Tag Archives: Diplo

Sophisticated sounds on Angela Hunte’s debut album R.A.W.

angela-hunte-raw-album-1506095160-640x640Brooklyn-born and T&T-bred Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Angela Hunte has finally put out her debut album after many years working more behind the scenes with producers such as Magnetic Man and Major Lazer’s Diplo.

And it was Diplo that recruited Angela Hunte for Snoop Dogg’s reggae alter ego Snoop Lion and the album Reincarnated. She was instrumental on that set and contributed as both singer and songwriter.

And it’s was a song writer and producer that she has had her greatest success to date. When she was homesick in London she wanted to write a song about her hometown New York. That day she co-wrote and co-produced a little song called Empire State of Mind with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys on vocals.

Angela Hunte has a broad sonic palette, but R.A.W. is all about melodic and crisp reggae with infectious choruses and catchy hooks. The slightly funky Here We Go is irresistible and so is the more up-tempo Outta My Head. Best of the bunch is however the bouncy and dynamic Rub Dub with Taranchyle and Brooklyn Rose delivering guest vocals. But Angela Hunte steals the show with her confident delivery. But don’t forget to check the last seconds of Rub Dub – Brooklyn Rose is sweeter than sugar.

She keeps it short and simple. Only eight tracks. Short and sweet.

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Killer debut from The Frightnrs

JEFF100_InnaLoversQuarrel_1800pxU.S. producer Diplo’s label Mad Decent is probably best known for its many electronic dance music release, often with a strong foothold in the Caribbean and Brazil. But one of the label’s most recent releases is something else. Something completely else.

The Frightnrs is a four piece outfit from New York City with a passion for vintage reggae and eerie rocksteady. Inna Lovers Quarrel is their debut EP and it’s full of vintage reggae spiced with raw energy and rub a dub vibes.

The set is produced by the renowned Victor “Ticklah” Axelrod and the EP was recorded live in the studio using analogue techniques and gear. It gives the set a warm, genuine and organic sound.

Organ and piano is used heavily throughout. Just listen to the head-nodding and organ-driven album opener Argumental. A minor-chord masterpiece.

Lead vocalist Dan Klein has a soaring tone and a high-pitched voice. On Which Way he could probably be confused with the legendary falsetto singer Junior Murvin. The best cut is however lead single Admiration, which comes with a classic rocksteady beat and urgent singing by Dan Klein. The remix of Admiration comes as bit of a surprise. But if you know Cadenza and Toddla T you probably know what to expect.

A killer release, so get ready for a real treat.

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Peace is the Mission is Major Lazer’s most accessible yet

73894181Major Lazer’s new album Peace is the Mission is the trio’s most pop-oriented yet. This genre-fusion project – led by U.S. producer Diplo – has gone from working with hard and uncompromising dancehall artists to feature several slick and more polished pop singers.

Peace is the Mission is Major Lazer’s third album and it has been preceded by several singles, including the hyper-catchy MQ and DJ Snake combination Lean On. This is global dance music, heavily influenced by the Caribbean music scene, especially Jamaican dancehall and Trinibagoan soca.

The energy levels are high, even though there are room for slower jams, such as the dreamy and beautiful Tarrus Riley and Ellie Goulding combination Powerful and the hip-hop-tinged Night Riders, which features Travi$ Scott, Pusha T, 2 Chainz and Mad Cobra.

Peace is the Mission is electronic and electric. It’s dancehall for festivals and stadiums and a logical and mature follow-up to Free the Universe.

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Snoop Lion’s pop journey

Snoop-Lion-Reincarnated-CoverLast year I wrote a short piece about hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg’s Selassie praising Rasta alter-ego Snoop Lion and his debut single La La La. I wrote that his spiritual transformation seemed like a clever marketing ploy directed by hipper than hip producer Diplo from Major Lazer, but that the single, with its haunting Artibella sample, was very tasty.

Same goes for the full album that arrived a few days ago. The Rasta gimmicks are too much and the album isn’t profound or spiritual in any way. But a majority of the 16 tracks – only twelve on the U.S. edition – shouldn’t be ashamed of themselves.

Reincarnated is a clear departure from Snoop’s previous hip-hop albums and he has also abandoned rapping and changed his delivery to a more singing-oriented approach. As a rapper Snoop is the essence of smooth, but as a singer he isn’t as talented and has to rely on backing vocalists or one of the 14 guest artists, guests that on several occasions outshine him, especially Mavado, Popcaan, Angela Hunte, Jahdan Blakkamoore and Miley Cyrus. Yes, it’s the Miley Cyrus, and yes, it’s quite a surprise to hear her flexing her skills over a smooth reggae beat.

The album was mainly recorded in Jamaica with Diplo and Dre Skull – responsible for several rougher than rough dancehall riddims over the past years – handling production. They’ve cooked up a charming blend of sunshine reggae, smooth ballads, blasting electro, echo-laid dub and hip-hop beats with pounding drums and rolling bass lines.

