Saturday, February 2, 2013

'Another Picture': A review of "Born To Rule" by Khari Kill

Push up. Besides a small group of individuals, of whom I fully consider myself in the process of being a lifelong fan --my absolute favourites-- there is also a really nice group of artists who I believe make listening to Reggae music an even greater experience. These are people who, for one reason or another, will not only ever have to work very hard to get my attention, but whose respective presences and contributions to the music have also made being a fan of theirs to varying degrees throughout the years a very nice and exciting thing. So much so, in some cases, has this been the case that it's now become full on nasty to even think about them just totally not being involved in the music. A good example of this would definitely be someone like Bambú Station.  The VI group returned to prominence last year on the strength of their huge album, "Children Of Exodus", which just happened to be their very first in quite some time. Still, even despite their absence on album shelves (and it wasn't as if Bambú Station was dropping consistent singles either), it would be awful to think of Reggae music completely sans their own music as well as the work and influence Jalani Horton and company have done for others. And again, you'll find many more passionate fans of Bambú Station than me, but that is how great their impact has been. Similarly, I'd look at someone such as Norris Man. Not only am I most certainly not a big fan of Norris Man's, but he's had several stretches in his career where I just didn't very much listen to him at all (and he's likely to have more), but to just wipe him away from the music, instead of waiting for him to really do material when in top form (when you get tunes such as the MAMMOTH 'King Of Your Soul'), would take away from it just a bit in my opinion. Turbulence would be another instance (although wholly strange in his case) as would others such as Bushman. Definitely fitting into that group in his on way, would be someone whose quality I generally don't have to worry about, but who isn't necessarily the most active of artists, the WICKED chanter from out of Trinidad, Khari Kill. I haven't been through the same fan-drama in regards to following the work of Khari Kill as I have several of the others I've mentioned here, but it does seem like such a long time that I've been listening to and enjoying his work to the point where, again, I don't think I'd want to see Reggae music entirely without his presence and he's just recently made a big step to ensure that won't be the case anytime soon.  
"Picture Of Selassie" [2007]
Make a new album! Khari Kill will likely stay somewhere in the minds of most Reggae fans as he was responsible for one of the greatest songs that the genre has produced in the modern era, the genius 'Picture Of Selassie' from a few years back (which, probably along with Marlon Asher's 'Ganja Farmer' and maybe Isasha's 'Don't You Know' is definitely one of Trinidad's biggest Reggae songs of all time). That tune would lead to an album of the same name back in 2007 ["could you love me as I am? Would you love me as I am?"] [BOOM!] which was very strong and featured Kill working alongside the venerable Massive B imprint. And while he hasn't been the most active of names in the time from then, he hasn't been absent from recording either, voicing for big and esteemed labels such as Pow Pow, Goldcup Records from out of Italy and even Itation. But as the years have gone by (and they have!), it's definitely brought the big anticipation for a new full length project from Khari Kill.  
And now, still very early in 2013, we get it! "Born To Rule" becomes Kill's sophomore set, arriving nearly six years after its predecessor. The album comes from a somewhat unusual source, but not really, as the California based I Dwell Records seems well poised to have another big year, following a 2012 which saw them release several big works, including "Deeper Roots" from Lymie Murray and they even had a hand in on Toussaint's "Where I Lead". That wasn't all they did. I Dwell also (FINALLY) brought forth the complete Fyah Fureal Riddim (more on that later), which was packed with big names such as the aforementioned Murray, Norris Man and Isasha (w/Million Voice), as well as Pressure Busspipe, NiyoRah, Luciano and others. They also debuted the Moon Riddim (more on that later, too) and just generally had a very active year in keeping their name in the air and just generally doing pushing excellent material. So, while I haven't had this album on radars for a very long time, it probably shouldn't come to any surprise and big credits goes to the label for, once again, impressing to a large degree, even before you get into the actual music of this album. For his part, if you haven't listened to a great deal of Khari Kill's music in the past, I would say that one of his greatest qualities is his adaptability. He has a very curious and free-flowing type of style which may not work very well in the minds and mouths of too many of his peers, but has, obviously, worked fantastically for him thus far. He doesn't take the kind of 'radical' course as someone like a Perfect does, nor is Kill as seemingly perfectly situated as a Ras Batch, but what he does best is to jump on a track and make it work to the best of his ability - no matter what it is. Because of that, he's managed to do well in different areas of the music and I would take and keep such a large interest in his output because, like Perfect, he's very much someone who breaks the proverbial mold of Roots Reggae artists. His music, at its best, is a fun, passionate and exciting brand of the genre and that is on full display throughout his brand new album, "Born To Rule". Let's have a closer look [and speaking of closer looks, I believe it was actually Khari Kill, himself, who painted the cover of this album].

What I really noticed, immediately, is just how ORGANIC it comes across. As I said, our star here is someone who very much excels at being 'free' and spontaneous and although what you get here is definitely a full-fledged modern Roots Reggae album to its core, with very heavy tracks at times, it is one which encases the vocalist in way which doesn't at all restrict him and, in fact, allows him to shine (that sentence is way too long, but it is a great one in my opinion). The glare on Khari Kill's big new album, "Born To Rule", via I Dwell Records, gets going with the tune for which the album is named and it makes a strong impression instantly. 'Born To Rule', the song, is an extremely infectious praising tune and one which is certain to generate a great deal of attention. This is a piece which is well going to get heads moving and minds open simultaneously as Kill pushes a winner at the head of the new album. The HEAVY 'Dragonslayer' (biggup Mark Wonder), which is somewhat broad, but no less impact because of it. Really, this tune is more about dealing with negative aspects of life and because it is so expansive, it lends itself to variety of interpretations, which makes it very relatable. Also, the vibes of this tune, although different from the opener, are CANDY for the ears. That riddim is spectacular. The next song, 'We've Been Doin' is, perhaps, a similarly vibed tune but, as its title would suggest, is one which is very autobiographical and personal to the artist who doesn't miss the moment at all and turns in one of the album's biggest tunes.

