Tag Archives: Busy Signal

Weedy G Soundforce raises the roof

Rise-Weedjy-SOundforceWeedy G Soundforce might not be one of the most well-known production crews in Europe, but they have for the past years dropped more than a few floor fillers. Their trademark is something of a hip-hop and reggae cocktail. And the secret ingredient is energy. Lots and lots of it. And that makes their brand new 14 track compilation Rise stand out of the crowd.

Rise collects some of the biggest contemporary reggae and dancehall artists from Jamaica and Europe. Elephant Man, Busy Signal, Christopher Martin, Perfect, Lukie D, Ward 21, Gappy Ranks, Cornadoor and Skarra Mucci all show up for this high octane extravaganza.

For the past few days I have had several of the tracks from Rise on repeat. The pulsating Busy Signal & Christopher Martin combination Lock Di Endz being one of them, Perfect & Teacha Dee’s We Nuh Afraid being another. But you also have Melloquence & Elephant Man’s Hold You, heavily inspired by Gyptian’s monster hit with the same, and J’se James & Skarra Mucci’s soca-tinged Burning.

Rise is an unusually well-produced and well-compiled Caribbean album jam-packed with energy and tons of fun.

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Seven deadly Major Lazer remixes by Mungo’s Hi Fi

artworks-000067560644-8gumtm-originalScotland’s own Mungo’s Hi Fi have remixed five Major Lazer tunes. They have re-shaped them, re-structured them, re-built them and now released them for free over at Soundcloud.

The results are smashing, intoxicating and very enjoyable. Just listen to the ska version of Busy Signal’s energetic Watch Out For This (Bumaye), the digi-reggae version of Get Free, featuring Amber from U.S. rockers Dirty Projectors, or the rocksteady-tinged Smooth Sailing with Mr. Williamz carrying the swing.

Check the Soundcloud link here and get a taste.

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Major Lazer breaks barriers on Free the Universe

Major Lazer - Free The Universe - artworkMajor Lazer is the electo-dancehall brainchild of U.S. DJ and producer Diplo and UK DJ and producer Switch. For Major Lazer’s brand new album Free the Universe Switch has jumped the ship and is replaced by Jillionaire and Walshy Fire. The result is in the same frenetic vein as the debut set Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers do.

Free the Universe is a fierce party-starting brew of dubstep, reggae, R&B, dancehall, tropical bass and electronica and is not for the fainthearted. The guest list is of biblical proportions and ranges from dancehall dons Elephant Man, Leftside, Vybz Kartel and Busy Signal to pop singer Bruno Mars, rapper Wyclef Jean and rock singer Amber from Dirty Projectors.

The album was preceded by three excellent and very different singles – the ambient Get Free, the relentless Jah No Partial, which samples Johnny Osbourne’s Mr. Marshall, and Watch Out For This (Bumaye), where Busy Signal chats over a pounding bass drum accompanied by horns sampled from salsa champions Willie Colon & Ruben Blades’ Maria Lionza.

On Free the Universe Major Lazer breaks down barriers between genres and manages to create a modern album filled with distorted voices, skull-cracking drums, soulful reggae-flavored R&B and broken rhythm patterns that will have your neighbors banging on the door asking to turn-down the bass or to join the party.

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Etana urges for a better tomorrow

Etana’s third and latest album Better Tomorrow has received rave reviews and is her most cohesive and consistent to date. Reggaemani got a chat with her about the album, working with producer Shane C. Brown and how recording while being pregnant influenced her work.

In a reggae world dominated by men, Etana, real name Shauna McKenzie, has managed to gain worldwide success with hit songs such as Free, All I Need and her 2007-released debut single Wrong Address, also included on her debut album from the year after.

Etana, which means the strong one in Swahili, realized her potential and the power of music while living in Florida in the early 2000’s studying to be a nurse. She left collage and joined a female pop/R&B trio. Her strong, soulful voice and songwriting skills soon gained attention and she was asked to join Richie Spice as one of his backup singers and eventually it led to her own recordings.

Uplifting and inspirational
Her fusion of roots reggae, soul, jazz and pop has rendered her several awards and she has also been described as somewhat of an India. Arie or Alicia Keys of reggae. And that description is probably more accurate than ever when listening to her latest album Better Tomorrow.

I reach Etana on the phone from Florida. This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to interview her, and just like the first time she’s low-key and eloquent as she answers each question.

Etana has just released her third album Better Tomorrow.

Etana has just released her third album Better Tomorrow.

