(Virgin EMI Records)
Chronixx, a young powerhouse reggae singer who is a fave of Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and who appeared on the cover of Caribbean Beat earlier this year, is among a cadre of young singers marking the roots reggae revival in the modern dancehall saturated industry of island music. That revival may be more a new reckoning of the universality and adaptability of reggae, as Chronixx takes musical cues from a range of genre tropes — including rap, R&B and EDM — to energise the music without the sound becoming too diluted. The track “I Can” has that anthemic quality of a Coldplay song, while “Black Is Beautiful” rings with the Caribbean hip hop of Wyclef Jean (it samples early Fugees). The lyrics have an edge without being too sharp to ward off new converts. The themes are celebratory of Jamaica, and touch on love and hope, racism and poverty without banging you on the head with a big stick. With this album as an early music career signpost, Chronixx — only twenty-four — is the hopeful future of reggae.
Long Over Due Leston Paul
From the arranger that gave the world’s most popular soca song (Arrow’s “Hot, Hot Hot”) a life of its own, Leston Paul, comes his new album that runs the gamut of Caribbean soul to smooth jazz to new soca fusion. Long Over Due has that technical gloss and aural sheen that suggests that Paul’s production values are on par with the best in the industry anywhere. In a style that can be seen as a Caribbean parallel to Quincy Jones’s during his Back On The Block era, Paul harvests the talents of a number of Trinidadian musicians and singers to the best of their ability to give a overview of the range of music that exists and is celebrated in these islands. From the languid elegance of “Night and Day” to the tongue-in-cheek nod to the classicism of calypso legend Kitchener’s classic “Pan in A Minor” — complete with faux orchestral strings — to the soulful strut of “Lot’s of Talk” and “Mt Irvine Beach Jam”, this album is a satisfying exercise in Caribbean music genre fusion.
Stony Hill Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley
Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley has released a new eighteen-track album of hits that not only carry on the Marley name as a focal point for global reggae relevance, but also an album that satisfies the idea that the next generation of reggae, born in the new millennium, has not abandoned the raison d’être of being Jamaica’s “main collective emotional outlet.” From a stream of consciousness polemic on the problematic present and uncertain future (“Time Travel”) to an ode to ‘herb’ (“Medication”), Stony Hill has everything. Tracks like “Looks Are Deceiving” and “The Struggles Discontinues” remind one of his father’s soulful drawl on a classic reggae vibe, while “Grown and Sexy” and “Perfect Picture”, both collaborations with his brother Stephen, have a Drake-reminiscent sound. That duality should keep reggae listeners happy as this album covers all bases in a slick and satisfying way to rekindle the hope that this island music is fluid and will never die.
Normal (Single) Freetown Collective
“Rob the bank normal and buy a Range Rover normal / Lie to the people normal, practice evil normal.” These lyrics, sung by Freetown Collective’s Lou Lyons and Muhammad Muwakil on the title song of their upcoming new album, suggest or possibly reflect a cynical take on life in modern Trinidad and Tobago. A generation born in the 1980s has struggled through the posturing of island politics to sometime render its impressions and observed reality as a ceaseless litany of the agonies and ironies of woeful living for the ninety-nine percent below the line. Freetown Collective are modern calypsonians unhinged from the melodic template of the past century, but aware of the lyrical tradition. With a trap music production aesthetic, the song’s angst-filled vision generates a head-bopping reaction that reminds the listener that just like the calypso, behind every good groove there is a message that halts the march towards gay abandon to take notice of another side of our local existence.
- These reviews appear in the November/December 2017 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2017, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.