Run The Track: November 2010

Cham

CHAM FEATURING BOUNTY KILLER & MYKAL ROSE STRONGER REMIX [MAD HOUSE]

Cham’s Ghetto Story – again produced by Mad House’s Dave Kelly – is one of the greatest reggae hits of all time. Only a handful of artists get to voice a tune of that magnitude, but Cham now has another runaway anthem to his credit – one that combines stirring lyrics with powerful vocals and the kind of beats which serve as a rallying call for authentic Jamaican dancehall.

Written by Kelly, it’s a tale of triumph over adversity – a cry of defiance that’ll stiffen the resolve of anyone suffering from emotional scars, yet who still try and elevate themselves. With Mykal Rose singing his best chorus since Shoot Out and the Killer in support, Stronger is my Dancehall Single Of The Year, and with no apology.

BOUNTY KILLER THE MESSAGE [MAD HOUSE]

“Tell the world we’ve back again…” It was Dave Kelly who wrote and produced classic Bounty Killer hits like Look, Eagle And The Hawk and Can’t Believe My Eyes, and the old magic returns like it’s never been away on this long-awaited follow-up.

Whilst the actual production’s full of style and clever little hooks, Bounty’s message is deadly serious and addressed to Jamaican PM Bruce Golding, who’s taken to task for abandoning the island’s ghetto youths. If you loved hearing Bounty in his role of Poor People’s Governor, this is definitely the tune for you.

ASSASSIN DANCEHALL AGAIN [DASECA]

BEENIE MAN TELL A GAL [DASECA]

SERANI DAY MI BORN [DASECA]

People say Jamaican music’s in danger of losing its identity thanks to the overweening influence of r & b, techno and hip hop but here’s the antidote – a rhythm by Daseca that reactivates the Punany blueprint and restores that irresistible bounce to dancehall.

Assassin tells the story on Dancehall Again whilst reminding us of legends like Shabba Ranks, Shaggy and Chakademus & Pliers, who first took dancehall international. A legacy like that shouldn’t be cast aside so easily – just ask Beenie Man, heard here on a spirited domestic drama or Serani, who loves the rhythm so much, he’s voiced it three times. My Star is the second whilst Again & Again features Tony Matterhorn and is catchiest of them all.

There are plenty of other cuts by the likes of Bugle, Elephant Man, Future Fambo [paying tribute to Tiger on From When] and Mr. Vegas, but I’d also recommend Dexter Daps’ Ride All Night, which manages to make cycling sexy – no mean feat.

GAPPY RANKS FEATURING BEENIE MAN LONG TIME [SPECIAL DELIVERY]

GAPPY RANKS LONG TIME [SPECIAL DELIVERY]

GAPPY RANKS GIRL NEXT DOOR [MACRO BEATS]

Gappy has another album out in February and hopefully both of these songs will be on it. Produced for his manager Pierre Bost’s Special Delivery label, Long Time is reaffirmation of Gappy’s roots and a wonderful portrayal of everyday runnings in Harlesden, London NW10, where he grew up. With lyrics like “Long time me chill ‘pon the block and bu’n a big head,” it’s so evocative whilst Beenie Man’s guest slot is a bonus in truth, since Gappy does more than enough in his own right.

“Dutty romance” is the theme of Girl Next Door, which is one of those infectious tracks that’ll appeal to garage and dub-step heads, as well as hardcore dancehall crowds.

ELEPHANT MAN B.M.F.S [TRUCK BACK]

ELEPHANT MAN MURDER [TRUCK BACK]

ELEPHANT MAN INFORMER [CHIMNEY RECORDS]

Elephant Man nah ramp on this gangster rap with menacing hip hop overtones. It’s not even we hear lyrics this raw and uncompromising but then Elephant’s from Seaview Gardens, and tells it as he’s seen it. “I think them diss Zekes, sell out Dudus,” he warns on the chorus. “Ghetto youths yuh see it, the system nah love us. Big up Skeng Don. Willie Hagheart. Andrew Phang a bad man from the f*cking start…”

Murder and Informer are very similar. Both borrow a melody from Michael Jackson and describe the fate awaiting those who run to the police carrying tales. The Chimney version is the sharper and better produced of the two but there’s no one can match him in this kind of mood and be warned, because the Energy God’s not kidding…

MAVADO WHEN U FEEL LONELY [DASECA]

Mavado has had further problems with the Kingston police lately but the “Gully God” clearly left his bad man profile at home when setting out to voice this sensitive love song. It offers a welcome change of pace from an artist renowned for his gangster lyrics. The lyrics are full of tenderness, whilst that mournful voice is both loving and tuneful. A hit, and no sell-out please note.

