness of certain parts of your anatomy....). It is a sentiment Honorebel would agree with as he makes, basically, the same damn song as Tifa but from a male perspective and, not to be outdone, Zed Regal doesn't stray far from either; although he does do far better than both with the wholly unremarkable 'Top Class'.

 Given the fact that he has had some well publicized not so nice interaction with Flava McGregor which took place in a courtroom, I was quite surprised to see Khago associated with Recoup Riddim but apparently bridges have been mended and all is at least well enough to work together. The result of this one is 'Whine Up For Me', which is another tune that I do not love, HOWEVER, 'Whine Up For Me' does have a few moments that set it apart from being a bad song, in my opinion. I've never been the hugest fan of Khago's but he is, at his best, talented and he's also one of those types of artists who've been around a lot longer than you may realize. The final vocal outing on the riddim is the 'old school' 'Scaleillan' from Turbulence. Given what Reggae has been through, you don't very often hear such tunes as this. They're very controversial (and, to be honest, their decline has been a good thing, in my opinion. There was a point, maybe fifteen years ago, where that discourse seemed to be THE single biggest and most prominent issue in the genre) and can be detrimental to the artist, as we have seen in the past. Turbulence, seemingly, doesn't give a damn and makes his point with 'Scaleillan' (although it isn't as... 'direct' as others and features a brand of condemnation which is less centralized and further reaching. You could very well make the argument that, even still, the biggest hit of Ginjah's career was a tune he did for Flava by the name of 'Never Lost My Way' ["WHEN MI SING, MI NO HAFFI RICH! A NO MONEY MAN AH LOOK AFTER THIS!"] (arguing against you would require some serious thought), so neither the presence of the golden voiced singer nor the quality of his effort on the Recoup Riddim, 'Judgement', came as any surprise at all. 'Judgement' soars and does so in a most interesting way with a theme that is part warning & part uplifting. Also have to mention the PASSION coming from Ginjah on this one, a feature of his music is absolutely saturated in when the Hanover native is at hist best. 'Finally' (literally have three more songs to talk about and I'm saying shit like "finally") (bad habit. My apologies) check 'Nuh Leany Leany' from Ghandi which I was so happy was included because it sorta/kinda makes up for some of the more filthy material you'll hear throughout the Recoup Riddim. 'Nuh Leany Leany' has elements to it that are definitely on the slack side ["STRAIGHT! Nuh leany leany. Tight pussy gal dem alone can pree mi Dem ah rub mi down like di bottle of di genie"], but it's also inventive and not.... tired as hell. The skill is present and, I most certainly am no prude and can appreciate such a piece when it is well done. 'Nuh Leany Leany' is fun (minus that small section where he does that annoying run-on thing with the delivery) (You'll know what I mean). Also included is a clean version of the Recoup Riddim, so you can try it for yourself at home. When I used to review riddim albums, nearly ad nauseam, this was a feature I always tried to highlight because the riddim, TECHNICALLY, is the actual star with projects like these and it deserves a chance to shine - all of these years and not much has changed. I still do appreciate them, greatly.

Overa.... WAIT! It took me so fucking long to write this review (I'm old), that Flava went ahead and released a Deluxe Version of the album which carries a couple of extra tunes, both come from The Doctor, Beenie Man, 'Yaadie' and 'Spend It'. The latter is useless. It sounds like a freestyle and you need not pay it any attention at all. I get the feeling that Beenie was just so damn happy to have another go at the Bounce, that he just stayed in the studio, doing whatever came to his mind and just got it all out.... but whatever "it" was, was CLEARLY emptied before the beginning of 'Spend It'. 'Yaadie', on the other hand, is FANTASTIC. It's better than 'Slogan', as Beenie sets fire to all those with hideously misguided attractions (not too dissimilar from his go on the Bounce Riddim, 'Troublemaker') and he spares no targets and leaves no stones unturned!

"Number one: No rest in peace fi Michael Jackson
My songs caan sing no Frankie Paul song
From di family playlist - R Kelly banned
How some big man waan fi play Peter Pan?!"

