Run The Track: August 2010

Beenie Man

BEENIE MAN PREE WE FAH [ROMEICH RECORDS]

MAD COBRA DRAW ME OUT [ROMEICH RECORDS]

MAVADO CAN’T BELIEVE [ROMEICH RECORDS]

FLEXXX CALL MR. BRUCE [ROMEICH RECORDS]

“First they shoot babies and grandmas. Now entertainers…” Beenie Man’s lyrics on Pree We Fah address those recent attacks on Voicemail’s O’ Neil Edwards and Mad Cobra, likening the gunmen to Lucifer whilst refusing to be intimidated. “Me no business, me no care. God alone me walk with, man me nuh fear…” As Beenie points out they even tried to kill Bob Marley once, meaning artists have been under threat in Jamaica from ever since…

Mad Cobra talks defiantly about events that almost cost him his life on Draw Me Out; Flexxx calls on Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding [“Mr. Bruce”] to lift the State Of Emergency whilst Mavado lets off a scathing critique of the island’s politicians, quoting from Burro Banton as both parties feel his wrath.

Every one of these cuts is social commentary at its best, and Romeich’s Stage Mix rhythm is slamming too. Be sure to check other cuts by Stein, Tiana, T.O.K, ZJ Liquid, Wayne Marshall and Versatile, whose Country A Mash Up continues in the same vein.

MR. VEGAS SWEET JAMAICA [CLIFFORD – RAY]

After the storm, here comes the sunshine because when Mr. Vegas sings that he “feels like jamming to the reggae beat,” you can sense smiles breaking out all around. Counteracting the island’s social ills, Sweet Jamaica is an unashamedly feel-good tune that’s full of vibes, and sure to please the party crowd thanks to a sing-along chorus, uplifting lyrics and delightful rub-a-dub rhythm. The latter’s a cut to Jo Jo Bennett’s The Lecture in fact and reworked in a manner no DJ can resist.

JAH CURE RESPECT [DON CORLEON]

SEAN PAUL ALL NIGHT LONG [DON CORLEON]

Don Corleon’s Major & Minor rhythm – which cleverly mixes up both dancehall and one-drop styles – has been out quite a while now, but further hit versions are always welcome.

Jah Cure had a great Sumfest by all accounts and by paying his respects to Jamaica’s everyday people – the hustlers in the street, bus drivers, garbage collectors and firemen among them – this song can’t fail, and especially as the production’s so good.

Sean Paul could have done with more songs like this on his last album. It’s a girls’ song, and typically catchy and loving in equal measure. Four or five years ago it would have been a smash, but you can’t escape the feeling that things have moved on since then. Let’s hope not, because dancehall music still needs its share of commercial hit-makers.

SHAGGY & ALAINE FOR YUR EYEZ ONLY [K-LICIOUS]

ALAINE YOU ARE ME [1 THIRTY 1 RECORDS]

Talking of which… Shaggy has a unique style and whilst his instinct for hit lyrics and delivery is unfailing, he’s no softie. We’ve missed the Kelly brothers and this insistent dancehall beat – primed for the clubs and yet crafted to international standards – is vintage Tony Kelly. Alaine makes an ideal foil for Mr. Boombastic with her sweet and tuneful r & b style vocals – attributes she showcases to impressive effect on the heartfelt reggae ballad You Are Me.

SPICE JIM SCREECHIE [EQUIKNOXX MUSIC]

BEENIE MAN BEAT THEM BADD [EQUIKNOXX MUSIC]

AKANE FEATURING TIMBERLEE MOVE! [EQUIKNOXX MUSIC]

Detractors can say what they like about dancehall but at its most irresistible it’s crazy, irreverent, fun and inventive – qualities these cuts to Equiknoxx’s Jim Screechie rhythm have in abundance.

Those by Aidonia, T.O.K [dissing VP Records], J.O.E, RDX, Kemikal, Shanz and Versatile all demand a listen but it’s the trio listed above that really catch the ear. Sexy dee-jay/diva/entrepreneur Spice wickedly chats of an illicit affair on the title track, whilst Beenie pays homage to a dancehall queen but it’s the duet between Timberlee and Akane that suspends belief, and illustrates how truly international Jamaican music has become.

