One of my most anticipated releases in recent years was put out in late May. I’m talking about Kabaka Pyramid’s debut album. He’s one of the strongest lyricists and performers of the younger generation of Jamaicans singers and deejays.
On Kontraband Damian Marley is heavily involved being executive producer. But a host of other notable performers also lend their talents to the set – Chronixx, Akon, Pressure Busspipe, Stonebwoy, Protoje, Damian Marley and Nattali Rize give several songs new dimensions.
Kontraband is hard-hitting and powerful roots reggae with strong influences from hip-hop. At times it’s reminiscent of Damian Marley’s and Nas’ collaborative effort Distant Relatives. Check the infectious title track with Damian Marley for example.
This album certainly lives up to high expectations with Kabaka Pyramid spitting cultural messages over tough beats. It’s potent, explosive and highly addictive.
About a year ago Damian Marley released Nail Pon Cross, the first official single off his much-anticipated fourth studio album Stony Hill. The album was supposed to have been released in October last year, but was postponed several times. But in July this year it finally hit the streets. And many of the singles off the set have been very promising, especially Caution, Nail Pon Cross and Medication.
More than a decade has passed since his previous album – not including Distant Relatives with Nas – and Damian Marley has been busy touring the world, running the Ghetto Youths label with his brothers and producing other artists.
Welcome to Jamrock was a ground-breaking effort. Stony Hill is solid follow-up, but it’s hard to reach the heights of an album like Welcome to Jamrock, which rocked the music world with its blazing title track.
Stony Hill collects a hefty 18 tracks, of which some could have been shelved, especially some of the not-so-inspired dancehall numbers and ballads. Damian Marley flexes his vocal prowess throughout the album and he is at the top of his game when singing on cuts like the rootsy Looks Are Deceiving, The Struggle Continues and Everybody Wants to be Somebody. Songs in classic Bob Marley tradition.
One of the best tracks is however Living it Up where Damian Marley explores unknown territories. It comes with a disco-fused beat and an uplifting chorus. In the verses Damian Marley is at his most authoritative.
This album will probably not rock the world as Welcome to Jamrock did, but again – to exceed Welcome to Jamrock would have been an exceptional task. And Stony Hill is a solid album, which would have been even better with 12 rather than 18 tracks.
It took eight long years for Queen Ifrica to put out her third album Climb, the follow-up to Montego Bay, which dropped in 2009 and included the moving single Daddy.
It seems like the album has been eagerly awaited since the set immediately climbed to #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart. And this is a set that will appeal to a broad spectrum of fans. It’s an eclectic album showcasing a number of moods and styles.
Much of it is a crossover matter with romantic themes and affairs of the heart. Check the bouncy first single Trueversation with Damian Marley for example. Or That’s How It Is Sometime, complete with strings and xylophone, and the slick Good Man.
But Queen Ifrica offers harder sounds as well. Lie Dem Ah Tell is fierce dancehall and Grabba is a slice of ferocious contemporary nyabinghi where the Queen spits lyrics over a percussion-driven rhythm.
Best of the bunch – a thick bunch since it comes with a hefty 17 tracks – is however the gospel-infused I Can’t Breathe, which borrows from the traditional hymn Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, or the militant ska track Rebellion.
I guess Queen Ifrica has collected lots of recorded material over these eight years, but Climb would have been even better if a few of the cuts would have shelved for later projects.
Successful singjay and producer Damian Marley has announced his fourth and highly-anticipated album Stony Hill, the follow-up to the acclaimed Welcome To Jamrock, which was released eleven years ago.
During these years Damian Marley hasn’t been inactive though. He has put out singles, produced other artists and released albums with the short-lived super-group SuperHeavy as well as the astonishing Nas combination Distant Relatives. He has also kept himself busy with his and his brother’s label Ghetto Youths International.
The first single of Stony Hill is Nail Pon Cross, which is currently only available at Tidal, a streaming service where Damian Marley is one of the famous artist owners. A video for the single is dropping today. Also only via Tidal.
The Marley family has been busy in 2016. Ziggy Marley has put out a self-titled album and Ky-Mani Marley dropped Maestro and a combination album with German superstar Gentleman. Stephen Marley put out the much-anticipated Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life, the follow-up to the rootsy Revelation Part I: The Root of Life. It will be a fierce battle for the Reggae Grammy.
Stony Hill is expected to drop on October 28.
For the third year in a row Ghetto Youths International – the label spearheaded by Damian, Stephen and Julian Marley – has launched a new volume in the Set Up Shop series. This third and latest installment was put out in late December – two days before Christmas – with virtually no marketing or PR. Not even a press release was distributed.
The compilation features tracks from the Marley brothers together with their usual collaborators, including Black-Am-I, Christopher Ellis and Stephen Marley’s eldest son Jo Mersa Marley along with a few new additions to the roster, such as Kabaka Pyramid, Bunji Garlin, J Boog and Skip Marley, son of Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella Marley.
