Tag Archives: Damian Marley

Getting acquainted with Jo Mersa

jomersa-comfortableJo Mersa is son of Stephen Marley. His grandfather is Bob Marley and his uncle is Damian Marley. One could say that the music industry has great expectations on him and his debut EP Comfortable, a six track set mainly produced by himself.

He was born in Jamaica, but has migrated to Miami, U.S., and made his musical debut last year with the track Comfortable, included on Ghetto Youths International’s – a label owned by Stephen, Damian and Julian Marley – compilation Set Up Shop Vol. 1. He has also toured extensively with his father.

Comfortable is a cross-over effort with an infectious and hook-filled mix of reggae, dancehall, pop, hip-hop and electronic dance music. Best of the bunch is hip-hop-influenced opener Rock and Swing, which borrows elements from the mighty Enter Into His Gates With Praise, and the catchy remix of Comfortable, on which Jo Mersa shares vocal duties with label mate Wayne Marshall.

Jo Mersa certainly has much to live up to, but manages to carry his family’s legacy forward into the 21st century.

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Sean Paul on the right track

Sean-Paul-Full-Frequency-2013-1200x1200Jamaican dancehall superstar Sean Paul is back with a new album, following the polished and American Idol-friendly Tomahawk Technique, released in 2012.

Full Frequency opens with the Damian Marley combination Riot, one of the best tracks from last year and one hell of a reggae/dancehall banger. It’s hard, raw and full of vital energy, quite opposite to anything that was offered on Tomahawk Technique.

And so it continues for a number of tracks. The tempo is often high and the amount of glossy and fluffy club bangers can be handled, even though they are too many for my taste. Sean Paul is not Flo Rida or Pitbull. He’s a dancehall artist, and dancehall should be his focus and that’s where he’s at his best. It doesn’t matter if it’s aggressive or smooth, just as long as it is dancehall.

Want Them All is an aggressive combination with Konshens, while Wickedest Style, now with Iggy Azalea on the microphone, is gentle and laid-back. Both excellent, but on their own terms.

With Tomahawk Technique Sean Paul strayed and missed the mark, but on Full Frequency he seems to be on the right track again, even though he needs to step it up even more on the next album.

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Yet another Grammy to the Marley family

untitledThe 56th Annual Grammy Awards winners were presented yesterday and the reggae award went to Ziggy Marley and his live album Ziggy Marley in Concert. A set heard by the jury and no one else.

Giving the award to Ziggy Marley was obvious, but not fair. Beres Hammond should have been awarded for his sublime double disc One Love, One Life.

However, when browsing the winners in the reggae category since the start in 1985 it’s clear that whenever a Marley is nominated he or she will probably win. Since 1985 Ziggy Marley, Stephen Marley and Damian Marley have received the Grammy Award no less than ten times – Ziggy Marley five times, Stephen Marley three times and Damian Marley two times.

It’s more or less an industry law. And it’s a pity because it sends the wrong signal to up and coming reggae artists. And it’s of course not the Marley’s fault. It’s the industry professionals that need to broaden their musical boundaries and give reggae the attention it deserves.

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Wayne Marshall highlights his tru colors

WAYNE-MARSHALL-TRU-COLORS-cover-op-color-font-44More than ten years has passed since Wayne Marshall dropped his debut album Marshall Law. Now he’s back with a second set on a new label – the Marley owned Ghetto Youths International. But that’s not the only Marley connection. Damian Marley has also produced most of the tracks and he also makes a guest appearance on the club anthem Go Hard, a cut that also features Assassin aka Agent Sasco, Vybz Kartel, I Octane, Aidonia and Bounty Killer. Did someone say prominent guest artists?

Well, we’re not done yet. Not nearly. Tarrus Riley, Cham, Capleton and Stephen Marley is on board, so is Tessanne Chin, this season’s winner of NBC’s The Voice and Marshall’s sister-in-law. Hip-hop artists Ace Hood and Waka Flocka also join the party.

On album opener It’s On Now, Wayne Marshall sets the rules for the album and states that Tru Colors represents his growth over the years. It has come down to this. A mature and contemporary reggae album spiced with hip-hop, R&B, gospel and electronic dance music.