Better Tomorrow is meant to be happy and inspirational. An album you could play at home for hours, or even at a club,” she explains.

Many of the tracks are uplifting, lyrically as well as musically, but Etana takes on several hard topics as well. The title track, for instance, celebrates life itself and the blessings it brings, something that’s maybe taken for granted too often.

“A time to sing a brand new song, no more hungry children, no more tears,” she sings on Better Tomorrow, a track she penned after watching a National Geographic TV documentary about a little boy’s daily search at the dump for plastic bottles, which he would trade in for food.

“Whatever he found that day would be his family’s meals,” explains Etana, and adds:

“He found an overripe banana that you would normally throw out, but he was excited, jumped with joy and was willing to share and gave a piece of it to his sister. Even in the hardest times he was happy.”

Channel positive energy
She describes herself as an optimist and urges for a better tomorrow.

“There’s always a better tomorrow. People always complain how bad things are in their country. But that doesn’t bring any change. There has to be a better tomorrow,” she says with emphasis, and continues:

“I’ve to be an optimist. That’s where I’m today. If you keep thinking about the negative, and not the positive, you’ll keep creating more negative energy than positive.”

Recording while pregnant
While recording the album Etana was pregnant with her second child, a daughter born in November 2012, just three months before the album was released.

“Maybe at times I was affected by the pregnancy. All I Need was recorded at eight months, and it was tough doing the notes, but the rest was like nothing,” explains Etana adding that she channeled emotions and energy from the pregnancy into the album.

One of the songs, Til You Get Old, is Etana’s heartfelt pledge of love to her child, and the track also includes an actual birth. Not her own though.

“It’s our right to give birth. Giving birth and be happy about it,” she says.

One producer, one sound
Better Tomorrow is mainly recorded together with one single producer, Shane C. Brown, today probably best known for producing Busy Signal’s first reggae album and being the successful dancehall artist’s manager. The album was recorded with live musicians and Etana describes the album and the process recording it as a book with only one writer.1950_ETANA-BETTER

“Shane is very detailed and specific, but gives room to be creative, and he knew exactly what I wanted, where I was mentally. Spiritually we had a connection and it was easy to work with him,” she explains and gives an example:

“He could say ‘do the way you feel, do it your way, and then do it this way for me’”.

Etana is obviously satisfied with how the album turned out, but she doesn’t have any great expectations about it.

“I never expect this or that. I just wanted to put it out there. I want the world to appreciate it and I’m grateful for everything that comes with it,” she concludes.

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Better Tomorrow includes Etana’s finest work yet

1950_ETANA-BETTERJamaican soulful singer Etana is about to put out her third album Better Tomorrow, a 14 track set mainly produced by Busy Signal’s manager Shane C. Brown. Working with mostly one sole producer gives the album a certain and very welcome cohesiveness, something her second album Free Expressions lacked.

Better Tomorrow is a warm effort where Etana has matured and evolved as a songwriter and she deals with motherhood, unconditional love and hopelessness offering optimism and comfort in times of struggle, distress and poverty.

Her sincere and soulful singing is sublime and especially heartfelt is Till You Get Old (Life’s Gift), dedicated to her newborn daughter and complete with audio clips from an actual birth set to the tones of piano, percussion and guitar. Being a parent myself, the track sends shivers down my spine.

But you don’t have to be a parent to appreciate this album. It has a little something for everyone, while staying almost true to the reggae format. On Whole New World she takes the listener on a 80’s funky trip and the title track leans toward a latin beat, while tracks such as The Strongest and the beautiful first single Reggae are more roots oriented with dub effects and smooth organ work.

Better Tomorrow sticks like glue and includes some of Etana’s finest work yet. Check it on CD and on digital platforms on 26 February.

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Half-year report – five favorite albums

A few months ago I wrote on Twitter and Facebook that the reggae year has been musically blessed so far with a huge number of very worthwhile album releases.

And I’m happy to say I feel the same way today. The first six months of 2012 have presented strong efforts from veterans and upcoming newcomers and dancehall and one drop alike. There have also been two sublime acoustic sets.

The album output so far also shows a healthy roots scene in Jamaica with an acclaimed set from the nowadays incarcerated dancehall deejay Busy Signal leading the way. He will hopefully have a good influence on Jamaican youths, and increase their interest in more old-fashioned reggae.

