The U.S. reggae scene has never been really thriving, and most reggae coming from the States is usually pretty lightweight and often heavily inspired by rock and punk. It has changed a bit though, much thanks to the prospering VI reggae scene and bands and artists like Midnite, Pressure, Niyorah and Bambú Station.
And the U.S. reggae scene is also much of a domestic scene and local acts tour North America like crazy. One of those acts is the immensely popular Soldiers of Jah Army (SOJA), an eight piece band that has been together for 17 years.
Their fifth album Amid the Noise and Haste is as radio-friendly as their previous sets with influences from pop, rock, latin and hip-hop. And its title nails the sound, because this album certainly doesn’t run towards a red light and singer and fan favorite Jacob Hemphill barely raises his frail and nasal voice. It’s full of slow jams and laid-back grooves with a more buoyant cut here and a muscular guitar solo there.
Amid the Noise and Haste is partly produced by Jamaican-born super producer Supa Dups, known as a founding member and owner of the Miami-based Black Chiney sound system. But he is also known for working with several reggae, dancehall and hip-hop heavyweights, and he has managed to win no less than three producer’s Grammys for his work with Drake, Bruno Mars and Eminem.
Several guest artists are featured on the album – Damian Marley, Collie Buddz, Michael Franti, J Boog, Anuhea, Nahko, Trevor Young, Alfred the MC, Bobby Lee and Mala Rodriguez. According to SOJA these performers help to demonstrate each song and either relate or convey messages of social resistance, environmental consciousness and personal reflection.
They want the listener to connect with his or hers inner self and take control over one’s own destiny while listening to gently vibrating reggae music.