VYBZ KARTEL SHE’S HOLDING ON [ZJ CHROME]

JAH CURE BEFORE I LEAVE [ZJ CHROME]

ALAINE UP [ZJ CHROME]

Mavado’s not the only one cooling out it seems. Even his great rival Vybz isn’t shy of turning his hand to gentle love songs as he pays tribute to an American lady called Sophie on She’s Holding On; a mother of two who stands by her man throughout a vale of tears. There’s a matching cut called Not A Love Song that’s just as compelling, whilst Jah Cure is still lighting up every rhythm he graces with that soulful voice. Alaine meanwhile is Jamaica’s r & b / reggae songbird, and surely destined for an international hit before long.

All are voiced over a lilting one-drop shared with a raft of other artists, including Bugle, I Octane, Chris Martin, Lutan Fyah, Ce’Cile and lesser-known names such as Raine Seville and Keida.

PEETAH MORGAN MY MAKEDA [SPECIAL DELIVERY]

J. BOOG SO FAR GONE [SPECIAL DELIVERY]

Lovers’ rock is alive and well and safe in the hands of Special Delivery, whose productions have continued to improve at a steady rate over the past few years. J. Boog is an exceptional new talent with just a touch of Tarrus Riley in his delivery, whilst Peetah has sang lead on the majority of Morgan Heritage tracks, and is therefore of proven quality. Can’t wait to hear his solo album in fact but both these songs are the genuine article, and will be playing in dances and on radio playlists long after the majority of 2010 releases have faded from the memory.

KY-MANI MARLEY NEW HEIGHTS [DON CORLEON]

PROTOJE & KY-MANI MARLEY RASTA LOVE [DON CORLEON]

Ky-mani Marley isn’t typical of Bob’s children. Ostracised by the Marley family for most of his childhood, he grew up in the ghettos of Trelawny and Miami and there’s more of an edge to his songs as a result. Rasta Love is an update of Fell In Love, taken from his album The Journey. That first version was shared with Peetah Morgan, but he and Protoje’s story remains the same – girl falls in love with a Rastaman, risking opposition from her family… It’s a winning tune, whilst New Heights will strike a chord in everyone longing for their working day to end, so they can finally reach for that spliff.

RAS KARBI RAS ANTHEM [KARBI]

Ras Karbi’s previous hits include Discrimination and Babylon Gravestone – songs he voiced back in the days when stars like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh ruled the reggae firmament. Both are mentioned in this Rasta hymn, which has the air of an old-time spiritual as he rouses members of Jah army. It’s nice to hear a veteran rallying the faithful with such enthusiasm, and from a learned perspective too, since his lyrics are infused with wisdom.

SIZZLA EVERYBODY NEEDS A LITTLE LOVE [KALONJI]

SIZZLA READ YOUR BIBLE [KALONJI]

SIZZLA REACHING OUT [KALONJI]

SIZZLA I DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM CRYING [KALONJI]

SIZZLA PUT YUH MONEY [KALONJI]

Sizzla’s own productions are a cornucopia of different styles and moods. They range from the light-hearted vibes of The Party Is On and the grimy slackness of Pump Up and Diggy Diggy to soundbwoy tunes like Big Bad Sound but it’s heartfelt roots and reality songs such as Reaching Out, the acoustic lament I Don’t Wanna See Them Crying and Everybody Needs A Little Love that define him best. No other Jamaican artist has spoken out on behalf of ghetto youths with such passion and commitment, and every one of these tracks are voiced with the same unbending spirit.

Advertisements

Run The Track: October 2010

Mr. Vegas

FAMBO FEATURING UNGA THIS LIFE [NOTICE PRODUCTIONS]

Fambo, the artist formerly known as Future Troubles, turns sing-jay on this life-affirming testimony to his early days, when he was struggling to make it and put his difficulties behind him. Unga’s r & b singing on the chorus, the billowing girl harmonies and bright-as-a-button style of production make it the most commercial release of Fambo’s career so far.