But the album output also shows that reggae is global. You don’t have to be in Kingston to record a great album. Just listen to the excellent sets from Bambú Station, Nazarenes, Winston Reedy, Lymie Murray and Skarra Mucci. These albums were mostly recorded in Europe or the U.S.

Below I have selected five of my most played albums so far this year. The competition for these five spots has been fierce between the many combatants. Compilations and reissues were ruled out at the very beginning, and I truly hope the coming six months will be as solid as the past ones.

Artist – album title (label)

Da Professor – The Laboratory (Don Corleon)

Lymie Murray – Deeper Roots (I Dwell)

Busy Signal – Reggae Music Again (VP)

Nazarenes – Meditation (I Grade)

Clinton Fearon – Heart and Soul (Chapter Two)

Curious on the albums? Check this Spotify playlist with all of them.

Later this week I’ll publish a half-year report with 15 favorite tunes. Stay tuned. More to come.

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Busy Signal pays homage to Jamaica’s musical heritage

Busy Signal is the versatile dancehall deejay that this year changed course and dropped the acclaimed album Reggae Music Again, recorded with real musicians and under the guidance of veteran performers such as Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths and Dean Fraser. Reggaemani got a chat with him during a recording session break in Jamaica.

Busy Signal

Dancehall artist Busy Signal recently dropped his first reggae album.

Two years ago dancehall superstar Busy Signal – with the massive hardcore hits Tic Toc and Wine Pon De Edge – released his third album D.O.B, a more varied set compared to his previous albums Step Out and Loaded. It included the Latin flavored Picante and Busy Latino, the acoustic unity plea Let Peace Reign and two reggae songs – a romantic rendition of the Commodores’ Night Shift and a seductive version of Phil Collins’ One More Night.

Shifts musical direction
The response he received from those two songs prompted a dramatic shift in his musical course, and in a press release he says he had to go in this musical direction, partly because he felt it was his duty to highlight and contribute to reggae music.

“This is the first time I do a reggae album with real instruments and proper guidance from Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths and Dean Fraser. I want to show respect to real reggae music,” declares a humble Busy Signal when I reach him on the phone outside of a studio in Jamaica, and continues:

“It’s the greatest genre and I want to be true to my own culture and show versatility.”

Busy also makes it clear that Reggae Music Again is not recorded and released to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. This album is to celebrate Jamaica’s musical heritage and it was finished last year.

Introduced to reggae
The man who taught him all he needs to know about reggae is his manager and producer Shane C. Brown, son of legendary mixing engineer Errol Brown. They met in March 2007 and nowadays work as a team.

“He mostly does one drop reggae, and I introduced him to dancehall. We’re a good team,” he explains.

The roots reggae album Reggae Music Again is a brand new set, not a collection of previously released songs, and currently holds the ninth spot in the Billboard Reggae Chart.

It’s a stark departure from the relentless computerized beats that have dominated Busy Signal’s three earlier albums. The tough, multi layered one-drop rhythms on Reggae Music Again were crafted by some of Jamaica’s most acclaimed musicians and recorded live at Kingston studios Tuff Gong and Penthouse.

Celebrates reggae through music and lyrics
The album clearly shows an artist that has managed to grow and believes in versatility. Reggae Music Again is also Busy Signal’s way of highlighting the origin of dancehall music.

“I’m still doing dancehall and it still means a lot to me,” he explains.

Through both music and lyrics he celebrates the uplifting spirit and tightly woven grooves that epitomize Jamaica. Commentaries such as Modern Day Slavery, Jah Love and Run Weh show his concerns for culture, religion and societal ills, themes that have distinguished roots reggae from other musical forms since the early 1970’s.

But Busy Signal can also be heard as a devoted singing lover on Missing You and the smooth acoustic Comfort Zone.

Imitating Joe Lickshot
His deejay skills are shown in the sparse and dark hip-hop inspired 119 with guest artists Anthony Red Rose and Joe Lickshot, a legendary ‘hype man’ as well as an introduction and sound effect specialist.

It turns out that Busy Signal is a huge fan of Joe Lickshot’s work, and he tried many, many times to do the vocal effects by himself, but didn’t like what he heard.

“I listened to him on Youtube and I listened to him for hours when driving around in my car, but didn’t manage to get it right,” explains Busy Signal, and continues:

“He has his own style, that raspy, vintage sound. I couldn’t get it right myself, and I really knew what I wanted.”

The solution was to find the man himself, which turned out to be easier said than done. Busy googled him, but didn’t find any contacts, so Shane C. Brown had to help out, and eventually came in contact with him.

