Lineage. Reggae music, as a whole, because of just how popular it has become in recent times has changed for the most part, but you still very much find the music to be a 'family affair' in certain circles. Mostly these days, it is a dwindling and somewhat rare occurrence, because of just how many people sing the music and just how non-discriminating the Reggae bug is in who it chooses to bite, but when you do find such a situation where the music has literally spread throughout a family, it can be very interesting to follow all of the various lines. Of course, the music's history is, at least partially, driven through the Marleys and the Morgans of the world and that's a quality which will never change, so even when we can find it in spots, and particularly where genuine talent exists, it's something to keep in mind and examine. Following the respective courses of both of those legendary families really begins to lead in very interesting directions given the fact that now we're dealing with third generations of them being musically involved and inclined and we're very likely to find ourselves even more inundated with future Marleys and Morgans in the years ahead and I think that's wonderful. I use those particular analogies in this instance because of, already, how fascinating it can be to educate yourself in tracing back that family tree and while we don't have to go quite so far in this case, the process of education, at least for me, was very remarkable in this case. Specifically, when you think of families in Reggae music from out of the Virgin Islands, you're sure to go the Benjamins. Bros. Ronnie Jr. and the incomparable Vaughn head one of the most powerful entities in the current arena of the music, Vaughn Benjamin with their father, Ronnie Sr., also having made his name as a musician as well and passed the interest on to his progeny who are now… legends. Now! What we have today is another matter of relatives, siblings also, from out of the Virgin Islands and it is a very fresh case in my mind. Mada Nile is a very well respected veteran chanter from out of St. Croix and while she may not (yet) be as well known as some of her peers (although she may very well be the second most popular female artist from out of the VI, as I'm thinking the only person definitely more well known than she would be Dezarie) (biggup Dezarie), she is someone who has very much made an impact on the music and last year she did it again without even trying for me.
|"Tinkin Out Loud" by Ambush |
She Ambushed me. Reportedly Mada Nile has NINE brothers. Whether that is true or not is another matter, however, what is certain is that one of her male siblings is the same Ambush, with whom we dealt early last year for his debut album, "Tinkin Out Loud", which would subsequently become very popular amongst our readership. Ambush was almost completely new to me at that point and the one fact that I had did know was that he was Nile's brother and if you take all of that into account, you really see that we're dealing with one supremely talented family (and you also begin to wonder about her other eight brothers!).
And the ancestry of Mada Nile doesn't stop there. She, like Ras Attitude, is a musical 'descendent' of the genius that is Ras Batch. The musical wizard programmed two of Nile's first three albums on his very own Sound V.I.Zion Records imprint - her 2004 debut "Rise Today" as well as its own followup, "Many Roads" from three years on . Batch would also work on her most recent release, "On My Way" as well. AND Mada Nile also appeared on some of the earliest material from that label, including the "Culturellenium" series. Like her brother (or her brother as her) (she's been around longer), Mada Nile very much has this very appealing kind of 'rough around the edges' type of approach. When you think of women from out of the Virgin Islands making music she definitely is a standout in that regard as several of her peers such as the aforementioned Dezarie, the very versatile Lady Passion, Sistah Joyce from longtime and others have much different deliveries primarily. Nile is someone who would more fit in line with individuals such as Ambush, Ickarus, Ahfyah, Volcano and artists like these who, for the most part, really just go after a riddim, but she does it in, as you would expect, more of a feminine way and the way of someone who has had a bit of development and refinement and given the fact that she's worked so closely and so extensively with Ras Batch, such a thing isn't at all a surprise (a really good comparison for Mada Nile would be someone like Queen Ifrica, instead of someone like Etana). Should you require a further look (and you should), might I suggest picking up Mada Nile's big and brand new album, "Dream Big" from Solar Power Entertainment. The set becomes her very first from 2008 and, judging by its title (and its title track), it's clear that Nile and company very much had the idea to make big things for this project and I think that's a pretty good idea. Almost EVERYONE has had a good 2012 in terms of Reggae albums and the VI have definitely been no exception with big links coming through Ras Batch, Ras Attitude, Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite, Bambú Station and others, now would seem the perfect time to capitalize on and seize the moment by putting out some of your absolute best material and, by its end, "Dream Big" (which has actually already generated quite a bit of response from what we can tell thus far) certainly does not disappoint. While I can't proclaim it "landmark" and draw up some awful piece of cliché in saying that the album is 'going to take things to another level' or something… like that, "Dream Big" well manages to reach the high levels of music we've come to expect from Mada Nile throughout her career and adds yet another GEM to the stellar lineup of releases of 2012. Let's take a closer look.
