Saturday, December 8, 2012

'Welcome Back!': A review of the Trippin Riddim

You're stuck with me. As I'm sure I've said at some point in the not too distant past, I'd like to think that one of my best qualities as far as being a fan of someone's is my loyalty. I'm hard to get rid of. It's going to take a lot more than dropping a few bad tunes or a long spell of inactivity or poor promotion to completely turn me off and you also aren't likely to have much success in using some type of ointment, special lotion or old family remedy either. Once you have me, you're going to have me for a long time. For example, he can continue to make dozens and dozens of less than stellar and certainly not live up to his IMMENSE potential, but I'll be an eighty year old man telling anyone unfortunate enough to have to listen to my old and craziness how amazing Turbulence is when properly motivated because of songs he made more than half a century ago by that point and I don't care. I'll be happy to do it. The same could be said for not only a great deal of other artists and albums and riddims and everything. If I truly love them and one day they end up with just a single fan - it’ll be me. Fortunately the situation with which we deal today isn't anywhere near as drastic as that and, instead, it's more along the lines of someone returning to… recapture what is rightfully theirs and me being in a full on hurry to give it to them. It seems like much longer than a couple of years or so, but it was only then when a burgeoning label from out of California had really caught a great deal of my attention and, really, a great deal of the entire Reggae listening world by virtue of making EXCELLENT music and having, at least for me, all the designs and signals of someone who was going not only be sticking around, but impressing at every stop along the way. That label, of course, was the wonderful Itation Records. It wasn't as if they were overwhelming in terms of their prolificacy or anything like that, but Itation had become one of my most anticipated 'stops' along the way in terms of their creations, which were varied, but centered around producing some really serious music and never disappointing with their output really. And when they were doing big things, without a doubt, they were one of the biggest and, again, personal favourites of ine… but it seemed as if they took break which was just too damn long! 
Itation Records' productions
So what exactly did they do? Well, like I said, Itation Records pushed some really serious riddims. Pieces such as the Higher Mediation, the Show Love, the Clearly and the Ifficial riddims all showed a huge level of proficiency and skill and that wasn't all either. The label would also have their hands in the "Vizionary" album from Ras Batch, which remains one of his finest records to date ["wi nah lose!"] and they were also the generators of the very eye-opening "Good Profile" set from the now FLAMING Delly Ranx. And all of that would happen between 2007-2010. The last riddim album they did (at least to my knowledge), the Ifficial, came late in 2010 and while they haven't completely vanished, they weren't jumping in every few months with a new track and that's unfortunate and was so in 2011. If you read my work to any degree, it's almost seemed as if the same attention that we now give to the WICKED German imprint, Oneness Records (and you know how much I love those people and their music), is along the same lines of how we used to talk about Itation Records.
"Vizionary" by Ras Batch [2008] & "Good Profile" by Delly Ranx [2009]
But we can start talking again. Following a 2011 which, at least to my knowledge, was very thin in terms of releases (though they did do a sublime tune in 'Never Keep You Waiting' by Yogie) (in stores now) and a 2012 which appeared to be headed for the same fate, Itation Records has returned [!] and they've brought with them something which helped to make fans out of you and me five years ago, a GIANT riddim. The Trippin Riddim becomes the first riddim album from the label in a couple of years, but it does not, AT ALL, fail to live up to the ridiculously lofty standards set by its elder 'siblings' form a few years back and while you do wish it had come last year, as I said, even if it had come twenty years on, my excitement for it wouldn't have diminished in the slightest. If you're a newer fan and I haven't made myself clear - this is a really big deal. Itation is really top class and the work they do has always been evidence of that. You may not like every song on every track on every album, but you always get the feeling from their work that they've paid attention to every detail and have put forth the best project that they can which is a quality that obviously survived the break. The Trippin Riddim also continues to show what had become a staple of Itation's in a major way (the aforementioned Oneness is also brilliant at that) - the assemblage of a very colourful and unique group of vocalists (and one major musician as well, more on that in a second). I can remember, after a couple of their riddims, just really getting energized and excited to see with whom they would work next and of course I'm a nerd, but I do these things quite constantly and I listen to so much music that when I notice something like that actually happening, it goes to be a very large testament to the work and work ethic of the label which, again, was really one of my favourites and, as you can see, there is an abundance of reasons why (and I haven't even really gotten into this thing yet). But now that Itation is back you know they can't rest and ride on their past successes (yes they can) and it's back to business as usual for one of the most consistent and high-quality labels going today. Let’s take a listen.

