Album Review of “Royal Soldier” by Jah Cure

I became a fan of Jah Cure with “The Universal Cure”, his 2009 album. I loved the raw gritty lyrics of his “prison songs”.  Since that album, I have been disappointed, as I felt that the rawness had gone. “Royal Soldier” has brought me back again.

 

Royal Soldier”, Jah Cure’s first album in 4 years, has the love songs that his fans know and love him for, but it also has some songs about the harsh reality of life. There are several featured artists, including some from other music genres, making this a “Jah Cure and Friends” type album.

 

An acapella introduction starts the album with Jah Cure’s vision “I’m on the verge of making history. Ain’t nobody stopping me. I’m on the move. I’m on the move right now”.

 

The opening song, “Brighter Day” sets the tone of the album combining a sultry Latin rhythm with conscious lyrics, discussing the ever-increasing violence of street life in Montego Bay, and wishing for better times. 

 

The following tracks also stood out for me:

 

Marijuana ft Damian Marley” is probably the best ganja song I have heard since Bob Marley’sKaya”, it’s a love song to marijuana, with Damian Marley coming in and educating us on the many uses of the plant.

 

Risk It All ft Phyllisia”, is one of the love songs on the album. After the release of “Unconditional Love” back in 2013, I have been waiting to see if Jah Cure would pair up with Phyllisia again as they create magic together, and I am not disappointed.

 

With “Eyes On Your Body” Jah Cure collaborates with Dru, Sketch Cary and Alx to bring a rap/dancehall/R&B fusion, showing that he isn’t just sticking with the reggae genre but spreading his wings across the board. 

 

Another fusion track is “Magic ft Tory Lanez”. This track combines Jah Cure’s signature love theme with the rawness of Canadian rapper Tory Lanez.

 

Life Is Real” has, once again, the theme of life on the streets. This song, featuring Popcaan and rapper Padrino, includes lines like, “In this life of mine, me come from nothing. Hustle too hard fi get sup’m In this life of grave, but you haffi stay thuggy. Streets a make a way for me”,  illustrating how difficult it is to escape from that lifestyle. 

 

Another stand out track is “Street Kings” on the “One Blood” riddim. This track, built around a classic Half Pint sample, features an impressive cast of veterans, Yami Bolo, Junior Reid and Capleton. Jah Cure says this closing track is his favorite on the album and I can see why. The song explains how poverty and hunger drive the youth to the streets but then it finishes with a powerful verse by Capleton warning them of the dangers of street life. 

 

Take a generous amount of love songs, with which Jah Cure has become synonymous, mix these with conscious songs that cross over into other genres, and this album looks to be a surefire hit.

 

Album Review of “In Our America” ny Aaron Nigel Smith

“Aaron Nigel Smith released his debut solo album In Our America, on his Aya World label, in partnership with Tuff Gong International, on March 8, 2019. With reggae songs that speak truth to today’s turbulent times, In Our America offers positive messages and inspiration for everyday activism. Songs from the new album were performed on February 6th at the Bob Marley 74th birthday celebration at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica, as well as at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA, on February 23rd. On March 10 Aaron appeared at Wynwood Yard in Miami in a special album release showcase performance. 

 

 An educator and internationally touring musician known for the Emmy Award-winning PBS TV show Between the Lions, Smith is also founder of 1 World Chorus, a nonprofit organization serving youth in the United States, Kenya and Jamaica. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, Aaron has produced and released five albums for children, including 1 World Chorus Celebrates Bob Marley in collaboration with Ziggy Marley’s Tuff Gong Worldwide.

 

 In 2017, Aaron was designated an Official Bob Marley Ambassador by the Marley Foundation. He has performed at venues ranging from Pickathon to Lollapalooza, with lots of schools and community groups in his regular touring schedule. This summer, he and his band will also perform at Wolf Trap Theater-in-the-Woods in Virginia. 

 

 Produced by Jubba White of Dubtonic Kru, In Our America is comprised of a collection of songs inspired by events in the USA and around the world. Aaron says, “I feel compelled to speak up about the state of our country and our world, especially political changes in the last two years.” – Majesty Media Press Release, March 5, 2019

 

When I was asked to review this album I jumped at the opportunity because, even though I knew nothing about Aaron Nigel Smith, I had seen the videos of a couple of the tracks and was excited. 