Wayne Marshall is a multi-faceted artist, equally at home with singing and singjaying. I prefer the latter, even though he makes a strong singing effort on a version of R.E.M’s mega smash Losing My Religion. Marshall’s take is called On the Corner and is about the choices people make in life, choices essential to the fate – “that’s me in the school yard, that’s you in the school fight trying to please your ego… That’s me in the studio, that’s you on the crack pipe searching for the answers and still hiding form the light”. Listen kids – these choices are crucial and might have an significant impact on what happens in life.

Other important issues discussed is child molesting and missing children on Be on the Alert, honesty on Tru Colors, struggle on Nah Give Up and aspiration on Stupid Money.

Tru Colors certainly covers a diverse range of moods, styles and topics and Wayne Marsall shows that he is a clever lyricist with a feel for memorable melodies.

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Wayne Marshall shows his true colors on new EP

Wayne_Marshall_True_colors_ep_304x304Damian Marley is one of the most talented reggae artists today and now it’s also clear that he’s just as gifted as a producer. Last week he showcased his production skills on Christopher Ellis’ vintage flavoured debut EP Better Than Love and now Damian Marley boasts another EP. This one is however a completely different affair.

Wayne Marshall’s five track EP Tru Colors is a rowdy dancehall and hip-hop oriented affair with slamming beats and grinding grooves. Wayne Marshall has previously worked a lot with Bounty Killer and Ward 21 and he certainly knows how to carry the swing, both as a singer and as a deejay.

The set features the bouncy Go Harder, a tough remix of Wayne Marshall’s 2012 hit song Go Hard featuring dancehall star Cham and rappers Ace Hood and Waka Flocka. In addition, the effort also includes the Agent Sasco combination Stupid Money, complete with a driving piano and a children sung chorus, the more reggae oriented I Know and two tracks taken from his older repertoire, To the Bank and Good Ole Wife. The latter is a cut on the popular Matrimony riddim.

On January 21 Wayne Marshall drops his second album in ten years – it carries the same title as the EP – and if that one is anywhere near the EP it will be a certified scorcher.

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Christopher Ellis carries his father’s legacy

christopher_ellisEPChristopher Ellis, the youngest son of the late legendary Jamaican vocalist and rocksteady pioneer Alton Ellis, teamed up with Damian and Stephen Marley of Ghetto Youths International a few years ago. Over the years his involvement with the label has not been particularly fruitful. Until now.

Damian Marley has produced Christopher Ellis debut EP Better Than Love, a set collecting five original tracks with mood and melodies taken from late the 60s soulful Jamaican rocksteady and reggae scene.

It’s reminiscent of Jimmy Cliff’s comeback album Rebirth with influences from the often overlooked producer Leslie Kong as well as the early works from masterminds such as Clive Chin and Joe Gibbs.

Christopher Ellis’ versions of his father’s material has been average and I haven’t been convinced by the man’s talent until now. He definitely carries his father’s legacy and I’m sure this EP would have made his father very proud.

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Shaggy and Sly & Robbie rock the dancehall on new album

ShaggyOutOfManyOneMusicNew York City global hit maker Shaggy has for his latest album Out of Many, One Music teamed up with successful production duo and riddim section Sly & Robbie along with Steven “Lenky” Marsden, probably best known for being the mastermind behind Sean Paul’s smash hit Get Busy.

The title of the album is a wordplay with Jamaica’s motto “out of many one people” and the 13 track set collects no less than 13 guest artists, including both reggae and R&B singers, for example Ne-Yo, Damian Marley, Tarrus Riley, Chronixx, Konshens, Beres Hammond and Tessanne Chin. An all-star cast to say the least.

Out of Many, One Music collects – just as Bitty McLean’s latest album – a number of familiar and vintage Sly & Robbie riddims, but also a few blistering ska blasters. But overall it’s contemporary rub-a-dub with retro sound effects, live horns and bubbling bass lines.

A late at night feeling is present on several tracks. On songs like All We Need is Love, Fight This Feeling and You Girl you’ll get an urge to slow whine your waist and rub shoulders all night long.

The strongest cut is however the slightly more up-tempo Deadly Love. This moody minor key masterpiece features impressive tongue twisting from Shaggy and his vocal interplay with Tessanne Chin and Peetah Morgan is brilliant.

Out of Many, One Music doesn’t have any monster hits like It Wasn’t Me, Boombastic or Oh Carolina, but it’s one of Shaggy’s most authentic reggae oriented albums yet and an impressively cohesive effort. It will certainly rock dancehalls from the Caribbean and the U.S. via Europe and Africa to Asia and Australia.

