Thursday, October 4, 2012

'Fyah Starter?': A review of The Raspect Riddim

Start somewhere. On my rather long list of musical 'Things To Do', most of which I'm unlikely to do ever or even really consider actually, are several very interesting and very doable 'tasks'. Be it an old release that I never really paid much attention to and slipped through the proverbial cracks of my collection (interesting about me is that I usually have many albums like that which I actually OWN, which is absolutely ridiculous, I know) or a video or something like that which I meant to take a closer look at - eventually I manage to get around to them - even if it does take me a year or two or three. Even more interesting and relevant in this instance is when there is an artist who, for whatever reason, I've yet to give a proper amount of attention to, despite the fact that I almost routinely run into their output. Obviously certain artists take longer for me to figure out than others, even if I do give them a full amount of attention (biggup Dezarie) and it's one thing when you don't really come into contact with them very often, but another completely when… pretty much every tune they do, or the vast majority of them, are sitting right under your ears and you actually do listen to them. I'm reminded of the recent case of The Nazarenes, who just this year did a brand new project, "Meditation" (in stores now, pick up a copy). In the case of that sibling duo from out of Ethiopia, again, they were someone who I'd meant to go back and take a listen to and by the time the latest project had reached, they had already pushed three full albums worth of material and while I'd long come to the conclusion that there was a time when I just too young to appreciate what they were doing, now that I'm disgustingly old, I was in a position to go back and hear the wonders of the first three sets after being prompted by the fourth. In that case and in many others what it will ultimately take for me to check a certain name or an album (and I did both in that set of circumstances) off of my list is just a bit of encouragement: A full album is excellent at that, a new riddim isn't bad either. Both??? That's just pretty special. 
Fyah T
If you've read my work to any extent at all (especially this year), you're likely to be at least somewhat familiar with a very, very interesting artist from out of Germany by the name of Fyah T. The very colourful chanter is a staple on one of my absolute favourite labels today, Oneness Records (who I cannot possibly talk about too much today because, apparently, I'll have another review to write about them in a couple of days or so) and he appears on pretty much anything they do and has for quite some time. Whatever that label does I not only listen to but easily pay a great deal of attention to, which makes it pretty fucking remarkable that I just still don’t quite know what to think of Fyah T (more on that later). It also perplexes when you consider that just last year he, along with The Next Generation Family, released an album with songs on which I full recognized, "Family Wise" [pictured] [hopefully], which I just never really got around to listening to. I did, however make mental notes, so when I ran into a cover for a forthcoming riddim album with the words "A Next Generation Family Production” at the head, I wasn't fully clueless.   
"Family Wise" [2012]
That piece, of course, was something which very much was going to interest us and grab my attention, the Raspect Riddim. This piece, I'm almost certain, was created by Oneness Records (biggup Oneness, they always make sure they send us new work) but is a duo Oneness & Family Music release, which makes Fyah T's input a fairly a big deal, it's basically his riddim. On top of that, had I listened to it, I probably would have noticed that the very same composition appeared on the aforementioned "Family Wise" project, backing the same tune it does here (which also gives me another reason to go back and listen to it because the nerd in me is now wondering what else may come of some track featured there). The Raspect Riddim, itself, is a beautiful modern Roots Reggae creation. It's very straightforward and very 'comfortable' which gives the artists a very solid foundation to not only make good music, but also do things which aren't necessarily just as rudimentary. It proves to be a track which serves many a different individual in many a different way, which is very rare for something of its type. It's not like some old riddim from Lenky which would have had the same type of quality, because it changed itself over and over again (biggup Lenky), but the Raspect is just 'easy-going' that it lends itself, so nicely and attractively to MELODY and being on a full album like this, to melody. That's a trait which isn't always present on Roots Reggae pieces which can be somewhat 'rigid' and you may end up with x-amount of songs on the same riddim with the same melody. No worries here, despite the fact that I would also describe the Raspect as HEAVY and probably more dense than most of Oneness' compositions. It also shows the mark of its creators in the wide array of artists who voice the riddim. It's quickly becoming a signature of the label that I'm probably  to the point now where I can distinguish a Oneness riddim by virtue of who is on it, even if they aren't necessarily more active principals in regards to recording for them. When Oneness chooses artists, they do so while casting one of the widest of proverbial nets in all of Reggae music today, so when you do run into names that you haven't previously in their output, it's no surprise and, almost always, a 'welcomed addition' to the roster. Another 'appreciated increase' (biggup a thesaurus) (did you catch that???) is the Raspect Riddim to your collection. Have a minute (or forty-five)? I'd like to tell you why. 