“Tokyo is where I shop,” chimes Akane in a girly Japanese voice, as the pair introduce pop sensibilities to the hardcore dancehall format. Expect this one to go ballistic in the land of the Rising Sun, and maybe other places too if it gets sufficient airplay.

CHINO MUS’ COME BACK [DI GENIUS]

Chino and his brother, producer Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor, make a classy double act as they combine on an infectious girls’ song that could well replace Gyptian’s Hold You as this summer’s favourite reggae crossover song. That’s because despite Chino pining for reconciliation it’s breezy and light-hearted, and perfect for daytime airplay.

PATEXXX & BOUNTY KILLER SUMMER TIME [RIDDIM SYNDICATE]

Bounty Killer was honoured at Sumfest for services to music and after more than fifteen years at the top he deserves it. No longer “cross, angry and miserable,” he’s heard in a supporting role here as Patexxx croons about the joys of summer.

It’s a tune that’s edgy enough for dancehall and yet that’ll sound good in a party or on the radio, just like the title suggests.

VYBZ KARTEL YUH LUV CHAT [RUSSIAN]

“What don’t concern you, leave it alone,” warns Kartel, who clearly wrote these lyrics – addressed to a scheming female – when he was “behind the rail,” i.e., in jail under suspicion of gang-related activities. The dee-jay was subsequently released without charge and whilst the religious analogy is a bit far-fetched [“people like you put Christ on the cross]” he clearly has a point.

The tough, futuristic rhythm’s courtesy of Russian by the way, who’s another of Jamaica’s most talented young producers.

GYPTIAN MORE LIFE [CASH FLOW]

CHRIS MARTIN MY EX-GIRL [CASH FLOW]

KONSHENS NO RETREAT [CASH FLOW]

Chris Martin has voiced some excellent songs since winning Rising Stars and My Ex-Girl is no exception. Technically, he’s better than a good many other Jamaican singers, including Gyptian. The latter’s popularity is fully deserved however, and founded on his unerring sense of melody and also that hint of vulnerability which drives the girls crazy. More Life isn’t included on the new album but wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place if it had been, since his lyrics and delivery are appealing as ever.

Konshens is better known for conscious tunes but proves his worth as a lovers’ singer on No Retreat. He may have been inspired by Cash Flow’s Pleasure rhythm, which flows beautifully and also hosts cuts by up-and-coming artists like Dario, Khago, Nellie Roxx, Sophia Brown, the sweet-voiced Denyque and Delus, whose ghetto hymn Unruly shouldn’t be overlooked.

SIZZLA AFRICAN LIBERATION [MAXIMUM SOUND]

I-OCTANE FALSE PRETENDERS [MAXIMUM SOUND]

YAMI BOLO ETHNIC CLEANSING [MAXIMUM SOUND]

Maximum Sound’s Frenchie has always made intelligent choices where rhythms are concerned and nothing’s changed for this latest set of roots tunes. Johnny Clarke’s Blood Dunza gets a makeover here, and it’s just as majestic as Bunny Lee’s original.

Few are better placed to comment on African liberation than Sizzla, and especially after his adventures in Zimbabwe. I-Octane is a roots star in the making; Yami Bolo sounds revitalised on Ethnic Cleansing and there are equally impressive cuts by Lutan Fyah [Sanctify Yourself] and Dean Frazer available on 45 or as downloads.

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About johnmasouri
John Masouri is a long-time author and music journalist specialising in reggae and its many off-shoots including dub, ska, roots and dancehall. The author of Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley's Wailers, published by Omnibus Press in 2008, he is currently working on a biography of reggae singer Peter Tosh, due to appear next year. In addition to book projects, he continues to write articles and reviews for Reggae Vibes (France), Riddim (Germany) and Echoes - formerly Black Echoes - which is renowned as Britain's No. 1 black music monthly. His work has also appeared in Mojo, Music Week, the Guardian, the Observer and the NME, as well as magazines in the US, Caribbean and Japan.

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