Club and radio DJs therefore can’t miss, and who knows? We may just see another dancehall tune breach the mainstream again, because This Life is the strongest contender we’ve heard in a long while…

MR. VEGAS FEATURING SHAGGY & JOSEY WALES SWEET JAMAICA, VIBES MIX [CLIFFORD RAY]

We’ve already reviewed this once except it’s now even better thanks to the added attraction of Shaggy & Josey Wales, whose dee-jaying lifts it onto a next level. It’s great to hear Josey revisit his eighties’ hit Nah Left Jamaica and whilst Shaggy [who’s voiced tunes with Josey for Big Yard in the past] doesn’t do much, he certainly adds to the vibes. Vegas, acting as cheerleader, sees the tune home in style, and there’s no stopping this cut of Jo Jo Bennett’s Lecture rhythm.

A big tune for the island AND the music, and by one of the most in-form artists in reggae right now.

T.O.K IN THIS CLUB [SHAMS B-RICH]

BUGLE DON’ STOP [SHAMS B-RICH]

BUNJI GARLIN NO GUNMAN [SHAMS B-RICH]

In This Club heralds the return of T.O.K to Richard Browne’s Shams label, where they first started out many years ago. Soft by T.O.K’s standards it’s still a decent party tune, and the kind of light, radio-friendly hit that’ll fit neatly on commercial playlists [providing they select the Radio Edit, that is!]

Bugle’s Don’ Stop is an uplifting reality tune, urging us to “keep on pressing, even when life gets down and depressing.” He’s making some nice tunes currently, whilst Bunji decries the gunmen. Both tracks are melodic, catchy sing-jay numbers, but don’t miss matching cuts on the Bullet Train rhythm by One Third and Konshens, whose Jah Have A Plan is another well-produced roots reality tune.

ELEPHANT MAN DON’T STOP [BULBY – FAT EYES]

DELLY RANX CRUSH DEM [BULBY – FAT EYES]

KONSHENS & TIFA UNDA FIRE [BULBY – FAT EYES]

Colin “Bulby” York’s Numbers rhythm is a creeper – slow and undulating, but deadly nevertheless. The line-up’s pretty good too. Elephant Man’s been quiet by his own prolific standards, but has lost none of his talent for bawdy lyrics. Don’t Stop is typically graphic but shot through with humour; Delly Ranx lets off against hypocrites and Jamaica’s latest double act will surprise all those who had Konshens pegged as a roots man, since he’s flirting with slackness here, sharing “nookie” talk with female deejay Tifa.

Further cuts by Spice [adapting Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time], Bling Dawg, Black-Er, Macka Diamond, Natalie Storm and veteran Anthony Red Rose, of Tempa fame, are available too.

I-OCTANE MINE WHO U A DISS [RUSSIAN]

I-OCTANE NO LOVE INNA THEM [CASH FLOW]

I-Octane’s a serious talent. His lyrics are full of truth and whilst there’s not a great deal of personality in his delivery, he’s got a knack of making you hear what he’s got to say. He and Russian make a good combination and the pair don’t disappoint as the sing-jay lets rip with a chilling reality tune and the young beat-master fits tinkling piano over shuffling drum patterns. Can’t wait for the remix and a bit more instrumentation, whilst No Love Inna Them sends out a message to those who’ll grudge you for everything, even though they don’t lift a finger to help themselves…

BUGLE HAPPINESS [SOSIQ]

SINGING SWEET BAD TREATMENT [SOSIQ]

KIBAKI GIVE YOURSELF TO ME [SOSIQ]

Bugle again, chanting about the unpredictability of life and his determination to live life whilst he can. “Time don’t wait upon no man,” he sings, adding that if he’s not happy, how can he make anyone else happy?

Good point. Nicholas “Sosiq” Banarsee built this Fallen Angel rhythm and it’s beguiling with its squeaky, off-key keyboard phrases. Kibaki is all strained emotion, whilst Singing Sweet lends support to those ghetto youths driven to crime by hunger. “What makes them treat we so?” he sings, echoing the Cannonball Adderley hit.

ANDREW & WADADA BLOOD HAMMER [DEEWAN]

Not for the first time, Bounty Killer was arrested a while back for domestic violence. He beat the girl with a hammer, leaving her bruised and battered and yet as we go to press, there was some doubt whether his victim would press charges.