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A Marley family affair on Set Up Shop Vol. 1

set_up_shop_vol_1_itunesFrom out of the blue comes Damian, Julian and Stephen Marley’s first album on their Ghetto Youths International label. The title is taken from Damian Marley’s hard-hitting 2011 released single Set Up Shop. And several of the 14 tracks are in the same uncompromising and ferocious style.

The set contains a few already released cuts, including Damian Marley’s title track and his romantic Affairs of the Heart, but also a number of new scorchers, one from him and several from fresh talents, such as the conscious Black-Am-I, Ziggy Marley’s eldest son Daniel Bambaata Marley and Jo Mersa, Stephen Marley’s son.

Set Up Shop Vol. 1 is a bold and futuristic album that takes its influences from a number of genres and moods. It’s mellow and soft, like Daniel Marley’s sugary Treat You Right, but also rough, tough and grim, for example the dismal and provocative In Depence or the pounding heavyweight collaboration Go Hard with Damian Marley, Wayne Marshall, Aidonia, I-Octane, Assassin aka Agent Sasco, Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel sharing microphone duties.

Most surprising is however Christopher Ellis – son of the great Alton Ellis – and Bay C from T.O.K’s catchy dancehall doo-whopper Don’t Change Your Number, or, for that matter, Damian Marley’s new nugget Dem Neva Mek It with its rocking R&B piano.

This star studded, eclectic and genre crossing compilation showcases an exciting mix of themes and talents as well as a new generation of Marley performers. These fresh voices certainly bode well for the future.

Set Up Shop Vol.  1 is currently available on iTunes worldwide.

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50 best reggae songs in 2012

So it’s that time of the year again. December means best-of-the-year-lists, and first out is the best songs put out in 2012.

This year I decided to make a huge list covering no less than 50 tracks, mainly for two reasons – it has been a great year for both reggae and dancehall and I also wanted to present a list showcasing several different styles – dancehall, dubstep, one drop and UK steppers are all included on the list.

Just as previous years the list features mostly artists from Jamaica, while the producers hail from Europe, the U.S. and Jamaica. What makes this year’s list a bit different though is the inclusion of lots of dancehall. This year has been fruitful for electronic, bouncy and playful dancehall.

When browsing the list you’ll probably notice that Tarrus Riley is still the artist running the show. On the production side Frenchie from Maximum Sound is perhaps the most reliable and consistent producer and all of his riddims from 2012 are included in the list.

Female singers are few and far between. It’s a pity, but it’s sadly how the reggae industry looks like. A one riddim album usually has about ten tracks, and of these one, or at most two, are by female artists. This has been the case for years, and nothing indicates a change in the near future.

The tracks are presented in no particular order and I’ve only selected tracks released as singles, from one riddim albums or from compilations, i.e. no one artist albums.

If you’re curious about the music you can check a playlist I’ve made on Spotify by clicking here. This list doesn’t however cover all tracks, and lethal gems such as General Levy’s Dub Murda on Irie Ites’ Stop That Sound riddim or Loyal FlamesKeep Focus. The latter is currently only available as 7” and the former is available on other digital platforms, for example iTunes.

Song title – artist (label – riddim)

Capital Offence – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Rudebwoy be Nice)

Selecta – Rayvon (Ranch Ent. – Kingston 13)

Final Move – Cornadoor & Kabaka Pyramid (Weedy G Soundforce)

Original Dancehall Days – Starkey Banton (Mafia & Fluxy – Bun n’ Cheese)

We Run It –Tarrus Riley (Charlie Pro)

Go Down – Machel Montano (Mixpak – Loudspeaker)

It’s a Party – Elephant Man & Tarrus Riley (Romeich – Stinking Link)

Shots – Voicemail (Akom – Full Swing)

No Barbershop – Conkarah (Lifeline – Rock Fort Rock)

Badmind a Kill Dem – Popcaan (UPT 007 – Juicy)

Trod in the Valley – Lorenzo (Irie Ites – Borderline RMX)

Chill Spot – Chris Martin (Chimney – Chill Spot)

Independent Ladies – Gaza Slim (TJ – Summer Wave)

Chant Rastafari – Tarrus Riley (Maximum Sound – Most Royal)

Blood Thirsty – Jah Mali (Necessary Mayhem – Possessed)

Fire Fire – Capleton (Dynasty – Kush Morning)

Perilous Times – Luciano (Maximum Sound – Dance Ruler)

Start A Fyah – Chronixx (Jungle Josh – Game Theory)

