Sadly the rather long list of Reggae artists of varying degrees of popularity and ability who haven’t had debut albums not only seems to grow by the year but gets stronger as well. With the nature of our music being what it is, in terms of not being at a level where random (STRONG) companies aren’t willing to ‘throw something against the wall and see if it sticks’ as they might be with other genres, you get quite a few artists who have big names in the Reggae and Dancehall community but have never and probably will never have albums. And while this is certainly unfortunate on many levels, quite a few of these artists still manage to have relatively successful careers and, again, maintain their popularity amongst Reggae diehards. It should, however, be said that the situation is changing to some degree so, as of right now, were you to look at some of the younger outstanding names in the game who haven’t had an album, you can certainly qualify it by saying “YET” as opposed to their peers from a decade or so earlier. Right now, I’m really looking forward to albums from a few different names in the next couple of years or so; the first on my list would definitely be Bramma [De Bomma] from the Dancehall. I almost feel like a broken record saying it but anyone who reads my reviews will know I take EVERY opportunity to mention the young lyrics machine that I get because I really feel that his is a talent which can grow to such a point that you literally will HAVE TO know his name if you love the vibes. Also, Bramma’s (like another young artist’s who has had two albums, Assassin) is a talent which I feel is pretty streamlined for the Dancehall world, so, even should he fulfill on the undoubted promise that he shows, casual Reggae fans might not know much of his name. There would also be someone like I-Octane who blends both Dancehall and Roots Reggae with such a ‘murky refinement’ (if such a thing exists) that it’s an absolute joy to listen to. And others still like Bugle, Demarco, D’Angel and Spice, all of whom (primarily Dancehall artists) haven’t had albums “yet” but you would have to imagine that at some point, even though they may not even be aiming to such a thing (and they probably are) that they will be making their initial releases. In the Roots arena, in terms of actually putting material out, things move far faster and really the only artists of note who haven’t had albums are either very young (like Marley Campbell) or hyper-obscure (like I-Lue) and someday you’ll probably be sitting where you are now, reading my review of their debut albums: A far cry from yesteryear, when people like Roundhead, Shadow Man and others came through and had virtually no chance of such a release on any large (or medium) scale.
And aren’t we so grateful that times have changed as it has given so many a pretty unknown but well talented artist the opportunity to put said talent on full and vibrant display to fans all over the world through album releases like this one. Over the past few years, with the Virgin Island Reggae scene burgeoning and producing solid artist after solid artist and a few SPECTACULAR names mixed in as well and that has definitely provided a new source of artists for labels across the world. Of course, the biggest of these names (in terms of the younger artists) would be Pressure Busspipe who swooped down on the Reggae world with the MASSIVE Love & Affection for Jamaican ace producer Don Corleon and you also have others like NiyoRah and Revalation and more who ‘threaten’ to someday get a similar push. However, that being said, one of my own personal favourites from the VI Reggae scene over the last few years has been one SWEET Cruzan Princess, Lady Passion. I (and probably you too if you know of her) first heard Passion on Bambú Station’s BIG Talkin Roots Vol. 2 release back in 2005 which featured what arguably remains her biggest commercial hit to date, the seriously SMOOTH and hypnotic Never Change My Mind. Besides essentially introducing Lady Passion to the fans, the song also gave a bit of insight to her EXTREMELY diverse style. Passion is basically a Roots Reggae singer (although she does have a very nice but underused deejay style when she needs it) but one with a very odd foundation to her style and skillset. She has a style which ha lot of people (unfortunately) wouldn’t say is ‘right’ for Reggae but I think it’s simply one which can NICELY stretch the boundaries of the music without forcing it (more on that in a minute). At times, Lady Passion can sound like a US R&B/Neo-Soul type of singer, she also (at least to me) has a kind of laid back 1920’s type of ‘swing’ to her as well and she, generally, uses all of those strange vibes to push very different sounding (and sometimes very familiar) Reggae tunes which I’ve definitely come to appreciate quite a bit since 2005. So, unsurprisingly, that would’ve placed her fairly high on my list of artists to look forward to and now, through fittingly unusual circumstances, Lady Passion delivers her debut album, Rain On Me. The album comes via Project Groundation from out of California. DJ Child (who, to the best of knowledge, runs PG) is FAR better known for producing arguably THE best Roots Reggae mixtapes and the only ones which I’ll consistently check for at all (I’m not a mixtape person) and Lady Passion’s Rain On Me becomes his very first venture into releasing an actual artist’s album that I know of. It’s very interesting that just recently, after years and years of pushing mixtapes, basically on the ‘underground’, Child has just recently, with his last mixtape project, Down In The Ghetto, chosen to go big time with making his WICKED projects available internationally and worldwide through digital releases. It’s also interesting that Lady Passion would be the choice to make his debut with a single artist and that she chooses PG as well instead of ‘neighbouring’ labels like Itation, Zion High (from Florida I believe) or, most notably, Lustre Kings who typically do release artists albums and whose music does tend to appear quite heavily on DJ Child’s projects. So does Lady Passion, with the strange style score with going the strange route for her debut album? Of course she does.
