Friday, 25 July 2014

I revisited Mavado's debut album this week and decided it's a classic. Here's why...

So, I revisited Mavado's debut album, Gangster for Life: The Symphony of David Brooks, this week. Released seven years ago this month (how fast has time gone?), the album is exactly what it says it is - a quintessential biographical gangster album. One of my favourite albums of all time. One of the greatest dancehall albums of all time. In fact, there hasn't been a dancehall album this good ever since.  I'm not sure this is certified and celebrated the way it should be. This is probably due to dancehall not being an album-driven genre, but also because we're a silent culture when it comes to celebrating classic music moments.

At the top of the album, the narrator announces "This CD is rated G for Gangster, it' audio contains graphic lyrics manifested and inspired by authentic ghetto experiences. Served with infectious melodies." Really and truly, I can end this post here. That is exactly what this album is. Gangster lifestyle anthems, introspective gangster anthems, aspirational gangster anthems, gangster anthems about girls… Everything is a gangster anthem.

Alas, I won't stop there. The next interlude is great anticipation builder. Some triumphant sounding shit with Mavado saying his catchphrases "Anywayeeee" and "Gaaangsta for lii-ife" with a couple gun shots and explosions thrown in for good measure. Then what happens? In kicks the punchy synths on the Anger Management riddim. This just carries on the build. All gun fingers are in the air now.

"Real McKoy" is the song which brought the young singjay Mavado to prominence. Anger Management is one of the last riddims featuring the Bounty Killer-led Alliance at their peak - including Vybz Kartel who delivered four cuts on the riddim.

Back to "Real McKoy," what a statement of intent this is for the first song on the album. "Dem nuh real McKoy/ They just some baby boy/ Them ah talk me nah've time fi chat bwoy/ Gun in a mi hand, prepare fi shot bwoy, yo." That's the chorus. First line is "You can't come pon man ends and tell me 'bout gun down/ You musty want your tabernacle get bu'n." (Slightly translated.) Quotable's like "No knowledge, no wisdom/ Tell him say fist-to-fist done." Yeah? "You can't charge badman pon no house bruk ins. Can't charge man for no  car scrapings." Weaponry shopping? "15 million mi bring go gun shopping/ You can't take 9 cah mi nuh fire small strappings." Punishment? "Last bwoy diss the big man we kidnap him/ Tie him round a light post, ah same place me gas him. Who tell him fi see Mavado and try fi test him/ Hollow point and black blunt laid fi rest him."

Man. That second verse is fire. Then as if that wasn't enough, they blend in "Full Clip" which featured fellow Alliance member Busy Signal. These two gelled so well. Better than I feel two singjay's are supposed to on paper. They both pick up where the other left off, really fluid interaction between them. Busy adopts a more hyper-aggressive stick up kid role, whereas Mavado is the laid-back head honcho.

"Full clip gonna stick when we run out/ Mi three-star me use and cut your fuxking tongue out."

"You want see how the youth weh step out inna black work/ When man a take it to the street just like a clockwork/ Push mi hood inna ya gal ah so mi cock work/ Bakka! Bakka! So mi block work, no stop work."

The second verse which Mavaodo uses more as a bridge "Do the crime not the time/ Mark Shields say these guns amaze him," is such a serious lyric.

So you're fully hyped right now, right? Thinking ok, let me calm down for a second cos that was too much. What do they hit you with? The international breakout anthem, "Weh Dem A Do" that put Mavado on the map everywhere. What is there to say about this song? One of the greatest builds in dancehall this decade. Great in its simplicity of rolling drums, some synth stabs provided by a 16-year old wonder kid, Stephen "Di Genius" McGregor. Mavado hollers the catchphrases "Anyway, gangster for life. Anywayeeee. Anyway, yeah." Dazzitt. But it gets everyone hyped. It drops and what does Mavado have the nerve to say?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

So Chronixx was on Jimmy Fallon… My thoughts on what this MOMENT means

Please note: this will go off on tangents. Work with me though.