Cyaan Tek Di System – Burro Banton (Weedy G Soundforce – Roadster)

Make It Bun Dem – Skrillex & Damian Marley (Big Beat)

Kingston Town Remix – Busy Signal & Damian Marley (VP)

Addicted – Conkarah & Denyque (Lifeline)

Irie Collie – The Tamlins (Irie Ites – Jah Jah Man)

Nuh Rate Dem – Capleton (DJ Frass – Cross Fire)

Sorry Is A Sorry Word – Tarrus Riley (TJ – Live In Love)

OK – Sizzla & Neïman (Union World – Melodical Fyah)

Jump + Rock + Move – Wrongtom & Deemas J (Tru Thoughts)

Blaze & Rum – Etzia & Fambo (Jugglerz – Kickdown)

Let Jah Lead The Way – Iba Mahr (Notice Productions – Digital Love)

Badmind Dem A Pree – I Octane & Bounty Killer (Markus)

Wild Bubble – Voicemail (Cr203/ZJ Chrome – Wild Bubble)

We Nah Bow – Sizzla (Boom Shak – We Nah Bow)

Obeah Man – Turbulence & I Shenko (Riddim Wise – Downtown)

Kingston Be Wise – Protoje (Don Corleon)

Upgrade – Ce’Cile (21st Hapilos – Corner Shop)

Dub Murda – General Levy (Irie Ites – Stop That Sound)

Them See Me As A Threat – Lutan Fyah (Adde Instrumentals/RR345 Muzik – Sweet Sounds)

Again And Again – Stein (Cashflow – Sun Tan)

Mama – Christopher Martin (DZL – Perfect Key)

Party – Top Cat (Weedy G Soundforce – Jump Up!)

R.A.S.T.A.F.A.R.I. – Professa Natti (Scoops)

Sound System Culture – Digitaldubs & YT (Scotch Bonnet)

Words Of My Mouth – Earl Sixteen (The Bombist – Words Of My Mouth)

How Do You Like My Music – Terry Linen (TeTe)

Keep Focus – Loyal Flames (Vikings – Focus)

I’m A Survivor – Peetah Morgan (Special Delivery – Feel Good)

The Streets of London – Soothsayers (Red Earth)

Every Single Thought – Christopher Martin (Jugglerz – Street Soul)

Badda Dan Dem – Beenie Man (Radio Active)

Jamaica 50 – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Leggo Di Riddim)

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Too many cooks spoil SuperHeavy

The newest addition to the supergroup notoriety is SuperHeavy. It’s the brainchild of Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and Eurythmics founder Dave Stewart. Onboard is also soul singer Joss Stone, Academy Award winning composer A.R Rahman and Damian Marley, whose contribution to this project is the sole reason for this review.

One might wonder what Damian Marley is doing in this company. But neither Mick Jagger nor Dave Stewart is a stranger to the reggae genre. Mick Jagger has sung with the late Peter Tosh and Dave Stewart has worked with Jimmy Cliff.

This diverse and eclectic line-up boasts no less than eleven Grammy Awards individually. But can these highly talented and skilled musicians bring forward a consistent album?

Supergroups usually offer a great promise on paper, but at the same time they are often short-lived, as witnessed with groups such as Velvet Revolver, Audioslave and The Traveling Wilburys, even though the latter suffered from the premature death of band member Roy Orbison.

SuperHeavy’s self-titled debut album was recorded in different studios all over the world and assembles 12 tunes on the regular edition and 16 on the deluxe version. The sound is thick and bears traces from pop, reggae, electronica, rock, Indian music and so called world music.

Reggae is not just present through Damian Marley’s vocals. He has brought with him his rhythm section – bass player and composer Shiah Coore and drummer Courtney Diedrick. And they are tight with a nice groove on several songs.

And it might not come as a surprise that I believe that Damian Marley is the best ingredient in this dish. He has proven before that he is huge in cross-genre collaborations, such as last year’s Distant Relatives album.

But SuperHeavy doesn’t even come close to the spirit and greatness of that effort. SuperHeavy suffers from too many cooks and strays in too many different directions. Even though the first single Miracle Worker proves different.

I’m sure that SuperHeavy had a blast in the studio when recording this album and that the label was thrilled over the idea of a supergroup with Mick Jagger in the front seat. But this set probably works better on paper than in reality.

SuperHeavy hits the streets in the U.S. on September 20th and on September 19th in the rest of the world.

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