Junior Reid’s sons – without mentioning him by name – ask whether he’d like someone to do that to his mother or his daughter. They admit that some girls will do everything they can to test their man, but remind the self-styled “Defender Of The Poor” that we should nurture and cherish our womenfolk, rather than exercise aggression. Hope Mr. Price is listening [and that he gets what he deserves…]

DOLAMITE GOVERNMENT LAWS [SUNCYCLE]

LISA HYPER ROLLING DEEP [SUNCYCLE]

ZAGU ZARR SUFFERING [SUNCYCLE]

Dolamite, leader of the Suncycle Crew and one of NW10’s finest dancehall exports “nah respect them Babylon laws” and it’s no wonder. Likening himself to a rebellious slave, “just like Kunte Kinte,” he uncovers the hypocrisy of a system that increasingly favours the rich over the poor and is responsible for more falsehoods, hardships and deaths than is ever admitted to by the powers-that-be.

Such revolutionary talk is very much to his credit, and it’s good to see he’s still supporting talented youngsters as well. More fire!

VYBZ KARTEL ME BIBLE DEH NEAR ME [BLOODSHED GARDEN]

PRESSURE THE SYSTEM [BLOODSHED GARDEN]

RAS GOUDIE WAH DEM A GO DO [BLOODSHED GARDEN]

Vybz timed this tribute to famous black leaders to coincide with the start of Black History Month and just to confuse those who’d write him off as a foul-mouthed porn star, his lyrics are cultural as those of any Rasta. Then again he’s not called “Teacher” for nothing and he makes a many good points in this tune. It’s clever too, the way he quotes from the melody of Marley’s Johnny Was, whilst stirring in plenty of Bible references.

Whilst it’s not listed above, GB’s address to politicians on Write A Letter is worth a listen; Pressure speaks on behalf of the sufferers and Ras Goudie questions the role of the police in Jamaica, who he accuses of committing atrocities and killing people indiscriminately. [A statement alas, that’s borne out by official statistics.] Other cuts include those by Jamelia and Serina [both girlie sides] and Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal’s People A Cry, which is another thought provoking defence of the poor.

Run The Track: September 2010

Buju Banton

BUJU BANTON INNOCENT [GARGA MEL]

“I’ve been accused, wrongly convicted. Jah knows I’m innocent. I’ve been badly singled by beloved friends and brethrens who sold me out,” chants Buju over a classic Studio One rhythm.

Innocent is not only a reminder of what we’ve been missing, but is also the first we’ve heard from the Garga Mel since his incarceration. Taken from the new album Before The Dawn, it’s a passionate declaration that has betrayal at its heart, but is remarkably free of self-pity. The Rastaman is standing firm, even as his trial date keeps on being postponed due to legal procedures. This means he still awaits sentencing in a Florida jail, months after being arrested for cocaine trafficking.

MAVADO WHEN U FEEL LONELY [DASECA]

Mavado has been unfairly categorised as a gunman dee-jay but is far more versatile than many people realise. Produced by the same team who helped Serani to international fame, When U Feel Lonely is surprisingly tender, and voiced over a rhythm that’s better suited to urban radio than the hype and bluster of a typical dancehall session.

GAPPY RANKS LONG TIME [SPECIAL DELIVERY]

Gappy’s recent spate of singles and long-awaited debut album has transformed his fortunes and established him as a major new talent on the dancehall scene. Heads and tongues are wagging in the US and Jamaica only Gappy isn’t the kind to forget where he comes from in a hurry. Long Time tells of days spent chilling on the street corner, smoking a big head and playing football. It’s a track to cherish for dee-jay connoisseurs, and a welcome boost for British reggae as the BBC prepare to celebrate Reggae Britannia.

YT FORWARD 2 LIFE [SATIVA]

After a period spent searching for identity, as well as sales and media coverage, UK reggae/dancehall may well be on the rise again. YT has already provided the genre with one of its most abiding anthems – England Story – and now repeats the feat with this revolutionary reality tune, dedicated to those garrison youths bereft of opportunity and left to face Babylon’s “shoot to kill policy.”

I-OCTANE NO MORE [DJ FRASS]

I-Octane flings away his black shirt as he’s determined not to attend any more funerals. He’s tired of the senseless killing that has sent so many young people six feet under, and losing friends just because some gunman wanted their watch or such like.