To the best of my recollection, it would be someone like Sizzla or Lutan Fyah whose music has MOST appeared on Project Groundation’s mixtapes but Lady Passion has been on a few as well including a VERY NICE live release of Talkin Roots and a release dedicated to only VI artists, #21 Nothing To Prove and a few others. The music which appears on Rain On Me isn’t taken from those but is material from DJ Child and the aforementioned Lustre Kings, Itation and others. Getting things started on Lady Passion’s SPARKLING debut album Rain On Me for Project Groundation is an intro which I would guess is quite familiar to Passion and her hardcore fans because I’ve heard it several times now (it actually appeared on an EP she had from a couple of years ago, in live form). The intro is just that as Lady Passion announces her intentions and what is to come. Things get far more personal (and mystical) next as the BIG tune Accra comes in. Accra is a tune about Passion tracing her lineage back to Afrika and it comes across a piece of a riddim sounding airlifted off of a Vaughn Benjamin album which Lady Passion absolutely SMASHES! She speaks of ending her search in Accra, Ghana and goes on to speak of the BEAUTY which she encountered on her journey as she did what so many of us need to do (myself included) at some point. DIVINE opening and the best tune I heard on Rain On Me, period. Passion kind of espouses on a similar ideology on the second tune, No Place Like Home. This tune, while not going to the wonderful extremes of Accra, definitely fits lovely back into a typical Roots Reggae structure although it is definitely well aided by Lady Passion’s flare and. . . Passion. Another big tune. Teach The Children brings the opening lot to a close with another very Midnite-ish sounding vibes but this is one even Benjamin himself would have a hard time matching Lady Passion on as she dips back into the same bag of vibes which birthed Never Change My Mind to absolutely HYPNOTIZE the listener. When you come back, you’ll notice a very big message of dealing with the youths with great care and PATIENCE which Lady Passion pushes finely on the tune. The song is big and completes an opening which is nearly flawless.
I was happy to see and hear a bit of at least somewhat familiar material on Rain On Me showing that, even though I may not have heard some it (or don’t remember hearing it, which works too), that Lady Passion has been staying consistent voicing some of the big riddims being afforded to some of her peers (even if she just did it for the album). This Is The Way runs on Rastar’s self titled riddim where it was a big attraction and remains such here. The tune USVI, a piece of respect to Passion’s homeland and the whole of the Caribbean, rides the same Zion High vibed riddim as NiyoRah’s EPIC tune Nothing To Prove and she definitely gives her St. Thomas based peer a nice run as USVI is BEAUTIFUL (literally and figuratively). The free-flowing I Am Blessed flows through across Itation’s cascading Show Love riddim. The tune also featured on the riddim’s album on where was, very quietly, one of the better efforts. Passion shows off quite a few different styles on the tune, including the nice deejay side, which is definitely one of the real highlights on Rain On Me to my opinion. I’m sure I recognize the piece backing the SMOLDERING Close My Eyes which finds Lady Passion dreaming of a day where things have changed. The song is pretty complexly written (I literally had to listen to it like five times in a row) and I don’t necessarily agree with her full on here (she has a line which says, “as I looked at the youths and what them turned out to be, I say, ‘Lord. Why you gave me eyes to see?’ and I have to stand up for at least SOME of the youths definitely) here but that definitely doesn’t take away from the tune and the big way Passion speaks her mind across in the vibes. And, of course the most familiar tune on Rain On Me is Never Change My Mind which has nicely been included as well. If you have never heard this song, when you pick up the album (and you should) then START by listening to it. All these few years later and it’s still as strangely addictive as it was back on Talkin’ Roots 2. The song definitely put Passion on the map and it sounds, here, as good as ever to help keep her on the map. Remember The Times also had me remembering to where I may have heard it previously but it really didn’t matter because the tune is SO strong on its own merits. This one urges the masses to not forget those who have helped us step by step and who have helped make us whoever we have become and to give thanks for them being there (which Passion actually does for herself on the tune). Chasing You, a tune which appeared on the aforementioned Down In The Ghetto mixtape sets the stage for the rainy ending as Sunshine Through The Rain and the title track takeover. I haven’t heard Sunshine Through The Rain in ANY way ever before and it’s probably one of the tunes on Rain On Me which stretches the boundaries of Reggae music as I said which is a characteristic that often happens with Passion (you also hear a bit of that on No Place Like Home also). The song isn’t one of my favourites but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if a month from now it had grown on me substantially. Closing things out is the title track (which you don’t see much) over the same stringy riddim which backed Midnite’s tune Forgiven from the Infinite Quality album. This is another case of the song being kind of ‘quietly strong’ meaning it might take more than a few spins to really grow on you (and Lady Passion, nicely, includes her daughter, Jaeden, at the end of the song). All in all, however, it proves to be quite the fitting conclusion for an album from an artist who might take awhile to grow on you and when she does, you, like me, may find yourself hooked.
Overall, I don’t think I could have asked for more on an album I’ve literally been looking forward to for a few years (except for maybe the tune Royal To Me which she did with Ras Attitude). Rain On Me is a big album and makes me look like a genius for having championed Lady Passion’s talent for the past few years to any and everyone who would listen. I like everything around it as well. For Project Groundation to take that next step and actually put it out says quite a bit about what they may be doing in the future (note to PG: Ras Bumpa album) and seriously what they are capable of right now. Lady Passion is also an artist who may have some international appeal on a higher level (she isn’t AT ALL too hard on the eyes) and you could probably put her in almost any type of vibes and she’ll succeed. As for me, however, I’m favouring the Reggae style, of course, and as a Reggae (a MODERN one) fan Rain On Me would look quite nicely in your collection, like mine. Well worth the wait (and I guess I can take her off of my list).
Rated 4/5 stars
Project Groundation Massive