Canadian singjay Exco Levi returned late last year with his second album Narrative, a set following the Donovan Germain-produced Country Man, released in 2015.
Narrative is released via Germany’s Silly Walks Discotheque, a label responsible for two of Exco Levi’s biggest hits to date – Jah Nah Sleep and Storms of Life. The album includes however other producers as well, for example Irievibrations, Raging Fyah and Penthouse Records.
This second album is more cohesive than its predecessor, even though a few different producers have been involved. Many of the cuts are infectious with catchy hooks and memorable melodies and references. The observant might notice the reference to Black Uhuru’s Party in Session on the upbeat Feel Like Dancing, and Don’t Cry leans towards Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry.
Best of the bunch is however the potent Wise Man with its steady beat and breezy horns along with the melancholic Frontline Soldier. Sizzla is also in great shape on the massive combination Burn.
Blend Mishkin – an Athens-based producer and label head honcho – has dropped his eighth album, this time working with six piece band Roots Evolution. Invited on the eleven track set is also no less than twelve vocalists from Europe and Jamaica, and several of the cuts are done in combination style.
Blend Mishkin has been making music since the 90s, mostly working with computers and turntables, but this time he decided to employ live musicians instead. And the result is an organic and pulsating effort with strong melodies and catchy hooks.
Survival of the Fittest follows the success of lead single Settle Down – with Exco Levi on the microphone. On the album the bouncy vocal version is followed by a devastating dub cut.
Blend Mishkin & Roots Evolution deliver a cocktail of past and present and included are both originals and relicks. Jammaroots & BNC make a funky version of Dawn Penn’s mighty You Don’t Love Me (No,No, No) and Georges Perin graces Headz Together and Daddy Let’s Slide with a soulful falsetto.
Survival of the Fittest is a solid and summery set firmly anchored in the soulful and funky side of reggae.
On Jamaican singjay Exco Levi’s debut album Country Man he fulfils his dream of working with one the giants in the reggae industry – Donovan Germain and his Penthouse imprint.
Donovan Germain has previously worked with successful artists like Buju Banton and the late Garnett Silk, but he’s also responsible for discovering Romain Virgo, who also teams up with Exco Levi on the excellent Get It In Your Head.
Country Man collects previously released songs along with new material and is largely an autobiographical album where Exco Levi over a hefty 19 tracks tells stories about growing up in the Jamaican countryside, going to church and walking around with no shoes. It’s his life experiences and his journey so far.
On City Life Exco Levi paints a harsh picture of Kingston living – “It’s not a nice life, make sure you know the streets… and people get missing, without nobody know, city life, where people don’t trust the cops, cus the only time they see them is when another youth drops, city life, where people break the stop light, bullet echoes in the distance anytime it touch night”. And on a beautiful version of Twinkle Brother’s mighty Since I Throw the Comb Away he sings about the realities you face being a Rasta.
As usual when Donovan Germain is involved this album is jam-packed with sweet melodies, infectious hooks and grand arrangements. Country Man is solid and well-crafted contemporary Jamaican roots music.
One of last year’s best tunes was Keida’s excellent Stand For Something. Now – finally – comes a one riddim compilation with nine cuts of the heavyweight riddim. And it’s voiced by a great bunch of vocalists from Jamaica, Europe and the U.S.. How about Pressure, Bobby Hustle, Exco Levi, Khari Kill, Gappy Ranks, Rob Symeonn, Rocker-T, Addis Pablo & The Suns of Dub and of course Keida.
War is in the Dance riddim is produced by U.S.based Royal Order Music and drops on October 21. Until then you can check the megamix by Selecta Daniel below.
After a strong mixtape together with Mighty Crown comes award-winning Canadian/Jamaican singer Exco Levi’s debut album/EP Words of the Wise. It’s a mix of already released singles and unreleased tracks.
Almost all of these seven tracks are excellent, for example Life in the Factory on 9.58 riddim, Save the Music on Vikings’ strong Focus riddim and the up-tempo Ready Fi Revolute.