"We've been doin-
More than they've been doing-
All of our lives, oh yeah
All dem love to do, point fingers and criticize
We've been doin
Babylon been chewing off - 
More than dem bite
Oh yeah, plus dem love eat off di same hand dem bite

Kids don't have no money fi di fare
Good works will get you far
Vanity: People no care
Humanity and good, we keep up wid round here
And nuff will say they love, but they really don’t care
They fight without a purpose
They going nowhere
My flight it has a purpose - international all year
To spread the works of Jah, each and every where
So dem cast dem net and set dem snare
And pray fi dem friend to fall down the stairs
But mi tell dem, God only answer good prayers!"

As you move into the 'body' of "Born To Rule", the album really opens up and begins  to offer up some top notch compositions which, generally speaking, run throughout the entire course of the record. The two which stood out on paper, even before hearing the album, were definitely 'Burn Dem Down' and 'Blessed Love'. The former is carried by the previously mentioned exquisite Moon Riddim, which I would enjoy SO MUCH to hear a clean version of, but this song with the vocals is brilliance. The first verse here is a piece of lyrical mastery and it's due to Kill's ability to put things together so well in almost any situation. 'Blessed Love' may just be an even stronger selection and it utilizes the also aforementioned Fyah Fureal Riddim from I Dwell. While the song does, literally, slow things down, it continues to heat up the album. I should also probably mention another excellent set here, as Khari Kill goes biblical for 'Abba Tadius', which features the very familiar riddim from the title track of Toussaint's "Where I Lead" album.  
'Burn Dem Down' digital single [2012]
In its latter stages, "Born To Rule" keeps the levels well high. The very clever 'Virtuous Woman' (same riddim as Toussaint's 'Ninety-Nine Percent') is… very clever. Kill isn't happy with the way women are being treated in the world, in the music and everywhere and he manages to bring out this point in a way which inherently lyrically leans itself on great Women of the past. Check a tune such as '12 Tribes', which really took me a few spins to actually take in. Although the song is one which is very straight-forward in sound, it goes in several different directions in its subject. The unifying theme, however, is one of education and teaching the younger people of the world all sides of the situation (or at least all of them that you know). Also there's a large and prevailing concept of UNITY as well and Khari Kill makes the point by calling the names of some of his peers and friends as well (biggup Prophet Benjamin). The final song on "Born To Rule", 'Won't Quit', is another which had to grow on me just a bit. That being said, however, somewhere on listen #2 or #3, I completely fell in love with the mood of this tune and what was being said as well. 

"I won’t quit
I won't give up
Even when things never seem to go my way
Obstacles inna mi way, mi just fast and pray
I won't quit
I won't give up
Even when things never seem to go my way
Obstacles inna mi way, mi just fast and pray
Wi just trust inna The Father and wi trust and obey

Dem asking mi, if a record label sign mi
And asking bout the orthodox church that find mi
And dutty babylon dat try bling the -
People and mek dem feel that Rastafari works is tiny
When wi voice, wi trodding all over this world like limey
Pull up ya favourite beat and join mi"

To my opinion, the real class of "Born to Rule" comes during the latter stages of its beginnings and includes the middle as Khari Kill jumps in with four BIG tunes consecutively. The first is also the best and the best tune I heard on the album altogether, 'Deeds'. MAD! The tune, with its cool and laidback approach is meditative GENIUS! Kill finds no bounds and no boundaries worth crossing on the tune which covers so many topics and checks them all in a major way. I do really like the riddim on that track, but just pay most attention to the artist who brings musical poetry and mastery on the song. 'Musician' is another favourite of mine and I won't be the only one. This piece is one which speaks on the nature of being a musician (DUH!) and one, specifically, trying to make positive music and make a positive impact on the world with your craft. It's a really personal composition as he talks about the struggles he's faced and that are faced, in general, on the business side of making music and the responsibility he feels to make GOOD music as opposed to turning towards a more negative arena, even though it may be more profitable. Big tune. The downright ethereal (love that word) 'Day Into Night' which is a mighty song as is the KNOCKING anti-violence track, 'Plenty Guns'. The latter… you have to hear the second verse there which is purely emblematic of what I mean when I say that Khari Kill excels at being free in the vibes and being able to adapt and do whatever he likes. That stretch is about as riveting as I've heard in this young year and should it be December and anything has changed there, I'll be damn shocked. 
Khari Kill
Overall, I think that Khari Kill is the type of artist of whom I can give a very rare all-encompassing recommendation. If you are the slightest interested in Reggae music, I think that there is some significant chance that you'll be able to enjoy at least some aspect of this album. I also want to stress something else that I've been speaking of a lot lately because he has it as well: Kill can REALLY put some emotion into his work and while I used the word "passionate" before, both are well appropriate for him. And due to that attribute, while we may not always look toward Roots Reggae music as being exciting, "Born To Free" is almost thrilling at times - as much as any purely Dancehall album that I can remember in recent times - in its own way. That makes it a very accessible project to my ears and one which is going to entertain and educate a wide variety of people. I'm one of them and so are you. Hopefully we don't have to wait another six years for a follow-up, but with "Born To Rule", Khari Kill continues to make his a name I'm always happy see. Big album.

Rated: 4.25/5
I Dwell Records

Review #414

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