This is a powerful and moving lament, delivered from the heart and written in the blood of innocents. Whilst I-Octane is understandably focussed on the loss involved, you get the sense that the real criminals are those who sanction the manufacture of all these weapons, which then find their way onto the streets and into the hands of juvenile hotheads.

BEENIE MAN WINE & GUH DOWN [ADIDJAHEIM / NOT NICE]

Beenie Man voices for Vybz Kartel’s Gaza crew and then proceeds to tear up this slamming dancehall rhythm with such style and assurance, you’d never believe he was supposed to making way for a new generation of MCs. No chance of that whilst the Doctor is still in such blistering form and don’t miss Beat Dem Bad either, on the mad Jim Screechie rhythm from Equiknoxx.

RIHANNA & ASSASSIN RUDE GAL REMIX [BOARD HOUSE]

NIKKI BURT HOT LIKE THAT [BOARD HOUSE]

D’ ANGEL RUDE GAL [BOARD HOUSE]

Talking of Beenie, here’s his wife D’ Angel, dispensing advice to would-be rude gals over a dancehall mix of Rihanna’s Rude Boy. Most of the cuts we’ve heard so far are by female artists and yet still none come close to the original siren from Barbados [or the Jon FX remix.] Praise is due to Nikki Burt though and the Timberlee version is full of character too.

JAH CURE DON’T LET THEM CRY [SANKOFA]

ETANA NEVER FAIL [SANKOFA]

SIZZLA FREE UP DI HERBS [SANKOFA]

Sankofa’s Good Ova Evil rhythm is a charming one-drop, and guaranteed to wind up your waistline. Whereas Etana is concerned with righteous forbearance, Jah Cure has his thoughts on tomorrow’s leaders. “Don’t let them die in vain,” he pleads on behalf of ghetto youths. Echoes’ readers should know by now just how talented and distinctive this singer really is. Sizzla’s reputation is a little more complicated [!] except he’s especially compelling when calling for the legalisation of herb.

SPRAGGA BENZ SHOTTA CULTURE [BOOM TUNES]

This Salaam Remi remix of the lead track from Spragga’s latest album forms a bridge between the seventies’ roots sound pioneered by the likes of Bunny Lee in Jamaica, and the edgy production techniques we’re more accustomed to hearing on hip hop releases. It’s tough but then so is the language, and also the message.

Spragga lost a son to gun violence and so knows all about the heavy price that accompanies “shotta culture.” His lyrics therefore have authority except he’s not appealing for an end to hostilities, but warning street people to watch their backs and maintain “security like ultra…”

MAKEIDA JAMAICAN BOY [KEEP LEFT RECORDS]

Makeida is a female sing-jay who balances an old school flow with a delectable, fresh approach. She has another, more progressive tune called Hot It Up for the same label but it’s her take on this Craig “Left Side” Parks’ cut to Ansel Collins’ Stalag rhythm that’ll generate most attention among selectors.

NAFFI I GIDEON BOOTS [SUPATECH]

KINGSLEY WRAY FEATURING NAFFI I THE WORLD IS IN DANGER [SUPATECH]

SARAH TOBIAS VESTRY INSPIRATION INSTRUMENTAL / DUB [SUPATECH]

Supatech’s roots productions have the feel and energy of classic Jamaican releases. This latest set of tunes is delivered at brisk pace, and they’re lyrically conscious too. Naffi I has a soulful voice, and blends a little spoken word with his singing on the pilgrim tale that is Gideon Boots. The Vestry Dub is already rocking roots dances whilst Sarah Tobias’ sax instrumental is simply executed, yet wonderfully evocative.

BABY HEAD JUNGLE LAW / JUNGLE LORE [ROCKERS REVOLT]

BABY HEAD THINK MONEY / THINK MONEY DUB [ROCKERS REVOLT]

Two tracks taken from Baby Head’s Heavy Weather album and boasting a sound that’s been described as “ born out of a love for Jamaican sound clash, forged through a do-it-yourself punk ethic and delivered with a raw hip hop swagger.”

I’d agree with the “DIY punk ethic” but would suggest these sides have far more to do with recapturing the spirit of 2 Tone than anything to do with Kingston or New York, mixed with that quirky, English indie/pop sound you can trace back all the way to groups like Blur and the Kinks. I’ve heard they’re great fun live, as you’d expect from stable-mates of Pama International.

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.