Overall (I mean it this time), no the Recoup Riddim, as an album, isn't very good. It seems as if several of the artists heard that beautiful old school riddim and decided to serve up some of the most basic... dirty Dancehall that they could muster and it really does manage to weigh things down which is unfortunate. However, when it does actually work, what results is just a HINT of that deplorably presumably gone.... sweet, sweet era of music. Unsurprisingly, it is genre of the veterans such as Beenie, Buju and Ele who arguably shine the brightest (with a big respect to Ginjah as well), and it would have been damn interesting had such a project been loaded with the likes (with the biggest name missing being that other B). However, while I'm not likely to look back at the Recoup Riddim completely kindly, Flava McGregor does deserve credit for pulling together an ambitious project and on which, at least in spurts, gives fun vibes from when everything felt like home.

Rated: 2.5/5
Flava McGregor

Friday, May 24, 2024

Shenseea Says Don't Tap Out Yet!

Okay so, we did have a big release for today, the 24th of May as superstar (I don't think that's a stretch), Shenseea, has released her brand new album, "Never Gets Late Here". I'm not going to review the album. I am most certainly not its intended audience but I have listened to quite a bit of it today because I am able to appreciate the undeniable talent that Shenseea has. As I've said in the past, it is relatively easy to get distracted by other aspects of the artist, but when you get down to it: Shenseea is IMMENSELY gifted. You will find flashes of that throughout "Never Gets Late Here" (you'll actually find more than "flashes", but the largest blip of them all, in my opinion, is far and away 'Tap Out'

Yep! It's a dirty track which might lead it to blend in with countless others that she's done over the years, but you listen to (and just read in that video) how well Shenseea puts it all together. It is a DOMINANT lyrical performance and entirely Dancehall. Checking in it at ridiculously malnourished minute and fifty seconds, 'Tap Out' almost comes off as more of a demo than an actual tune, but it is one WICKED demo, be that the case. Also, oddly enough, if you listen closely at the head of 'Tap Out' you'll hear that the tune is produced by Banx & Ranx who were also behind my favourite Soca song (and, maybe, favourite from any genre), the MAMMOTH shot that was 'Carnival Contract' by Bunji Garlin who have surely now made a fan out of me.

You can find 'Tap Out', along with thirteen other offerings on Shenseea's brand new album, "Never Gets Late Here" which is available now on Rich Immigrants/Interscope Records.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Coming Soon From Norris Man

"Free Man" by Norris Man [Tad's Records]

1. 'Righteous'
2. 'Burn Babylon'
3. 'Ahead A Dem'
4. 'Going Out On You'
5. 'Baby's Mom'
6. 'Free Man'
7. 'Fighting For My Rights'
8. 'Jah Is The Almighty'
9. 'Jah Love'
10. 'To Jah I Pray'
11. 'Gun Hawk'

Okay so, given the fact that it's about two and half months out, I may be going early with this one but it has been on radars from maybe as early as late last year (and I haven't finished my review yet. Although it is progressing along nicely), I thought that I'd tell you wonderful, awful taste having folks about an upcoming release that I am VERY excited about. "Free Man" becomes the latest release from the scalding veteran from out of Trenchtown, Norris Man. The album, delightfully, comes courtesy of Tad's Records (who's always in a good form) and follows, most closely, late 2023's solid "Life" album from Danish imprint, E.Turn.A.T.  

....a few months ago

As I've said in the recent past, I've slotted Norris Man into a select group of veteran artists, along with the likes of Mark Wonder, Elijah Prophet, Spragga Benz and maybe just a few more as names who really have seemed to hit a level of undeniable consistency which has made it virtually impossible to ignore what they've been up to. With his style, however, Norris' case may be THE most unique of them all because it isn't something that appeals to everyone, inherently (myself included). With all of that being said, and with the brief bits I have heard of "Free Man" (which consists of clips of the title track and 'Fighting For My Rights', although a couple of the others also seem familiar - such as the ULTRA terrestrial 'Jah Love'), my expectations and anticipations have been well heightened and prime and I cannot wait to lay my ears on whatever this one turns out to be.

I'll have to though. The latest album from Norris Man, "Free Man", is set to release on the 26th of July, via Tad's Records. LET'S GO!