Several of the tracks have previously surfaced – Morgan Heritage & Jo Mersa’s Light It Up was featured on the band’s Grammy nominated latest album and Kabaka Pyramid’s ironic smash hit Well Done, Julian Marley’s Lemme Go, Stephen Marley & Bounty Killer & Cobra’s Ghetto Boy, Skip Marley’s Cry To Me and Damian Marley & Bunji Garlin’s The Message have been released as a singles.
Set Up Shop Vol 3 is like a well-assorted store with one isle with dancehall, like album opener The Message, and another with some rootsier cuts, such as Rude Bwoy with its all-star cast and Eek-a-Mouse influenced hook. Then you also have a shelf with sweets, where you’ll find Christopher Ellis’ Glory.
As usual with releases from Ghetto Youths International they are not available for streaming, only purchasing via iTunes. But this edition has a highly competitive price though – roughly only $2 or €2 for the full album which comes with 16 tracks.
A big voice. She has a big voice. I’m talking about soul singer Joss Stone. I haven’t heard much from her prior to listening to her new reggae-based album Water for Your Soul.
This 14 track set is a result of a collaboration with Damian Marley who Joss Stone worked with on his and Nas’ collaborative effort Distant Relatives, a set that at times isn’t far from a few of the cuts on Water for Your Soul. The two were also part of all-star super-group SuperHeavy together with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart and A.R. Rahman.
Joss Stone is 28 years old. She has made music professionally for the past 12. This is her seventh studio album. That’s crazy impressive. Over the years she has tried and tested many genres. She started with R&B and has since moved effortlessly between soul, blues, funk and rock. Never stopping, always on the move.
So a reggae album isn’t really that surprising. But quite a few will probably laugh by just hearing Joss Stone and reggae in the same sentence. But they will be proven wrong. Because this album has it fair share of memorable moments, but also a bunch of less memorable ones, for example the ridiculous ganja anthem Sensimilla.
The album collects soulful, sensual and mostly lightweight reggae with a slices of funk, latin and hip-hop thrown in. The arrangements are superb with elastic and bubbling rhythms underpinning Joss Stone’s powerful vocals.
Joss Stone graces massive reggae cuts like Molly Town and Harry’s Symphony with confidence and swagger. The former borrowing from the massive Swing Easy riddim and on the latter she – together with Linton Kwesi Johnson – warns against bad boys. She also nods towards reggae singers Johnny Osbourne, Matthew McAnuff, Barrington Levy and a few others.
Water for Your Soul might be bubble-gum reggae, but it sure tastes good.
The day before Christmas three Marley brothers decided to drop a new compilation – Set Up Shop Vol. 2. A strange date one might think, but this 15 track set still managed to debut at #1 on U.S. Billboard Reggae Album Chart.
Set Up Shop Vol. 2 is in the same vein as its predecessor, a set released in early 2013. It hosts roughly the same artists – Damian, Julian and Stephen Marley along with Stephen Marley’s son Jo Mersa. Also onboard is Black-I-Am, Christopher Ellis, Wayne Marshall and Cham. Invited as guest performers are Biggz General, Illestr8, Spragga Benz, Irie Love, Junior Reid and Tarrus Riley. One hell of a line-up.
It is primarily produced by the Grammy-winning brothers Stephen and Damian Marley, but Phillip “Winta” James is responsible for lead single Is It Worth It (Gunman World), performed by Damian Marley.
Included are both new and previously released material and the set collects both tribal energy and hard-hitting dancehall as well as uplifting, sing-a-long anthems and sweet harmonies complete with handclaps, ukulele strumming and hypnotic bass lines.
Stephen and Damian Marley has cooked up quite a stew here. And their signature and intoxicating blend of boastful hip-hop, raw roots reggae, reinvented rocksteady and clubbing is easy to recognize and fall in love with.
Ghetto Youths International, the record label owned and operated by Bob Marley’s sons Damian, Julian and Stephen, will release the brand new compilation Set Up Shop Vol. 2 on December 23. The 15-track compilation follows volume 1, released exclusively on iTunes in February 2013.
The new album is primarily produced by the Grammy-winning brothers Stephen and Damian Marley. The set features new and already released material from the entire Ghetto Youths roster, including Jo Mersa, Black-Am-I, Christopher Ellis, Wayne Marshall and the label’s founders, along with dancehall artist Cham.
Damian Marley’s Is It Worth It? (Gunman World) is lead single off the compilation and will be accompanied by short film music video directed by Nabil Elderkin, who has previously worked with Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and Frank Ocean.
Successful producer and deejay Damian Marley drops new single. Hard Work is taken from the forthcoming compilation Set Up Shop Vol.2, set to be released later this year on the Marley-owned Ghetto Youths International label.
Listen to Hard Work below.
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.