Run The Track: July 2010

Elephant Man

DRAKE FEATURING SHAGGY FIND YOUR LOVE [MIKE D REMIX]

“I’m more than just an option. Refuse to be forgotten…” You’ll find the original cut on Drake’s Thank Me Later set but this is the “Tropical blaze” mix, and a heavier, dancehall spin on the singer’s hit tune. Whilst it now lacks lyricism, the Mike D Remix is more of a banging club track, aimed at DJs. Shaggy sounds pretty good on it too, promising the girls they’ll soon be “high as a stalk of sensimelia…”

ELEPHANT MAN EVER FRESH [BIRCHILL]

BEENIE MAN FLY OUT & FLY IN [BIRCHILL]

VOICEMAIL GOOD GOOD [BIRCHILL]

Chris “Long Man” Birch already has a multitude of big dancehall rhythms to his credit and Get Fresh is another with its pounding beats, synthetic string sounds and Dave Kelly style FX.

Few artists capture the excitement of a full-blown dancehall session better than Elephant Man whilst Beenie boasts of his sex appeal and sixteen children in such a way it provokes warmth, rather than resentment. Assassin [with Girls Dem], Nicky B and Ce’Cile all voice cuts to the same rhythm but spare a thought for Voicemail, whose kingpin O’Neil Edwards was murdered earlier this summer, and ensured their version brims with humour and tight harmonies.

SERANI WHAT YOU NEED [CHIMNEY]

T’NEZ ANYWHERE YOU WANT IT [CHIMNEY]

MAVADO HOLD ME [CHIMNEY]

This label’s a market leader where dancehall’s concerned. Their latest rhythm is Sex Appeal, which flirts with techno [as do so many Jamaican beats these days], and yet still retains a yard feel.

Serani’s now a major star after his crossover hit No Games and a vocal style marrying r & b with authentic dancehall flow. What You Need is fresh as daisies although he’s met on the same exhilarating turf here by T’Nez, whose Anywhere You Want It pays homage to a party girl. Better known for gangster lyrics, Mavado can bust wicked girls’ tunes when he’s in the mood and that’s certainly the case with Hold On, which is available as Clean and Dirty Mixes.

Aidonia, Blak Ryno, Chase Cross, Elephant Man and Delly Ranx [with the reality song Life Is What You Make It] are among the roll call of artists chatting on the same rhythm, but it’s this trio that stands out.

BEENIE MAN KNOW BETTER [DON CORLEON]

VYBZ KARTEL WINE FI MI NUH [DON CORLEON]

DA PROFESSOR ‘LOW WE [DON CORLEON]

Don Corleon’s last rhythm, the Major Minor, was a one-drop but Bank Robber heralds the producer’s return to the dancehall style he started out with. Beenie adopts a hot stepper persona and teases Bounty Killer by quoting from Sufferer on Know Better. Provocative or what? Ever the lyrical magpie and attracted to anything that shines, he drops some blistering fast style chat as well.

The Raw version of Know Better is the one for rude boys to get; Da Professor makes a splash with ‘Low We, Gaza Slim steps up with a rare, female herb tune and Don drenches Kartel’s vocals in Autotune on the chorus of Wine Fi Mi Nuh, which is clever and entertaining by turns from Jamaica’s Dee-Jay Of The Year.

SEAN PAUL COME AND GET IT [DI GENIUS]

Few can deliver dancehall tunes as catchy and hard-hitting as Sean Paul and Come And Get It is no exception. The beat’s slamming, but it’s his vocals and flow that’ll get dancers on their feet. Whether urban radio in the States is ready for this new style of Jamaican dance music is a moot point but this track has lots of energy [especially the JA Radio Edit], and Sean himself is still a world-beater, with a young, international audience at his fingertips.

MAVADO CHANGE RIGHT NOW [DI GENIUS]

Mavado has been criticised for his graphic portrayals of ghetto life in some quarters, and yet it would be a mistake to categorise him as a gun ark alone. He’s calling for a change to the system on this tune, which is a curious but compelling blend of reggae, dancehall and hip hop produced by Freedie McGregor’s son Stephen, who’s not called “Di Genius” for nothing.

Rude boys may argue, but Change Right Now is surely among Mavado’s best-ever tracks to date and could even win him new fans given the right kind of exposure.