|The music of Mada Nile|
As we'll get into more in just a second, besides just a being a very nice angle for this review, Mada Nile's music is also very much 'familial-oriented'. Besides during the more obvious moments, she writes songs which're more aimed at building and strengthening relationships and families which sounds like a pretty basic thing in Reggae, but fortunately it's a bit more subtle than and fascinating that it sounds. Very attention grabbing as well is 'Look How Meh Shine' which begins "Dream Big", the brand new and fourth album from VI standout Mada Nile. This song isn’t too difficult to follow from the title as it features Nile basically saying that she (and you, by extension) accomplished her goals in the face of many people telling her that she couldn't. Thinking more broadly, it becomes a song about maintaining one's course in life and the road you are on, regardless of the adversity you may face along the way. Next up is a song which even better and one of the real highlights on this album, 'Mama Strong'. On one hand, you've probably heard a dozen tunes like this (check 'Mamma Is Here' by Turbulence, big tune) which give credit due to the Mothers of the world who are left to be both parents in the household because the 'father' has long gone away. What makes this one interesting is that Nile [I THINK] may just be experiencing that very case right now herself which DEFINITELY gives this one another dimension you haven't heard before.
Two souls she trod, trod it inna one
Do it on she own, but she not alone
A mom and dad a wah mi haffi be
Right ya now that's the life that mi live
Mi haffi strive to mek di youth dem survive
Wi haffi struggle in this crucial time
Wi got a nine-to-five but wi nah get no pay
Education just ah raise everyday
Mi doh want fi si mi youth dem get slay
Chant a Psalm mi seh everyday
Respect di fathers who are standing firm
Dem who run off, I seh you haffi get burned
Blessings to di one who dun dead and gone
Cause before you leave, I seh yah youth never want
Double-shift I said mommy haffi work
Teach the youth what life is really worth
Mi no jester, mi no pander
Single-mothers seh wi haffi work harder"
From the approach and the inherent point of view, alone, it becomes a very unique track, but as it play s out 'Mama Strong' shows itself to be a really special track . 'So Much Love' is next and it's a song that kind of took a minute to grow on me because it has a fairly unusual pacing. It is more uptempo than the two songs immediately preceding it on "Dream Big", but it's not so much so that it becomes somewhat misplaced either. The songs makes itself based on its message, however, which is one of just spreading a big amount of love to every corner of the world.
Going through the tracklist of "Dream Big", there were several tunes which stood out on paper that I was really looking forward to hearing and, for the most part, they all live up to being sizable tracks and solid additions to the album. The first, obviously, was the title song and what I heard here was an all-encompassing type of a inspirational vibes. It is kind of Hip-Hoppish and that's not necessarily a favourite thing of mine, but it's manageable and the song really, again, is more about what is said which sounds divine regardless of genre. There was also 'Really & Truly' which struck me because it was one of two combinations on the album - this one featuring someone who I really need to learn more about, the ever-present Spla'IJah. This song is a very nice and 'comfortable' love song and Mada Nile and Spla'IJah (who has the most curious of deliveries) make for a very strong pairing despite having styles which don't quite (AT ALL) mirror one another. Love the riddim on that tune also - very familiar. I was also interested in the later tune 'Mama Neveah' (because this is an album which now has TWO 'Mama songs' which I guess is fitting from someone named Mada Nile). Where the first was very different and unexpected, 'Mama Neveah' is more of what you would think with its title. I believe Mada Nile's Mother has transitioned and that's something that makes this one even more special and I'm sure had she had the opportunity to hear it, Nile's Mother would enjoy it as much as I do and you are sure to as well because it is golden. And finally here, of course I was really looking forward to hearing what would prove to be my absolute favourite song on this record, 'Most High JAH', which features Sister & Brother, Mada Nile & Ambush.