Spreading reggae to a wider audience
With Reggae Music Again Busy Signal is also able to spread reggae music to a wider audience, since his following is mostly into dancehall. Making the transition from dancehall to reggae also demands talent, skills and versatility, a quality he often comes back to in the interview.

“I’m just doing music, no matter what genre. Music to roll to and music to dance to. I’m fusing a lot of styles,” he says, and concludes:

“I would think of do more reggae. The feedback I get is just great and right now I just feel overwhelmed.”

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Busy Signal waves the reggae flag high and proud

For the second time in a less than a month a dancehall superstar has dropped a more or less straight reggae album. Mr. Vegas’ double set Sweet Jamaica dropped in late March and Busy Signal’s Reggae Music Again was put out on April 10th, originally set for April 19th.

The reason for both artists putting out one drop reggae albums in 2012 is to celebrate 50 years of reggae music, or more accurately, 50 years since Jamaica’s independence from the UK on August 6th, 1962.

Where the Mr. Vegas set included several covers and sweet, honey-drenched reggae, Reggae Music Again is more of an original and individual affair.

Busy Signal is one of the most versatile and unique artists in the reggae industry today and moves seemingly effortlessly between hard, percussion-driven bashment, such as Jafrican Ting, and sexy, bedroom-luring ballads, such as the Phil Collins cover One More Night.

Reggae Music Again is somewhere in between. It’s contemporary reggae of the finest sort, blended perfectly by some of Jamaica’s top producers and musicians, including Shane C. Brown, Donovan Germain and Dean Fraser. On top of the sometimes tough, sometimes hip-hop-tinged or R&B-flavored, riddims is Busy Signal’s authoritative singing or deejaying style, occasionally spiced with auto-tune.

Among the many fine moments is the modern rub and scrub Come Over (Missing You) along with the combinations 119 and Running from the Law featuring Anthony Red Rose and Joe Lick Shot on the former and Romain Virgo and Esco Levi on the latter. Two songs with completely different moods, while 119 is dark and grim, Running from the Law is more up-tempo and cheerful with its keyboard hook in the background.

Busy Signal states in the liner notes that he’s committed to keeping the reggae flag waving high and proud. His flag is on top of the pole, and will probably stay there for years to come.

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All-star line-up pays tribute to Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs – who passed away last year – is one of the greatest voices in reggae music ever. Always relaxed, laid-back and almost nonchalant in his tone. It is for a reason why he went by the name The Cool Ruler, which was also the title of one of his self-produced albums in the 70’s.

Saxophonist and producer Dean Fraser was a friend of Gregory Isaacs and he is also the producer behind the Gregory Isaacs tribute album We Remember Gregory Isaacs.

This double album has 16 contemporary reggae artists paying tribute to Gregory Isaacs’ on one disc and Dean Fraser going wild with his saxophone on the other.

Most of the artists on this compilation weren’t born when these beautiful songs were originally recorded in the 70’s and the 80’s. But that doesn’t really matter. Because this set doesn’t want to imitate the original versions. This is contemporary and polished one drop reggae.

That’s the main problem – too smooth versions of mostly Gregory Isaacs’ lovers rock efforts. We Remember Gregory Isaacs could have been a little rougher around the edges.

Busy Signal’s version of Hard Drugs is the strongest cut. It’s not up-tempo, but it has a certain energy that the whole album could have needed.

The best Gregory Isaacs tribute so far is the Irie Ites-production Oh What a Story on a relick of the Soon Forward riddim. The Tamlins, Naggo Morris, Trinity and Dillinger sings and deejays in fine style.

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Greensleeves and VP inna dubstep style

Late last year Greensleeves and VP Records announced that their back catalogue was to get a remix treatment by dubstep artists for a new vinyl series. The first release was a remix of Yellowman’s classic Zunguzunguguzungguzeng.

Now it’s time for another three releases. First out is Pampidoo’s Synthesizer Voice that gets a mad re-construction by Japan’s Goth-Trad, one of the major artists on the Japanese dubstep scene.

Coki-Digital Mystikz takes on Badman Place, a Busy Signal and Mavado duet. This one is furious in its sonic treatment.

Dubstep giant The Bug mashes Ding Dong’s dancehall anthem Badman Forward Badman Pull Up from 2006. The Bug has invited MC Flow Dan from Roll Deep to go head to head with Ding Dong. The result is vicious.

All three tunes come with a version, and if you like dubstep you probably need to check these three releases out.

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