 

The album “In Our America” opens with an intro track with a snippet of the National Anthem, followed by a child quoting “ In our America all people are equal”. This intro sets the scene for an album with a very political message, interspersed by interludes with other equally deceptive statements.

 

Track 2, “More Love”, talks about how it is up to the generations to pass on the philosophy of love making the difference. More love is needed in the family, the community and to immigrants and refugees. The Rastafarian message of love for our fellow man has always been the basis of reggae music and this is emphasized on this track.

 

This Rastafarian theme continues in the following track, “Rasta Run The World”, a call for Rastas to run the world with peace and love, saying that reggae music could “stand up to wickedness with a melody”.

 

Trenchtown Rock”, is a remake of the classic song by Bob Marley. Aaron Nigel Smith has made this track his own but without losing the essence of Bob in the process. I think it is one of the best covers I have heard of this song.

Next up is one of the interludes I mentioned. This interlude is stating some blatant lies that are believed by many, that black lives matter and that immigrants and refugees are welcome here in America.

 

Track 6  “Ring The Alarm” features Mic Crenshaw. My initial reaction when listening to this track was “Whoa”.  Aaron Nigel Smith does not hold back when letting us know how he feels about the government and especially the leader, with lyrics like “We don’t want no racist nazi, hateful wanna be, p***y grabbing, cheating, lying, thief, leading our country”. I envision this line being sung out by concert and festival goers for many years to come. This is a memorable line from a song that is calling on us to rise up and resist the resurgence of hatred. The force of this message is re-emphasized by Mic Crenshaw’s rap bridge which includes the lyrics “All the filthy deeds and dirt, like feces spread upon the earth” and “The ignorance feels comical”.  Although no name is mentioned, it’s obvious who these lyrics are referring to. On an optimistic note, Aaron continues the song with “Love is going to rise again. Can you feel the swell?”  I give massive credit to both Aaron Nigel Smith and Mic Crenshaw for having the courage to come out and say what many of us, not only in America, are thinking. 

 

Once again the Rastafarian influence comes into play with the next track, “Rasta Shuffle” featuring Eden Rain. This song calls for unity and a peaceful revolution, standing up to the politicians who are seeking division.

 

Track 8 is  “Real Situation’. The song speaks of the rise in hatred, calling on us to check out the real situation, not to go by what we are told but look to the facts.  The second half of the song talks about what we are doing to the planet. It urges us not to ignore the signs but check out the real situation before it’s too late.  This track has a jazzy fusion feel to it with a beautiful flute throughout the song.

Next up is another interlude, this time focussing on the misinformation about the progression of women’s rights.

 

In “Vision”, Aaron sings a song of thankfulness for what he does have, although acknowledging the hardships in life, but sharing his vision “I’ve got a vision, I’ve got a light. I’ve got a feeling that everything will be alright”. This is an upbeat song with some interesting instruments embedded in the riddim, listen closely.

 

The following song “Skate Rat”, features Zosia McGregor, daughter of Freddy McGregor. This is a love song Aaron dedicates to his wife, talking of how he has loved her since he was a “Skate Rat talking smack”. This is a catchy sing-along song.

 

Light It Up”, needs no introduction. Once again it’s the obligatory “weed song”. It has a South Sea Island sound but mixed with a big band influence and a wicked trumpet solo.

 

Track 13, “Jah Bless Africa”,  opens with an African chant and goes into a prayer for Jah to bless Africa and all her descendants and to extend a hand in the fight for equality.

The lie “In our America, people and the planet are valued over profit. Diversity is celebrated”.  followed by a gospel choir singing “Oh Freedom” the post-civil war freedom song, closes out this magnificent album. 

 

If Aaron Nigel Smith continues to make records of this quality, I believe in years to come he will be up there with the iconic revolutionary artists like Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and Lucky Dube, speaking out against the injustices of this country and the world, in a strong, unfettered way. 

If you value reggae music with a serious message then check out (and buy) “In Our America” by Aaron Nigel Smith

 

Album Review of New Wave by Fyakin.

