Here is the Janurary edition of the monthly column I write for www.niceup.org.nz regarding new releases from Jamaica.
Jamaican music has ushered in the new year in style for 2012 with a number of impressive riddims and singles dropping throughout January. One of the most well performed artists of 2011, I Octane, has begun the new year in style with a handful of good singles. Of these, the clear standout is his recording for the Black Spyda label, ‘Walk With Jah Jah’, a powerful and positive piece complemented by a piano-driven and hip-hop inspired riddim track.
In somewhat of a sequel to his smash hit, ‘Mama You Alone’, Octane continues the positive vibes with ‘Mama Put Food On’ for the Markus Records team. The other I Octane effort worthy of mention for January comes in the form of a first time collaboration with Chan Dizzy, ‘Till Kingdom Come’. The hip-hop inspired production comes from Chan Dizzy’s long time producer, Russian, and showcases the brilliant lyrical ability of both artists.
DJ Frass has done no harm to his growing reputation as a producer with his new Riva Stone riddim arguably the pick of January’s releases. The pick of an impressive artist line-up comes from Mavado’s ‘Clean Everyday’ with honourable mentions to I Octane, Zamunda, Demarco and the collaboration from Flexx and Kiprich.
Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor has maintained his recent production style with another upbeat riddim in the Tenement Yard. Unashamedly poppy yet still unmistakeably Jamaican in character, Di Genius has become without question one of the leading producers in dancehall. Another definite trademark can be found in the malleability of the riddim track with respect to individual cuts. For example, the Serani cut on the Tenement Yard, ‘Make Me Stronger’, is enhanced with the additional piano in the chorus to reinforce the gospel feeling of the track. Conversely, Di Genius’ own cut is peppered with soulful synths and turnaround chords while the energetic potential of the riddim is seen in the unrestricted expression given to Anthony B’s ‘Nuh Bad Like Da Bwoy Ya’. Other cuts come from Big Ship mainstays Laden, Bramma and Chino as well as Elephant Man, I Octane, Aidonia, TOK, Mavado, Beenie Man and Assassin. Overall, it’s an encouraging start to what all dancehall fans can hope will be a big year from the Big Ship label.
Speaking of heavyweight producers, the team at Cashflow records have also entered the New Year with a new riddim. The School Bag riddim features solid efforts from Lady Saw, Stein, T’Nez, Cham, Khago and Serani. Serani’s own record label, Daseca, has also delivered a new year gift to dancehall fans with their Knockings riddim. Featuring a brotherly combination from Chino and Di Genius entitled, ‘Lowe Wi’ and a fine cut from Serani, ‘Evil Heart’, the Knockings is classic Daseca and the only detraction to an otherwise brilliant release is the absence of further cuts.
Currently on tour in Australia, Swedish dancehall artist Million Stylez has turned his hand to production with the release of the Arabian Nights riddim through Adonai music. The artist roster includes veteran fire-man Capleton, UK dancehall sensation Gappy Ranks, T’Nez, Mr. Vegas, Ward 21 and of course Million Stylez himself.
One of Jamaica’s fledgling production houses, Good Good records, have made their first foray into the production of reggae with their new Cool Out riddim. The best of a mouth-watering artist line-up comes from Sizzla’s ‘You Can Make It’, Jah Vinci’s ‘Turn A Blind Eye’, Munga’s ‘Watch Over Me’ and Chris Martin’s ‘Link Pon U Friend’. The Cool Out riddim also sees a rare contribution to a reggae riddim from Bounty Killer with his conscious tune ‘Thine Will Be Done’ reinforcing his status as the poor people governor rather than the warlord.
In reggae singles, a brilliant sophomore effort from former Digicel Rising stars contestant Jermaine Michael has come in the form of his collaboration with the strong one, Etana. ‘7 Days’ is Michael’s follow up to his debut smash hit ‘Cornerstone’ which continues to garner airplay on Jamaican radio.
In chart news, Cham aka Baby Cham’s ‘Wine’ up to number four, while international crossover superstar and son of a gun, Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley occupies top spot with ‘Set up Shop’. So ends another prolific month in Jamaican music with plenty of quality to motivate eager anticipation for what February holds.