MAD COBRA WORDS [PHAT TRAX]

Cobra nearly lost his life in a hail of gunfire the other month. Apparently, the incident occurred after he’d inadvertently driven into a Kingston ghetto area and his headlamps had fell upon a group of youths up to no good.

Words, like former hit Praise, is a Biblical style chant from Cobra who topped the Billboard charts during dancehall’s heyday. It’s addressed to world leaders over a throbbing nyahbinghi rhythm, and stands as a true Jamaican classic, with no apology. Try it and see.

BUSY SIGNAL FEATURING BOUNTY KILLER SUMM’N A GUH GWAN [VP RECORDS]

BOUNTY KILLER GOD ALWAYS BE THERE [OPEN EAR]

“A hungry man is an angry man,” warns the Killer, who teams up with Busy for a no-holds-barred attack on Babylon system that keeps the majority poor whilst enriching the few. Lyrics like this make us wonder who the real criminals are, and the pulverising rhythm takes no prisoners either.

God Always Be There is no less restrained, and is again voiced over relentless dancehall beats. It’s fast, hard and uncompromising, just how we like to hear Bounty, except unlikely to register with anyone outside of hardcore fans.

ELLY ESS FACE DOWN [ROCK STARS ENT]

Every so often a tune comes along that’s so evocative and with lyrics so graphic, it’s as if you’re watching a film with your eyes shut, if that makes sense. Face Down is a song about a robbery that goes wrong, rapped over a tough cut of Lloyd Robinson’s Cuss Cuss rhythm and with a stop / start dancehall mix added for good measure. “Nobody move, nobody get hurt” as Yellowman would say, except that line comes a little too late for one of the characters.

Run The Track: June 2010

Wailers with Koolant

CAPLETON NUH KILL OUT NO ARTIST [FLASH FORWARD]

ROMAIN VIRGO: LOVE DOCTOR [PENTHOUSE]

WAILERS: SHINING STAR [WAILERS]

CAPLETON NUH KILL OUT NO ARTIST [FLASH FORWARD]

This is a profoundly troubling appeal from Capleton, who implores Kingston’s ghetto youths to spare the lives of artists after two of them – Voicemail’s O’ Neil Edwards and Mad Cobra – were shot in less than a week.

“What goes around, comes around,” he warns them, before reminding us of how entertainers like Dirtsman, Pan Head and Mr. Wacky were gunned down in similar circumstances, and that even Bob Marley and Peter Tosh weren’t safe from assassination attempts in Jamaica. [And with tragic consequences in the Bush Doctor’s case.]

If you detect a trace of confusion and despair in his voice, it’s little wonder because what hope is there if even those bringing light relief to ghetto people or voicing their concerns aren’t safe from the violence?

MR. VEGAS FEATURING NEW KINGSTON & FATTA DIAMOND LOOK WHO’S DANCING [CLIFF-RAY]

MR. VEGAS FEATURING GHOST, VOICEMAIL, NATEL & ALAINE DIAMOND CAN’T EVEN WALK [CLIFF-RAY]

Look Who’s Dancing is a crossover/club tune and catchy too, but with all kinds of subtle references in the rhythm department, including a touch of Greig’s Peer Gynt Suite! Vegas is a little restrained until mid-way through, but continues to impress with every outing. It’s left to New Kingston to up the excitement levels although in the capacity of a hype man, rather than artist.

By way of contrast, Can’t Even Walk couldn’t be more different since it’s a gospel/reggae tune of real, emotional depth and gravitas. Vegas is in fine voice, and there’s an opportunity to hear Ghost and Alaine sing like we’ve never done before.

TARRUS RILEY MI HOMELAND [JUKE BOXX]

ELEPHANT MAN YUH NAH DEAL WID LOVE [JUKE BOXX]

CHINO SOUND EXECUTION [JUKE BOXX]

ROMAIN VIRGO GHETTO [JUKE BOXX]

Ansel Collins’ Stalag 17 rhythm never grows old but has continued to inspire hit songs throughout each and every era since the mid-seventies, including Tenor Saw’s unforgettable Ring The Alarm.

Shane Brown’s cut is little different, which means it still packs one almighty punch.

He’s produced an album’s worth of versions, and they’re all are worth a listen. Busy Signal’s voiced three and excels on each of them; Chino’s Sound Execution is a must for selectors, whilst Tarrus – like Elephant Man and Chuck Fenda – is yet another artist despairing of the violence currently threatening to tear Jamaica apart.