It also samples vintage dancehall and has several nods to pastime classics, including an erratic take on the Sleng Teng riddim and a sample from Michael Palmer’s Don’t Smoke the Weed.

Highlights include Remedy, where Busta Rhymes sounds like Burro Banton, So Long, a version of Glen Washington’s There’s A Joy, the slow pumping Lighters Up, where versatile reggae singer Jahdan Blakkamoore lacks credit, and the sing-a-long friendly No Guns Allowed.

Reincarnated contains plenty of nonsense lyrics and homage to marijuana, but also bright and memorable melodies. And even though the album is credited to Snoop Lion it’s more a compilation hosted by him thanks to the guest performers.

Not sure about the target audience for this album. His hip-hop fans will probably loathe it, while the reggae crowd will view him as a fake. No one can however overlook the overall pop appeal of Reincarnated.

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Major Lazer breaks barriers on Free the Universe

Major Lazer - Free The Universe - artworkMajor Lazer is the electo-dancehall brainchild of U.S. DJ and producer Diplo and UK DJ and producer Switch. For Major Lazer’s brand new album Free the Universe Switch has jumped the ship and is replaced by Jillionaire and Walshy Fire. The result is in the same frenetic vein as the debut set Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers do.

Free the Universe is a fierce party-starting brew of dubstep, reggae, R&B, dancehall, tropical bass and electronica and is not for the fainthearted. The guest list is of biblical proportions and ranges from dancehall dons Elephant Man, Leftside, Vybz Kartel and Busy Signal to pop singer Bruno Mars, rapper Wyclef Jean and rock singer Amber from Dirty Projectors.

The album was preceded by three excellent and very different singles – the ambient Get Free, the relentless Jah No Partial, which samples Johnny Osbourne’s Mr. Marshall, and Watch Out For This (Bumaye), where Busy Signal chats over a pounding bass drum accompanied by horns sampled from salsa champions Willie Colon & Ruben Blades’ Maria Lionza.

On Free the Universe Major Lazer breaks down barriers between genres and manages to create a modern album filled with distorted voices, skull-cracking drums, soulful reggae-flavored R&B and broken rhythm patterns that will have your neighbors banging on the door asking to turn-down the bass or to join the party.

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A reincarnated and reggaefied Snoop Dogg

Reggae and hip-hop have been in a lovable and fruitful relationship since hip-hop was born in New York City in the 70’s. And some of the most successful rappers have actually been Jamaican, according to a superb and recently published round up by LargeUp.com.

That’s why it may not come as a surprise that Snoop Dogg – one of the most popular hip-hop artists of all-time – has turned to reggae with his new alias Snoop Lion and the brand new Major Lazer produced track La La La.

However, it’s hard to take this step seriously and assess if it’s a marketing gimmick or not. Snoop Dogg is known for being a devoted ganja smoker though, but Diplo and Switch – the people behind Major Lazer – is known for clever marketing.

The PR campaign that comes with La La La is well-directed and also includes a documentary titled Reincarnated that follows Snoop Dogg’s journey to Jamaica to record an album with Diplo and his encounters with Jamaican people and Rastafarian culture.

Despite some authenticity issues with Snoop Lion, La La La is a great song with Snoop’s smooth and almost whispering vocals over a version of the mighty Artibella by Ken Boothe. It also features back-up vocals from the always reliable and soulful Jovi Rockwell.

It will be an entertaining and fascinating journey with Snoop Lion and I look forward to the upcoming album and the documentary.

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Bring on the Mysteron Killer Sounds

Soul Jazz – one of UK’s finest labels – continues their odyssey in dubstep with the beautifully packed compilation Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds. It contains 35 old and new tracks cherry-picked by dubstep pioneer Kevin “The Bug” Martin and Soul Jazz’ founder Stuart Baker. Together they present the past, present and future of digital reggae.

The two compilers are treated one disc each and you can follow the journey from early Jamaican dub experimentalists such as King Tubby, Scientist and King Jammy to the contemporary dubstep sounds of Fira and Diplo.

Dubstep emerged out of south London in the early 2000’s and has since grown from an underground phenomenon to an international trend with producers and artists from all over the globe.

The dubstep producers are continuing the dub craftmanship that evolved in Jamaica. They twist and turn the beats and riddims and then they deconstruct and reconstruct them again. It’s about breaking down and building up.

But then again, it’s also about the bass and the drums. Just like reggae.

The abyss-deep bass lines and the often complex drum patters are wobbling, hypnotic, distorted and filled with a high level of energy.

It’s highly addictive. At least in a setting that comprises dim lights, shady characters, cheap beer, sweaty t-shirts and speakers from the floor to the ceiling.

Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds will give your woofers a real run for your money. Fasten your seatbelt and bring the Mysteron Killer Sounds. I’m ready.

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