It feels like every new album from Jamaican chanter Sizzla is marketed as a landmark set or a new masterpiece. But I’m often disappointed, very disappointed. There are however a few exceptions in his more recent output. Born a King was in fact a masterpiece and The Scriptures was very solid. But many other sets sound rushed and non-cohesive.
And the latest album from Sizzla is in fact not one of his better ones. 876 – which is the area code for Jamaica – was recorded together with producers Vychalle “Kid” Singh, Jason “J-Vibe” Farmer and “Bobby Digital” Dixon.
It was slated for release already last year, but was postponed until 2016. It carries 13 tracks, including several devoted love songs, and Sizzla unfortunately rather sings than deejays. His singing style – especially his falsetto – is an acquired taste, and he should stick to fierce and furious deejaying, as showcased on the hard and dub-infused High Grade or Bad Mind, on which he trade verses with the passionate Jah Cure.
There are a few major moments on 876, but too few to make a solid effort. Sizzla can do better than this.
From Muti Music now comes a fifth remix EP from Sizzla’s stunning and critically acclaimed album Born a King, a set produced by forward-thinking Australian multi-instrumentalist and producer Mista Savona.
The forthcoming EP collects 13 different versions of Sizzla’s Cold War – eleven cuts of the original track and one version each from veteran singer Prince Alla and gruff dancehall deejay Bugle.
It kicks off with the original six minute+ original version followed by an acoustic version along with the cuts from Prince Alla and Bugle. From there on there’s an bass boosting extravaganza created by Mista Savona himself along with Empress Shema, Om Unit, Mat the Alien, HNGVR, Sukh Knight and 3rdeye.
These mostly dance music oriented producers push the concept of bass heavy music forward experimenting with dubstep, drum & bass, dancehall, jungle, steppers and reggae. Fresh new sounds with an edge. Check the EP on June 1.
Following Sizzla’s fresh and critically acclaimed album Born a King comes the fourth instalment of remix EP’s from that particular set.
Champion Sound was one of many highlights on Born a King. The original tune is recorded over Mista Savona’s brutal Soundclash riddim and features Sizzla at his finest along with veteran singer Errol Dunkley.
Champion Sound EP, which drops on September 9, comes stacked with classic roots reworks on the original Soundclash riddim, with vocals provided by Burro Banton, Iyashanti and Johnny Clarke & Determine. The Johnny Clarke and Determine combination is a roaring version of Clarke’s legendary African Roots.
The riddim also gets a remix treatment from a variety of producers working in several different genres, including drum & bass, jungle, dubstep, R&B and electro-oriented funk.
Hip-hop is in the air on Sizzla’s new album Born a King. And so is dancehall, roots reggae and sounds from Africa and the Middle East. Heavyweight Australian producer Mista Savona pulls all the stops and has managed to put out a progressive and blazing mix of styles that fit Sizzla’s fierce and fresh delivery very well.
I heard about this set three years ago when I interviewed Mista Savona. He had just dropped the excellent compilation Warn the Nation and revealed the exciting news. I’ve been longing ever since and the longing became even more intense when singles started to drop. First out was the Errol Dunkley combination Champion Sound, later followed by I’m Living, The Formula, a duet with Vida Sunshyne, and Blessed. All singles have felt like a punch in the face thanks to their pounding beats.
And beats is the right word here. Because Born a King often leans more towards booming 90s hip-hop and dancehall from the same period, yet put in a contemporary habitat with louder bass, clever sampling and the use of a ten piece studio band.
Sizzla sounds more inspired, personal and energetic than usual. He chats, sings, deejays and spits consciousness and combines his sense for melodies and flow over the 15 tracks. On tracks like Blessed, Set it Off and Why Does the World Cry he’s at times so aggressive that those tracks could be used for building up a momentum before a boxing match.
The press release for this album uses words and terms like “breath-taking”, “peak of his musical career” and “one of the best albums of Sizzla’s career”. Usually press releases exaggerates, but in this case I have to agree. It’s wickedly well-produced, balanced and detailed. So this scorching set is definitely one of the strongest sets from Sizzla’s more than extensive catalogue.
Born a King drops on May 6.