Those wanting to stir a little sweetness into the mix should check Romain Virgo’s two cuts, with Ghetto being an account of his impoverished upbringing. Other highlights include tracks by De Marco, Assassin, G Whizz, I Octane, Nymron and Kiprich, whose Suppose is a litany of real-life dilemmas, and brilliantly articulated in the form of questions.

VYBZ KARTEL SWEET VICTORY [HUMAN RIGHTS]

Vybz Kartel gets his share of bad press [sometimes deservedly so] yet he’s still an exceptional dee-jay and proves it once more on Sweet Victory, which is a rallying call for every ghetto youth who feels they’ve been victimised without due reason. “Jah guide me from the hypocrites and parasites,” he chants on the intro, over a rhythm built around slowed down snare drum patterns.

Lutan Fyah, I Octane and notable newcomer Jah Vinci all voice cuts on the same Chase rhythm, but it’s the indefatigable Mr. Palmer who delivers the main course…

TARRUS RILEY WILDFIRE [DON CORLEON]

WAYNE MARSHALL WORK HARD [DON CORLEON]

LUTAN FYAH COME OVER [DON CORLEON]

Don Corleon can turn his hand to one-drop or dancehall rhythms except he’s combined both on the Major Minor, which replicates what we’d hear at a stage show. You know the score; first the band gets the crowd rocking to a brisk reggae rhythm and then it ups the tempo and wheels into chopped-up dancehall beats, causing everybody to leap around like crazy.

Wildfire isn’t the Dennis Brown & John Holt classic but another cry from the heart by Tarrus, whose music deserves a far wider hearing than it’s received to date. He’s appealing to Jah here, not for his own safety, but that of his fellow Jamaican people as they struggle from a raft of social problems.

Wayne Marshall describes the stress placed on families by working too hard on his cut, whilst Lutan Fyah reveals his romantic side on the sweetly melodic Come Over. Best of the rest includes Kris Kelli’s Sunshine and cuts by Jah Vinci, J Boog, ZJ Liquid and Professor, who’s clearly influenced by Richie Spice.

ELEPHANT MAN DON’T TRUST DEM [JUKE BOXX]

BOUNTY KILLER & BUSY SIGNAL SUMMN A GUH GWAN [JUKE BOXX]

Juke Boxx can unleash dangerous dancehall beats as well as classic reggae rhythms and Damage Control definitely fits in the first category.

Elephant Man’s strike rate over the years has been incredible, and the Energy God’s not finished yet. His mic skills are second-to-none, as is his instinct for a memorable chorus. Ally that to uncompromising reality lyrics and you have Don’t Trust Dem – a slice of wise counsel that sends out a deadly warning about informers. There’s a cut by Buju Banton on the same subject. “Who sell me out?” he asks on Let Dem Know. Romain Virgo [with Watch Over Me], Bunji Garland, Spragga Benz and Wayne Marshall are among those voicing matching cuts although the one with Bounty – heard here revisiting his Poor People’s Governor role – is a real standout, and especially with Busy in support.

JAH CURE MY HANDS [BABY G]

PRESSURE TOUCH U [BABY G]

J SOUL HEAVEN [BABY G]

There’s no mistaking Jah Cure’s mournful voice, even when it’s subjected to a dash of Autotune, as heard here. Some would argue this reduces his appeal, but My Hands won’t necessarily appeal to his usual fans anyway as it’s a love song, and he’s almost swamped by billowing harmonies. Not only that, but Baby G’s production isn’t really reggae at all, but a hybrid of r & b and pop – a setting that suits the aptly-named J Soul to perfection.

If Cure and Pressure are looking to extend their audience, then they’re in the right hands. Purists on the other hand, are recommended to check out tunes like Save Ourselves.

WAILERS FEATURING KOOLANT SHINING STAR [WAILERS]

It’s been a long time since the Wailers released anything but with new singer Koolant now fronting the band, the only way is up for Bob Marley’s former musicians. Shining Star is the kind of reggae one-drop that sticks firmly in the brain after just one or two plays, and it’s tailor-made for FM airplay as well. It’s lovers rock of genuine international class in fact, whilst Koolant’s soulful vocals are reminiscent of the late Mikey Simpson’s – the Jack Ruby singer that is, and not the UK soundman/producer.

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.