As for the riddim, itself, the Trippin Riddim has a very interesting sound. It has just a dash of R&B blended into one SWEET Roots track and, as is so important and as I alluded to (just a "second" ago) also has a nice piece to it. That piece is a saxophone contribution from the legendary Dean Fraser and I was so happy that not only did the label choose to include him, but they also chose to feature him so prominently so as to give him a credit on the album cover even ahead of the vocalists. He deserves it and the riddim is excellent. The first to take the new riddim release from Itation Records, the Trippin for a run is the always interesting Winstrong with the riddim's title track. The chanter, originally from out of Suriname and while I don't speak on/of him very often, I should make the mention that Winstrong, by far, is one of the most colourful artists around today in terms of the different sounds he mixes into his music. This tune is no different as it is a very R&B-ish (and I think it may even have an R&B song in mind at the chorus, because it sounds familiar) type of love song and in this case, I'm not complaining. It's a nice way to get started in showing the obvious dexterity of this track. Next in is a giant with a nearly just as sizable selection, 'See The Light' - Luciano. I love this song and although it is just a bit understated, at least for the most part, it builds throughout itself so nicely as 'The Messenjah' delivers his typical beautiful spiritually steered and originated social commentary (I could probably never get tired of hearing this man sing these type of songs). And wrapping up the initial group of tunes on Itation's Trippin Riddim is a song which now comes through as pure candy to my ears (I'll have to talk about this one for a minute or two). 'Disya Time' is a song which originally appeared on a fantastic album from just a few years ago by the name of "I-Meditation" from the great Mr. Goodwin, Ras Attitude. The first time I heard the Trippin and knew it as the Trippin, it sounded SO familiar to my ears and I knew that I knew it from somewhere. I even had lyrics in my head and it seemed like one of those points (which happens everyday) where you just ultimately can't remember where you know it from, but I actually looked at the tracklist (DUH!) and found where I knew it from. The original didn't have the saxophone, so maybe that threw me off, but regardless of the version, just as it was on the "I-Meditation" album, 'Disya Time' is an amazing song and it is the best song I hear on this track altogether. 

"Food nah eat and di place, it dread
[In this time]
Man ah get bucked and ah lose dem head
[In this time]
Wi still haffi hide wid di herb just to get a one red
[In this time]
Political corruption, unnecessary bloodshed

I & I caan believe inna dis ya time
The place red so and the place dread so
I just wanna free my mind
Mi waan fly away, as far as I can go
I'M hurt inside -
Fi si di biggaheads ah move like john crow
Police in di place with cameras and chips, satellite dish
What do you expect of this?
Dem ah boost more war, fi create world crisis
Wi ah bun dem all down, dem nah like it
All oppression - Rasta ready fi fight it!"

BOOM! Call it a social commentary, at its core, and 'Dis Ya Time', at least in my opinion is one of the better tunes of its kind from the modern era. It is also the signature track from a big album and now a big riddim likewise.  

Much like they still are keeping things apparently hot on the production and musical end, Itation Records have also kept a good eye and ear in terms of who they choose as the vocal artists as the Trippin Riddim, easily, features one of the finer roster of artists from any riddim this year (which is saying a lot). Definitely not the biggest name here, but I have to say, personally, I was REALLY happy when I saw track #13 on the Trippin, 'Sweet Jamaica' because it features an artist that I've liked for years (who also is a twin for my favourite aunt), Penthouse veteran Sweet C, who appears on the tune in a clever duet style alongside Gideon. Biggup Sweet C, biggup Gideon and biggup whoever from Itation made the decision to have on the track. The song is excellent. And speaking of combinations and longtime favourites - check 'We Overcome' which links a pair of my favourites in Messenjah Selah (anytime with that new album Selah) along with the man himself, Sizzla Kalonji. The tune isn't their very first together as the duo also united on a tune called 'Joy', a big tune from Selah's debut album, "Whosoever Will". This song, another winner, is a praising and uplifting piece and really you wouldn't have expected anything less with such a link between two major talents in this way. 