Exco Levi has over the past years released several highly enjoyable tracks, and only a handful of these are collected on Words of the Wise. So after you have listened to this set, I suggest you also add Jah Nah Sleep, 30 Piece of Gold, Wicked Man, In the Streets and Take a Walk in My Shoes to your Exco Levi playlist.
Following Reggaemani’s top 50 tunes, 25 best albums and the best ten reissues come five favourite mixtapes.
All five mixtapes come from new and aspiring Jamaican Rasta singers. The new generation if you will, a generation following conscious giants like Luciano, Sizzla, Capleton and Buju Banton. Four artists that made names for themselves in the 90s and now they have serious competition from aspiring young singers and deejays that aim for world dominance with an eclectic mix of roots reggae, hip-hop, soul, rock and pop.
Chronixx put it eloquently in a recent interview with NPR.org – “We are not going to do it like Bob Marley did or like Burning Spear did. We are using their blueprint to bring on a new generation of works.”
Below is a top five list in no particular order and a link to each mixtape on Soundcloud. Check em’!
Protoje & Yaadcore – Music From My Heart
Exco Levi & Mighty Crown – Official Mixtape 2014
Kabaka Pyramid & Livity Moments – Accurate Mixtape
Dre Island & King I-Vier – Rastafari Way
Jesse Royal & DJ Tall Up – In Comes the Small Axe
Gappy Ranks’ third album Shining Hope is his most pop-oriented yet with lots of catchy choruses, strong melodies, la-la-la’s and auto-tune. It hosts a broad variety of producers from Jamaica, Europe and the U.S., including Macro Marco, Bost & Bim, Kemar McGregor, Royal Order Music and Notice Productions.
Shining Hope doesn’t contain any vintage reggae and rocksteady gems like his debut album Put the Stereo On, nor does it collect any hard-edge dancehall like his second album Thanks & Praise. Shining Hope is rather a contemporary pop album heavily influenced by sweet reggae music.
And just as the album title and the cover sleeve – a photo of his son Japan – suggests, this is a bright, uplifting and personal album. Gappy Ranks sings about seizing the moment, overcoming tough boundaries, relationships and being in love with an ex-girlfriend. It’s bursting with joy and it’s hard to stop smiling when you listen to tracks such as Tomorrow Loves You, Sell Out and the Exco Levi combination Everything Gonna Be Alright, which borrows quite a lot from Bob Marley’s popular Three Little Birds.
With this more pop-oriented approach Gappy Ranks is ready to share his beloved home town of Harlesden, London, to the rest of the world
Acclaimed German sound system Silly Walks Discotheque started out in 1991 as Silly Walks Movement and ventured into production eleven years later with their debut album Songs of Melody, a 16 track set that features both German and Jamaican artists such as Lutan Fyah, Tanya Stephens and Gentleman.
The two founders Joscha and Oliver have since dropped several riddims, remixes and singles, with Aspire being their latest one riddim compilation.
Storms of Life is Silly Walks Movement’s latest release. It’s a 16 track album released to celebrate their 20th anniversary. It contains 16 original and exclusive songs and riddims voiced by veterans and newcomers, young and old, singers and deejays, from roots reggae to contemporary dancehall.
Several of the performers are however up and coming, and most of them make a very worthwhile impression, with Swedish Etzia and Jamaican Exco Levi, who in 2007 was awarded Most Promising New Artist and Best New Artist at the annual Canadian Reggae Music Awards (CRMA), being two of the brightest shining lights.
The best tune is however by Garnett Silk sing-a-like Terry Linen, who scored a monster hit in 2001 with a cover of the late Whitney Houston’s Your Love is My Love. His cover of the late Tyrone Taylor’s How Do You Like My Music, with its flute, lovely brass and catchy la-la-la chorus, is a certified summer anthem.
Storms of Life is a positive set with strong melodies and danceable beats and it shows just how strong European reggae productions are at the moment.