Run The Track: May 2010

Jah Cure

MARY J BLIGE FEATURING JAH CURE EACH TEAR [BLACK CHINEY REMIX]

He’s not a great performer or songwriter – most of his hits were penned by others – but Jah Cure is still the most original singer to emerge from Jamaica in years, and deservedly commands a loyal fan base. Whatever you think of these remixes, it’s still a thrill hearing him soar alongside America’s reigning soul diva in place of Jay Sean, and the track’s new reggae production is well executed too. A classy attempt in truth, and well nigh essential for radio DJs looking for something a little more adventurous.

BARRINGTON LEVY FEATURING SNOOP DOGG & MIMS MURDERER [PCP]

Barrington first unleashed Murderer during the same period as Under Mi Sensi and Here I Come. It sounds like PCP have commandeered the original vocals here, only treated to a dash of the dreaded Autotune. Happily they drop as powerfully as ever, and are now tailor-made for hip hop heads with the inclusion of Snoop and Mims. “We’re walking with the world on our shoulders,” chats Mims, although hitching a ride on the back of a track this good hardly qualifies as problematic.

GYPTIAN FEATURING NICKI MINAJ HOLD YUH [FME / HUMBLESS]

Gyptian’s Hold Yuh has been the hit song of this spring and no wonder. His plaintive vocals have registered with the ladies especially, and his sing-jay warblings lend this track an appeal that’s seen it flourish way outside the ethnic market. In fact it’s the closest we’ve come to seeing an urban reggae hit in America for quite some time.

That said, it remains to be seen how hardcore fans will respond to the inclusion of female rapper Nicki Minaj – a L’il Wayne discovery who openly claims to be bisexual.

NADINE SUTHERLAND COUGAR [JAH SNOW CONE]

There’s still a stigma attached to older women pairing off with younger male partners, despite the best efforts of Demi Moore, Halle Berry, Courtney Cox and the rest. “It’s a new paradigm, a new energy,” promises the divine Ms Sutherland, who takes time off from hosting the Rising Stars television show in Jamaica to deliver her most vibrant and compelling dancehall track since Action.

This is a smash hit in anyone’s language. It’s tackling a topic of considerable interest [hints of insider gossip abound!], and she comments on it with style, wit and intelligence – all whilst singing her heart out over Jah Snow Cone’s irresistible dancehall beats.

BEENIE MAN VISA [DI GENIUS]

Beenie Man answers his critics – and especially US Immigration – as only he can, i.e., by rushing in the studio and voicing his frustrations on record. The idea that Moses could pose a danger to American citizens is certainly far-fetched. “Me nah know where they get their information,” he says, whilst admitting that “foreign is no bed of roses and here in Jamaica we are not foreign-minded.”

It’s amazing how entertaining this track is, despite his personal difficulties. After just a few plays you’ll be singing it all day long but then according to Beenie Man himself, “that was my darkness and this is my light…”

JAH CURE SAVE YOURSELF [SOBE]

Who needs Mary J Blige when you’ve been handed a tune this good? Roots selectors will be falling over themselves to play this latest Jah Cure, which not only captures him in full-flight vocally [because no one lets it all hang out so soulfully as he] – but is also built around a wicked sample, lifted from the Gladiators’ Bongo Red.

According to the lyrics – framed by exquisite female harmonies – we should be mindful of what we’re told, and save ourselves from the ways of the world. “We’ve come this far,” he tells the faithful, “and we don’t need no help.” No matter your preference, you miss out on this gem at your peril.

HOMEGROWN FEATURING LUTAN FYAH BEHIND BABYLON BACK [PCP]

HOMEGROWN FEATURING KONSHENS GREEN GREEN WEED [PCP]

Homegrown is a singing herbalist, and he’s advocating high grade ganja on Behind Babylon Back – an impressive roots offering that has a little of everything. PCP’s Jam Signal rhythm is recorded with “live” drums but then magically transforms itself into jump-up dancehall beats as soon as Lutan Fyah takes the mic. The Jamaican sing-jay’s contributions light up the tune like a bush fire, even whilst taking a back seat for the most part. He still makes every line count though, and Behind Babylon just wouldn’t sound the same without him.

Green Green Weed is a brilliant pastiche of UB40’s Red Red Wine, sung to the same melody and on much the same rhythm track, and with Konshens taking the place of Astro during the deejay interlude. [Who’s coughing I’ve no idea.] The new lyrics are hilarious, but this track’s very cleverly done and is much too good to be dismissed as any kind of novelty.

VYBZ KARTEL FEATURING POPCAAN & GAZA SLIM CLARKS [CR203]

BOUNTY KILLER & ELEPHANT MAN HOW WE DO IT [CR203]

TONY MATTERHORN DEM ALONE [CR203]

“Everybody haffe ask where me get me Clarks…” Say what you like about Vybz Kartel but the guy has formidable mic skills, a radar-like instinct for a hit melody and as the Number One entertainer in Jamaica, he’s going to be offered all the best rhythms as well. Clarks can’t be stopped, despite fierce competition from Bounty & Elephant Man, busting truth and reality on How We Do It and also a rarity from Tony Matterhorn, heard here chatting in tandem with Richie Feelings, Razz, Biggy, Fire Links and Jigsy, and sounding good for a change.

MAVADO FEATURING BOB MARLEY GAL A MAD OVA [ZJ RUSH]

Some remixes work brilliantly, whereas others are so far off the mark, they make you wish you’d never clapped ears on them.

This is an example of what can happen when nothing works, and you end up with a total mess. On his day, Mavado is one of the most compelling artists around but he’s hopelessly out of his depth on this track, which although credited to a self-proclaimed “Mixmaster General,” sounds as if it’s the handiwork of someone with hearing deficiencies. If you’re a fan of Marley’s Turn Your Lights Down Low [which Lauryn Hill took into the Billboard charts a decade or so ago] or even Mavado come to think of it, then you’ll want to avoid this track at all costs.

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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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