"Kalonji - I'm feeling the next level thing
Yeah! No media critique 
No mek di devil drink you like a cup of tea
Any thing mi sign, that must set mi free
Remember, you are The Most High property
So keep yah fyah blazing free
And elevate it mentally
Soon the world shall see:
Good always overcome inequity!" 

And on the other combination, the Trippin Riddim brings together Jah Sun and Stevie Culture on the stirring 'Pray For The Best'. It took a few spins through, but this song eventually won over my tastes and is a solid offering. 

Ras Indio's was another name I was very happy to see again on an Itation production and the Belizean chanter hits one of the biggest moments on the whole of this riddim with his wicked 'Hold Di Faith'. Indio has, "longtime", been someone who I've felt had that talent and style to take himself to the proverbial next level, as far as popularity and turning in material like this song is only going to help him and hopefully he can "turn in" a new album sometime in 2013. Have I told you about this great artist who used to go by the moniker Turbulence??? At his best, he's one of the most talented artists the genre of Reggae music may've EVER heard from (hopefully you caught what I did there). He too appears on the Trippin Riddim, and in a good form, with 'More Life'. Vintage level Turbulence WILL return one day and remain when he does, I'm confident, and this beautiful track is even more fuel for my point of view. I was also really happy to see Fantan Mojah on the Trippin as well. Mojah has come such a long way in his career that I think people have gotten so comfortable with him being there that they may not have noticed that he's just as strong today as he's ever been. His piece here, 'Rastafari Bless', has to be considered amongst the very best the riddim has to offer. He's always been someone who, almost like Messenjah Selah, always has this really powerful and LOUD presentation of his music and the results, at his best, are always these songs which sort of leap out at you and stand out so far from the pack as being so unique and of his own creation. This song is one of  the better ones I've heard from him this year also. Big, big. And you know if Fantan Mojah is around, he always brings the flash. The excellent singing and terribly underrated former 'Mr. Flash', Zareb, is also on the present with 'Ruff Time'. The singer is another artist who is going to find it hard to get rid of me as a fan because just about every time he has a new song, it's a great one and while he doesn't make nearly enough of them to my liking, in his case it proves quality over quantity every time. This song is another inspirational one and one of my favourite on the riddim as well. And the aforementioned Delly Ranx also returns to the studios of Itation Records to drop his nice tune 'Chant Me A Chant'

"Almighty God, HIM a The King of Kings
Don't put yah trust inna no car and rims
Don't make di devil bwoy tek weh yah tings
Cah even di winds caah wash weh yah sins
Praise The Most High and just joy that bring
Jah Jah is the Ruler, wid HIM you fi cling
Songs of praises, a dat you fi sing
Lock it inna yard and foreign
So mi sing -

Chant mi ah chant!
Chant mi ah chant!
Mi haffi bun down babylon inna di dance
Chant mi ah chant!
Chant mi ah chant!
Mi Afrikan family no live ignorant
Chant mi ah chant!
Chant mi ah chant!
Di devil and him friend dem nah get no chance
Chant mi ah chant!
Chant mi ah chant!
So wi haffi bun dem inna di dance

Mi haffi read a book of Psalm everyday
Mi haffi mek di devil and his friends run away
Wicked man vex when di righteous ah pray
Because dem know wi nah go di devil way
The Lord is my Leader, dem fi know dat
And HIM neva eva treat me like no floor mat
HIM give me di best knowledge and understanding
That's why Delly Ranking ah praise HIM" 

And even after all that, the well packed Trippin Riddim still offers more big tunes from big and talented names  (it's almost like Itation was making up for the lost time). Ask Kali Blaxx 'what's that in your palm' and  this time he'll tell you ["it's a medicine to keep my nerves calm"] (WHAT!) (BOOM!) (I digress) it's a strong song in the name of holding firm and maintaining oneself properly on 'Hold Your Crown'. TEARS! 