The Most High calls on you when you are young, ‘cause you are strong,” said Fyakin. Over the years Fyakin found himself surrounded by other cultural icons in the industry, such as I Wayne. Fyakin, a devout Rastafarian, humbly credits I Wayne for imparting valuable words of wisdom that helped keep him on the righteous path and produce conscious music instead of slackness. “I Wayne told me to sing life music, culture music, no gun tunes,” said Fyakin.  

(Excerpt from Fyakin’s biography.)

Having spent a few days immersed in this album “New Wave” by Fyakin, it is obvious that he took the advice from I-Wayne to heart. This album goes back to the roots of reggae and you can tell that’s where his heart is.

  The album opens with a track called “Africa Awaits”. This song is a song about repatriation, which is a theme that occurs several times throughout the album. The song also has a dig at the government with lyrics like “They feed the multitude with plastic food, and then refuse to speak the truth. So now the youths them revolute.”

  “Children Of Fari ft Kabaka Pyramid”  opens with the most beautiful percussion and voice which leads into lyrics about being the children of Selassie I and following in His footsteps. The song ends with a sweet bassline. I’ve had this track on repeat several times since I received the album and it’s a definite favorite with me. 

  The following track is “Concrete Jungle”. This song talks about how there is no escaping the violence of the inner cities and that the politicians don’t care  There’s the violence of the police, the violence of the youth and even “The tiny tot, them a carry Glock”, and there’s nowhere to run to get away from it. This is a powerful song of despair about the way things are and no-one seems to care “Not even a little bit.”

  As a lover of “old school” DJ style reggae, the next track “Fari Style” is a winner with me. Fyakin shows his lyrical prowess with this song and as he says “The style can’t spoil”.

  A prerequisite of a reggae album is a ganja song and this album is no exception, it has 3 ganja songs. The first ganja track, “Green”,  is about the hunt for good ganja.

  “I & I Story Master” is the next track. This is Fyakin’s story in a rub-a-dub style but in the words of Fyakin he’ll “Rock it in a new stylee” and put a “fire in your ear”.

  Next up is “I Got To Roll”, the second ganja song. This one promotes the health benefits of marijuana.

  “Irie” is a song about the joy of dancing to the roots rock reggae music vibe. “All I want to do is skank my feet. Rocking to the roots rock reggae beat”. This track makes you want to get up and dance. It takes me back to the “Big people dances” back in the day.

  “Lyrical Don” is one of the 3 singles released from this album and was widely acclaimed in the industry. It has a very catchy, marching type riddim and with his scintillating lyrics, Fyakin can definitely claim the title “Lyrical Don”.

  Following this comes a complete change with “Only For You”, a Lovers Rock style song that’s sure to be a hit with the Lovers Rock fans. This track highlights Fyakin’s vocal ability on top of a wicked riddim. I really liked this song except for the very cringe-worthy line “You’re gonna be my bo”.  I guess it’s a generational thing. 

  The third ganja song and another of the tracks released as a single is “Steamin”.  “Steamin” talks about how you can get the high from marijuana without the harmful effects that you would get from the hard drugs like cocaine etc. It tells how people put down ganja but so many are hooked on tobacco, then goes on to tell how ganja helps with cancer and strokes. All this set to an infectious riddim.

  “Protection” is a prayer for protection from the pitfalls and distractions along the journey of life. It starts with a spoken prayer and is another song that shows the varied vocal range of Fyakin.

  A completely different vibe comes from “Sauci Parilla Flow”. This track has a latin/reggae fusion vibe with some interesting percussion leading through it.

  “Smiling ft Oriel” is the final track on the album. On this track, Fyakin and Oriel sing that whatever struggles life throws at them, they keep on smiling, as Jah is alongside them on their journey. This collaboration blends the voices or two rising artists that I’m sure we will hear much more of.

 

New Wave” by Fyakin is definitely an album to add to your collection if you are a fan of roots reggae. Beautiful vocals, conscious lyrics, good riddims and very well produced. It’s an album that Fyakin can be proud of.

 

Review of Nesbeth’s debut album “A.M.E.N.”

Previously published in Island Stage Magazine.

