In reggae the 70’s is usually referred to as the golden age. According to several writers hip-hop also has it’s golden era – a period ranging from the late 80’s to the mid to late 90’s with artists such as Public Enemy, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and many, many more.
It seems like several of the hip-hop artists coming Jamaica have been influenced by this period, and one of the latest additions is U.S-born, but Kingston raised, Nomad Carlos.
His first release was the mixtape Live From Yard hosted by DJ Ill Will and DJ Rockstar. Now it’s time for his debut album called Me Against the Grain.
This excellent album is available as free download and contains 15 tracks produced by nine different producers with their own sound. But somehow the album sounds surprisingly cohesive, and the only odd – in a good way – track is the Bob Marley-tinged reggae effort Make it Work.
There is however reggae influences throughout the album with some dub effects and reggae bass lines, but also the fresh Barrington Levy sample in Murder Mystic.
The eclectic beats range from the grim and militant, such as Track Killaz, to the dreamy acid jazz feel of The Grain and the initial single As Real As It Gets.
Nomad Carlos mixes his patois accent with standard U.S. phrasing and reflects on personal life and day to day experiences growing up and living in Kingston. And he doesn’t shy away from criticizing the government or the authorities, as could be heard in Murder Mystic, a love and hate story about living in Jamaica:
“…When election come around you hear the real murder music, gun fire beat its own rhythm, politicians stay in power when they should be in prison…”
“I grew up where corruption determines the life, you could pay of police and not get logged, it’s like we make crime look like it’s legal, you got a church every square mile, but the living still evil, you get by off the links you possess, pull a few strings, money they always accept, if there’s a murder, a robbery, a break-in, the cops takes an hour to get to the scene, yo, a joke thing, ain’t nothing gonna change…”
In the golden age of reggae lyrical political militancy was a key ingredient, and in the golden age of hip-hop militant beats and innovative sampling was hugely important. Nomad Carlos’ debut album is a melting pot of 70’s reggae and 90’s hip-hop done with a great deal of love.