Revisiting the subject of selection of artists for this riddim, I think this may be one of the most colourful to date. It isn't so much of how many times you see a name that is unexpected, but when you look at them altogether, you have a most interesting and complete mix of bonafide stars and established acts and up and comers, unlikely and obvious alike. One of the heaviest of hitters gets us started on the new Raspect Riddim from Oneness Records and Family Music, the currently flaming Perfect Giddimani (new album, "Journey Of 1,000 Miles", in stores now), with the top notch praising tune 'Only Haile Alone'. The insanely eccentric chanter shows just how flexible the Raspect can be. Of course, with his style, he tends to have an advantage in terms of making melodies over some of his peers and what he does with this tune, sonically, is mightily impressive and that's not even observing the tune's message or lyrics, both of which combine with its sound to make the opener one of the finest tunes you'll find here, unsurprisingly because Perfect has been on a crazy streak as of late. Next is the man of the moment, Fyah T, with the aforementioned selection from his 2011 album, "Family Wise", 'No Raspect'

"Who has got di right to decide whether I'm wrong or right?
To stop Natty Dread at night might cause a fight
You say you've got permission, please start di fyah light
Fire fight!
Fire ignition!
But any of yah argument from any angle and position -
Two ways, choose one, it's your owna decision
Blood pressure rise, lightening and thunda clap
If you don't treat my people right, you will get heart-attack!"

I've gotten into the habit of calling Fyah T 'agitated' because I hate using the far more common adjective ['fiery'], even though it fits perfectly in his case, but he's clearly very talented and his tune here, a social commentary, is probably one of the best I've heard from him to date. It's also one of the best on the riddim altogether as the… fiery - chanter soars lyrically and maybe I’ll FINALLY give that album a full listen. Rounding out the opening sixth of the album for the Raspect Riddim is wicked South African artist, Crosby, with the outstanding 'Heart of A Lion'. Crosby continues impress with his big tune here and we're going to shortly be nearing a point where I'm going to start wanting an album from him should he continue his current form ["Be wise, learn to be your own slave master. Put your faith pon Jah and not di pastor. Cah only Jah can protect I from disaster. So I & I ah call pon di master"].

There're a couple of names who voice the Raspect Riddim whose presence, alone, really just made me smile. This is the case in the midst of, as I said, some really big artists and some who will potentially become big names, but this pair really stood out for me. The first is looooooooooong time veteran, the woefully under-recorded Steve Machete who comes through with a big ganja song, 'Herbs' (keeping things simple). Not nearly enough people know Machete's name and that's really a damn shame because, whenever you hear from him, he's always bringing quality tunes and this track is no exception. The other name which well peaked my attention was that of Baby G, who isn't the person who carries that name that you're thinking of. This Baby G, who gives us the nice 'Il Est Temps' is a sublime vocalist from out of Madinina who I really hadn't heard a great deal of from his last album "Libre" [bka "that album that had 'Au-Dela' on it"] which was now way back in 2008. In both of these cases, not only are their tunes on this riddim big, respectively, but I just think that including them both on just about anything is a great idea and the fact that they both reach the Raspect is a really big deal for me and if you pick it up, it'll be the same for you, I'm sure.

Neither Steve Machete or Baby G are the biggest of names on the Raspect Riddim, but some of those lesser known and yet to be known lights really do shine across this track. For example, extremely talented Indonesian Ras Muhammad continues to impress greatly with his offering here, 'Nuh Badmind Friend'.