"I just ah keep it positive and still a gwan hail The King 
Cah wi don't know what tomorrow may bring
Even though t he livity so tough
Wi ah trod it through the rough
Cah wi don't know what tomorrow may bring
A little money start turn 
Save some of what you earn
You don't know what tomorrow may bring
Trouble no set like a cloud
Yeah, be focused, hold yah crown
Wi don't know what tomorrow may bring"

Someone, somewhere has to get to work on a full album from Blaxx. He's too talented not to have one. I say so! Ishi Dube could do that (he produced the aforementioned "I-Meditation" album and appeared on it, as did both Jah Sun and Winstrong) (AND… Attitude, Winstrong and Jah Sun all appeared on Dube's most recent album, "Lion Camp" as well) (small world), but in the interim he's making music of his own as he also reaches the Trippin in a big way with the fun 'Rebel Music'. I usually don't like the kind of 'spelling' tunes, but this one works for me. Ishi Dube is someone who has this great quality of being able to interject his own personality in a song and not come across very mechanical and lumbering, which is the complete opposite of this track, one of the most original and just BEST songs I heard here. Dynasty Records veteran and staple, Bobby Hustle, is also here with a sweet lover's tune, 'Words To Say' and Ras Ijah pushes the same with 'Still Loving You'. As I said, the riddim is very open to these type of compositions and both do very well on the  track. And rounding out the album are efforts from two artists I don't know a great deal about Soul Medic and Vidagua. The former brings 'Be All', which is actually very good if you give it awhile to grow on you. Medic actually was way back on the Higher Meditation Riddim and I think I may've heard one next tune from him, but he does have some skill, a fact which is apparent here. Vidagua is interesting because if I get it correctly, it is a group of two girls. I've only heard one or two songs of theirs as well and I didn't catch their effort here, 'Music Wash', in its original 'state' as it appeared on and opened their self-titled album from earlier this year. They do fantastically on this track which gets this really nice intro and vibes which Vidagua uses to propel a big song, which is one just giving thanks for the music, itself. It's very clever how they write about it in a way where what they are doing, indirectly is to make the listener aware of just how many places you go daily where there is this type of orchestrated sound and being thankful for it - in all of the various 'channels' in which music actually exists. It's brilliant! I've heard dozens of songs like this and so have you, but rarely, if ever, has it sounded so well done and I think I will have a listen to that album now. 

"When the beat hits my feet, I can't help but I'm moving
When the sound fills my heart and the melody's so soothing
Voices in harmony sounding oh so sweet
Music wash over me and bring me peace

Ever since I could remember you've been there for me in my times of need
Even when I could barely speak, I could feel your beat -
Surrounding my soul and in you I've grown -
To be the woman that I am today
Without you I'd be lead astray
I hear you whisper in the wind
Sometimes stumbling thundering
Flowing, rolling down the stream
While the birds sing in the trees
Leaves are rustling through the breeze
Hear you buzzing with the bees
You make life sound so sweet
I can't help, something comes over me

Peace of my mind good for my soul all the time
Washing over me like sweet water, divine
Bringing love to me and to all mankind
Your sweet sounds, they are so good for my mind
So thankful for the gifts that you bring to our lives
Your life-filling up of love, I taste in the nights
Helping us through our love, our pain, our sorrow 
Bringing us through to a brighter tomorrow 
Feel the rhythms of Batá, to the sounds of Samba
Add a little bit of Soul and some Reggae Rockaz
Some good R&B and a Folk melody
And a little Rock & Roll just to change up the beat 
Feel the hit of the drum and the strum of guitar 
A stroke of the keys can uplift your heart"

And closing things out, perfectly, is a clean version of the Trippin Riddim, so you can try it for yourself. It's absolutely gorgeous alone and preceding it are so many nice vocal tracks on this big riddim album.  
Overall, you won't find too many riddim albums, at least not in my opinion, from 2012 which rank higher than the Trippin, but really that is something to be expected. This is 'simply' what Itation Records does. They make really great riddims and I don't care if they took the next ten years off as a break (a very long break), in 2014, when they returned, I'd be listening and I'd be just as confident in their ability to do so then as well and I'd hold them up to the highest possible of standards. As usual, they leave me with a bit of 'homework' and in this case, I simply have to have more of a listen to Vidagua. That was very impressive. Also, moving forward, perhaps this starts a nice stretch where some of our not so active favourites, such as Bizzarri and Philadub and Rumble Rock and Greensphere come back and start doing big things consistently. As for Itation Records, however, the Trippin Riddim hopefully brings them back to stay and it gives me what I wanted - Another reason to tell you just how good Itation Records is. One of the best riddims and riddim albums of the year. Well done. 

Rated: 4.5/5
Itation Records 

Review #405

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