"Who should I fear?
No one but Jah Jah
And who really cares?
The Most High Jah Jah
Who will I fear?
No one but Jah Jah
And who really cares?
The Most High Jah Jah
Through all the guns and war and all the bloody streets
Most High Jah ah seh HIM guide fi mi feet
You know HIM bless mi walk and HIM bless mi talk
Most High Jah have mi ah fly like di hawk
High above di wicked man dem so I'm able -
Fi si dem lies when dem creep under table
You si di love from Jah ah strengthen I like steel
So di truth you know mi haffi reveal
Who Jah bless I seh no man curse
You si di gunman, dem haffi face di worst-
Jah wrath and Jah judgment
Consequence inna di end
Inna my going out, inna my coming in
Everything real, nothing at all no make-believe
Ask mi who mi scared of?
No man but His Majesty, The King and Emperor"
[Mada Nile's words are in red. Ambush's are blue] It should probably go without saying just how much chemistry these two have with one another and it really steps forth on 'Most High JAH', which is at least their second combination together. Surely you know what I am thinking at this point… Mada Nile… Ambush… album???
Of the remaining selections on "Dream Big", while they may not completely leap off the paper at you, some of them really still manage to impress. The perfect example of this is the album's ganja song (because no album would be complete without one) 'Plant Ah Seed'.
"Plant a seed and watch how it grow
Watch how di roots always and it flow -
Through di nation, cultivation
It's my natural meditation
When hungry belly bite and mi mind, it no right
Straight to di garden fi herbs and spice
Spice inna di pot and di herbs inna mi nerve
Please Mr. Fed, I tell you don't disturb
You use di trees fi go make paper
Mi use di trees fi go put in rizzla
So what di hell you ah fight mi fah?
When di two a wi ah live pon Mother Nature"
Although I really liked that song from the very first spin through, it was about the fifth or sixth time through where I began to get the thought that I was listening to something relatively close to being a spectacular song and easily one of the best on the whole of the album. Also check a pair of songs which're somewhat related and come back-to-back here, 'Face 2 Face' and 'Luv You Down'. These are pretty basic love songs with both slightly bordering on a little R&B, but the latter is a gorgeous song as Mada Nile goes a little Queen Ifrica, 'Below The Waist' style (and stays out of the ramping shop in the process). Earlier we get a nice song in 'Family, Friends & Foes', which really was a song I just did not like until I finally heard what I was listening to a few spins in. That's something I can say right now about "Dream Big" full on - it is a very mature set and one which requires a bit more of an effort than an immediate judgment, so give it a minute or two before giving a final opinion. And as the album winds down we get the full R&B (and like 1990's R&B) inspirational piece, 'Make That Change' and lastly there's the closer here, the acoustically vibed 'No More'.
"Tired sing this song ova mi dead friend dem head
To sing a song of love and life I wish it was instead
Guns in the streets - like the rain, it ah fall
And people in high places, yes dem know what a gwan
With no love for me, no love for you
Worse if you grow up as a ghetto youth
Dem kinda life, it shouldn't be
Dem kinda life, it no set fi mi
Jah Rastafari please hear fi my cry
And strengthen the minds of this innocent child"
This selection ends things on a lovely note and shoots near the top as one of the finest songs I've ever heard from Mada Nile on any album to date.
Overall, I did offer a bit of a condition which does deserve a re-mentioning. "Dream Big", although it does have a few different colours and 'textures' in its thirteen tracks, is probably better suited for a more experienced and mature listener. Incidentally, if you are a longtime fan of Ras Batch and/or Ras Attitude - you're the PERFECT type of person likely to be able appreciate this set. Furthermore, I just really think there is something so nice and 'OPEN' about "Dream Big" and that's so despite the stipulation on it. By its end, it's an album which actually seemed much longer than it was. So, if you are a heavy Reggae fan or something like that and you always meant to check out something from Mada Nile, "something" just walked in the room. "Dream Big" is a very good album from beginning end and another powerful testament to the talents of Mada Nile and her, OBVIOUSLY, very skilled bloodlines. Well done.
Solar Power Entertainment