When I was asked to review Nesbeth’s debut album “A.M.E.N.”, an acronym for his late wife’s name Ann Marie Elliot Nesbeth, I was not sure what to expect. I was a big fan of his hit single “My Dream” but was not so impressed by the follow-up singles and was wondering if he was going to be another ‘One hit wonder’.  I’m happy to say this album has changed that opinion.

The album was produced by Nesbeth and co-written by Nesbeth and Merrick Shaw. Nesbeth explained the inspiration behind the album “ I was inspired by the Most High….Hopelessness is on the rise. As such, it will further increase if I should stand by and do nothing. As a consequence, A.M.E.N. was conceptualized to inspire the world. The album speaks to struggle, discipline, innovation, love, truth and rights.

The album is a mix of inspiration, upliftment, social comment and love songs.  “Think Rich“, the opening track, carries the message ‘believe in yourself’ with encouraging lyrics like,  “If you want big, something you’ve never been, then you haffi do something you never do before. And if you truly believe that the sky’s a di limit, then you haffi take your mind off a di floor“. The second track “Who Can Stop Me Now” continues on the theme and talks about the naysayers and backbiters, and how people become jealous when you start to make it “If God is for us, who can be against us? Who can stop me now?”  Nesbeth and Popcaan team up for the next track “Trial”.  Not being a fan of the electronic sound and the autotune effect, I have to say this is my least favorite track on the album and probably the one track I would skip. So saying, this is just my personal taste and I’m sure lovers of Dancehall will love it as it’s catchy and well done. Track 4 “A.M.E.N.” is my favorite track on the album. This track made me cry and will affect anyone who has been through the loss of a loved one. It’s a song to Ann Marie. The lyric that broke me was “When it’s over, wake me up“. Listen closely to the lyrics and then say it doesn’t bring a lump to your throat.  “Diamond Boy“, track 5, speaks about coming from hardship and poverty and how this hardship toughens you like a diamond, “If pressure make diamond, you can call me the diamond boy“. This is followed by “Success Story” which was the single released after the highly successful “My Dream“.  I said in my opening paragraph that I was not impressed by Nesbeth’s follow-up singles to “My Dream” but having now listened to the album several times before writing this review, this track has grown on me. I won’t explain the lyrics but listen carefully as they have a different message than first impressions may give. Track 7, “Trench Town” is the track I was most looking forward to as I am a fan of Agent Sasco. I was not disappointed. It combines the soulful, melodic voice of Nesbeth and the gravelly, hardness of Agent Sasco which conveys the hopelessness but strength of the people of Trench Town. This is followed by “My Dream“, Nesbeth’s highly successful single that shot him into the limelight and which he performed at the swearing-in ceremony of Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness. “Lawn Mower“, track 9, is another particular favorite of mine. This track is about ‘frenemies‘, the friends and sometimes family that, when you come down to it, aren’t as loyal as you thought they were. It’s about clearing the clutter and finding the truth about them. My favorite line on the album is one from this song,  “The grass low. I can see all the serpents now“. A poignant song about betrayal.  The following track is another collaboration, this time with reggae legend Junior Reid. This is also an encouraging song, promoting self-confidence with the emphasis on not listening to those who try to discourage you. “Emotional Rollercoaster“, track 11, has an infectious beat, impressive lyrics, and clever vocals with the background vocals having an African flavor to them.  Track 12, “Reason” is another love song, or more correctly a ‘lost love’ song. This is a song that will be played multiple times by anyone who has had their heart broken and is still asking “Why?” Following this is a different type of love song “Smile“. It’s not about romantic love but the love of those around you and who are there to support you when you are going through the bad times. It is a song about taking one day at a time. “Take it one whole day at a time. Smile“. The final track on the album is “Remove My Enemies” another track about the enemies close to you, the friends and family who want to be someone and are jealous when you become successful. This was the second single released after “My Dream“. I rarely heard this song on the airwaves, which is a shame as I would probably have rated it more if I had heard it more. I always encourage people to purchase the complete album instead of the tracks that initially hit you and this is why. Many times it takes a few listens to really get a song and if you only buy the tracks you like on the first listen, you can miss out on so much.

I am very glad I accepted the opportunity to review “A.M.E.N” as I now have a deep appreciation of the talent of Nesbeth. Nesbeth, you have gained a new fan.