Firstly, I don't give too much of a damn like everybody else about American approval, but for what it's worth, this is a step in an interesting direction. A) Jimmy Fallon is a big American chat show and B) Chronixx has no rights being on there when you evaluate his stature in the grand scheme of things.

Now let's get into the hype. Chronixx DELIVERED!!! He performs his most popular song in America (based on the #2 US reggae iTunes chart position), "Here Comes Trouble".

When he kicked into Jesse Royal's "Modern Day Judas", gun finger in the sky. Chucked in a little of Jah 9's "Reverence" too.

I'm guessing the success of "Rude" opened the door for something like this to happen, and having a popular song, good social media numbers, touring schedule and credible press talking about you will clock these things into your favour. Plus, people in the right places. All of that comes from being a talented artist with songs that connect.

I've seen some questions on the song choice, saying he should've gone for "Smile Jamaica", his most pop song. Not to draw comparisons, because I don't think they are completely the same thing, but let us not forget Bob Marley's first performance was on The Old Grey Whistle Test where he did "Concrete Jungle" and "Stir It Up". Everyone remembers "Concrete Jungle" as the moment though.

Different kind of show in that it wasn't an chat show, however, going in right away with the most pop appealing song is the sprint game. This game, especially in these days, is a marathon. He goes with the most pop one, people will look at him like just another smiley, Rasta singing your typical sunshine songs.

This puts him as a credible artist with something to say. I see parallels to the Tessanne stuff. I was gonna blog about that but it was around Christmas time. (I had better things to do with my life like eating mince pies.) Too many Jamaicans on the timeline were saying she should stay away from reggae because the general American public don't get it, and that it true. But you know what? Eff them! Take the promotional opportunity to further yourself.

We live in a time where we can see an artist on TV (or hear them on radio, in club/coffee shop...), check out a few more bits on YouTube and become a fan. Follow artist on social networks to keep up to date with their products and support shows, merchandise and music. Not like the old days when artists had to keep in the public eye via media or fans wouldn't have a clue what they were up to unless they were in the fan club.

Back to Tessanne, her last album had no money behind it for promo and didn't do well in the album chart. What do you expect? It's like the Jamaican people don't understand the contract is just the lamp at the end of the tunnel for the show. The label don't care about the artists. They've never made a successful artist in the history of their show. Will work against them in the long run, but that's just what it is.

To make matters worse, her and her team were sold the dream because they made an adult contemporary album with a few reggae + dubstep hybrid (who does that for older people?) songs. Those songs/albums will always under perform without the right money. However, if she kept true to her roots, made songs for her base to embrace so even if the label don't support and it doesn't sell, there's still a bag of tunes for her to take away to perform to those who liked her before the show.

Here's her first single:

Funniest thing is the number 1 single in America when Tessanne's album release was/is Magic! "Rude". Ironic considering how many were saying she shouldn't do reggae.

So what I'm saying is, reggae artists don't have to be so quick to sell to the mainstream audience, give it a steady build for a longer lasting career. Build the base because it'll usually be something to come back to. We live in a different times.

To paraphrase what the coach said to Dereese in Cool Runnings, "Why you wanna be like someone else? Nobody can be Jamaican better than you." Dereese probably gave a "Yeh mon, irie!" type response but forget that. It's about the sentiment.

Anyway, if you want to know more about the '010's reggae revival movement happening right now, check this breakdown of my opinion + artists I recommend. Oh, and check my review of Chronixx's show in London last year.  It is what broadsheets would class as the closest thing to a punk rock movement. However, we know reggae was punk rock before punk rock. That them fi know.

Big up Chronixx said speed. Catch him in London next month, 10th August, Electric, Brixton. Truss me, it's going to be another one of those moments. Tickets from here

And today is Haile Selassie's birthday.