"You have your dreams and you have your aspirations
You have you goals and you have your inspiration
You have someone to look up as admiration 
Nah let di badmind come and spoil yah meditation
When yah spirit low and yuh pocket running empty - 
See yah real friends will help you whenever you are in need
Words of the comforter, they come to comfort yah
Wi si di badmind is a proud backstabber"

Kaya T also grabs the focus with the strong and very clever 'Blue Skies'. Kaya T has such an interesting voice as well. it almost seems to be capable of basically 'jumping’ over the track and then receding back just as instantly. The result is a tune which is likely the biggest sonic standout on the whole of this album and I definitely hope she becomes a frequent contributor to Oneness' riddims (and you now have a riddim which has a Fyah T, a Baby G and Kaya T). I also did really enjoy 'Take A Stand' from veteran Isiah Mentor. Although not the most spectacular sound, the song really does achieve what it obviously sets out to do and I LOVE the range of urgency in Mentor's vocals as well. Dome, who sounds a bit like Fyah T, took a minute to get me, but eventually did with his own ganja tune 'Good Sensimillia'. Dome has some serious potential according to this tune and I look well forward to hearing more from him in the future. 'Like A Rose' from Edge Michael is a decent track although not amongst my favourites and I could say the same for 'Pretty or Cute' from Ras Charmer, although the latter is quickly gaining steam in my favours. And Da Brenner is also back with 'Da Schau Ma Moi', which is the final vocal track on the Raspect Riddim album. 

The remaining five names on the riddim, with the possible exception of one (although he is well known if you check here enough), are some of the more well known artists appearing on the track and they, like Perfect before them do very well and even offer up the single best tune on the riddim to my opinion. First of all, while you may not be aware of the mighty Rebellion The Recaller , you might want to become acquainted with his music and here is an excellent place to start. You won't find too many songs on this riddim which are better than his 'Carry On' and he also continues in a very fine form following his recent album ("In This Time", in stores now). Esteemed duo Sugar Roy & Conrad Crystal also come through on the Raspect Riddim with a stirring social commentary with a spiritual base, 'When It A Go Over'. This song is nearly stellar and just really speaks a lot of sense to the listeners, so make sure you tune in particular to the lyrics there. Later, Fantan Mojah goes all Nesta on the people with the DAZZLING 'Lootin & Shootin', which is definitely going to be the best song I've heard from the chanter in some time. Again, you listen to this tune and well pay attention to the melody and how diverse it is when compared to just about anything else you'll hear present here. Still, for me the Raspect pinnacles between what I think are its two most signature moments, which come from Lutan Fyah and Luciano, respectively, 'Respect & Manners' and 'Jah Army'

"Some people claim to be fighting for something - end up, dying for nothing
So many innocent life have been wasted
I no si no reason for di killing, too much blood spilling
So I deh wonder what they're meditating
It's the choices that you make, now yah trouble come
When yah trouble come, tell mi where you ahgo run?
You neva listen, how could you be so brave?
Now you get caught up in di mess, what more can you take?
Yah owna dirt splash up in yah face
That's all on you!
He that exalt shall be abased
So if you come yah wid ya violence, gallang yah ways
Wi nah tek no money bribe, wi won't mek di same mistake
And dem ya youth no really want no gun pon dem waist
Wi need love and peace for righteousness sake
Hey, gi di youths dem a break"

BOOM! Lutan Fyah is 'dangerously' nearing the levels he had attained a couple of years back where it seemed as if creating a substandard VERSE was just something he could not do. This is BRILLIANT material from the chanter whose wordplay, as a whole, remains nearly without peer. For his part, Luciano reaches an almost vintage level with the trumpeting and MASSIVE 'Jah Army', which is my favourite song on the Raspect Riddim altogether. This track, somewhat in retrospect, is right within The Messenjah's area of expertise and he shows exactly why that is on a song where, for the eight-thousandth time, the legendary singer makes his highest of allegiances crystal clear! 

Nicely, the Raspect Riddim album also includes a clean version of the riddim (so you can try at home) and, for what it is, it's also a highlight here for me. Always love those.

Raspect Riddim Mix

Overall, my only real critique here is that the album for the riddim probably could have been a bit more streamlined. Checking in at eighteen songs with the instrumental, if that was pushed closer to fifteen or so, it would have been better and that's not to say that the album is tedious at all because it isn't. With that being said, however, what we have here is yet another stellar riddim album and one which leaves me with a bit of homework I suppose (as if writing these things wasn't enough) (currently checking it at 2,718 words). Along with appearing on just about everything that Oneness Records does (including what is very likely to be the next review I write), Fyah T just did something pretty special, put his name on it clearly and put it directly in my line of hearing with the Raspect Riddim. So, for you I'd suggest you pick it up today. As for me, I'll be somewhere in "Family Wise"… FINALLY. I'm convinced. Well done. 

Rated: 4.35/5
Oneness Records/Family Music

Review #392

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