Tag Archives: Gentleman

Best of Gentleman showcases a broad range of styles

cover-59240ddeb0557.caeabda7German reggae superstar Gentleman has put out eight albums and after 20 years it’s time for a best of set titled The Selection. The deluxe CD version comes with a whopping 43 cuts, while the digital “only” includes 38.

Gentleman’s status in the reggae community has over the years been cemented through a broad variety of collaborations, and the album showcases combinations with artists such as Ky-Mani Marley, Christopher Martin, Shaggy, Tanya Stephens, Terry Linen, Barrington Levy, Alborosie and Marcia Griffiths.

But the most interesting collaborations are two new ones. And these two are only available on this album. I’m talking about Ovaload with dancehall giant Sean Paul and Imperfection with soul singer Aloe Blacc.

Gentleman’s sound has in recent years started to lean more towards harmless pop and several of the tracks on The Selection are very radio friendly and might best be described as arena reggae. It’s upbeat, yet soft, smooth, yet dramatic. This is not necessarily a bad thing and a song like the Shaggy combination Warn Dem is pure brilliance with its call and response chorus and urgent rhythm.

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Gentleman and Ky-Mani Marley make edgy pop reggae on Conversations

unnamedOn Gentleman’s second combination album Conversations – his first was with powerful crooner Richie Stephens – he teams up with Bob Marley’s son Ky-Mani Marley. He appeared on Gentleman’s excellent MTV Unplugged set and that was the start of their future collaboration, which led to a joint tour and ultimately this album.

No Solidarity – which they sang together on the unplugged album – is also featured on Conversations, but with a more polished production. And that’s the case with the album as a whole – it’s polished and sophisticated with ingredients such as vulnerable strings, subtle piano, grand backing vocals and melancholic lyrics about ways to make things better in a world of war and despair.

Conversations is a call for change. Gentleman and Ky-Mani Marley are tired of social media and faceless communication and believe that face to face communication can create better interactions and deepen connections between people.

It might be some truth to that, but social media is also a powerful tool to reach people and connect with others around the world. People that you would never have talked to otherwise. For artists it’s also an immensely important marketing and promotional tool, a tool that can be tailored for sharing messages of universal love and equality.

So, sure, there are challenges with the digital age. Unplug and disconnect and talk at the dinner table, but don’t forget that there’s another world out there with people waiting to hear from you.

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Daddy Rings returns with a varied set

The under-recorded Jamaican singjay Daddy Rings returns with his third solo album following the successful The Most High, which dropped almost ten years ago. During these years Daddy Rings has only recorded sporadically. A pity since he’s great talent with a catchy melodious flow.

The first single off In the Streets was released in December last year. It’s the title track and a combination with Daddy Rings’ long-time sparring partner Gentleman. The single – with its militant beat and dubstepish style – certainly boded well for the album.

The album isn’t in the same dark and aggressive style however and is rather a combination of several different elements; both heavyweight and lightweight. Jah People is uplifting dancehall with beautiful acoustic guitars and album opener Don’t Say a Word is a certified summer anthem with its flute, bright horns and catchy chorus.

The album ends with a ginormous bass line. Irie Ites’ hip-hop version of their Billie Jean riddim is outrageous and Ganja Pipe is a sound system destroyer as well as an instrument to annoy neighbours. And it will eventually get you evicted and out on the street.

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Poland meets Germany and Jamaica on Link Up

LinkUpIn October last year K-Jah Sound out of Poland put a compilation called Link Up, which failed to show up on my radar. But a few week ago I noticed it since it featured Runkus’ excellent Run, a cut also featured on his debut EP Move In.

And I’m glad I had the opportunity to listen to this smooth and beautiful set comprising mostly lesser known talents, but also a few established ones, including Gentleman, Lutan Fyah and Dubtonic Kru.

The album comes with 16 tracks – including 13 vocals and three dubs – across a number of solid riddims. The arrangements are creative, bright and gentle and slightly reminiscent of productions by the mighty U.S. production trio Zion I Kings.

Highlights include the aforementioned Run, but also the soulful and funky Wearisome Things by Jafia Namuel’s lead singer Dawid Portasz and Gentleman & Tamika’s slowly pulsating Defenders of the Light.

The European reggae scene continues to show it muscles.

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Listen to Treesha

treesha-listenKenya-born and Germany-based singer Treesha started singing in school and in church. After moving to Germany she was discovered by Gentleman and joined his Evolution Band about three years ago. But while on tour she met talented singjay Skarra Mucci who believed in her talent and signed her on his own label.

One of her first singles as a solo singer was a cut on Oneness Records’ Retro Locks riddim, which dropped earlier this year. Her Don’t Do It is a slice of contemporary one drop showcasing a confident singer with great vocal capabilities.

Listen has a number of different producers involved – Oneness, DJ Denzen and Bazzazian – and collects 15 tracks offering mostly modern reggae, but also a few slices of R&B, ska and lightweight dancehall.

Treesha has a lush and sensual singing style and highlights include the urgent I’m a Lion, the catchy title track and the romancing Skarra Mucci combination Love You Like 123.

Nice when talented singers are able to move from the background to the spotlight.

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Gentleman revives MTV Unplugged

gentleman-mtvunpluggedGerman reggae superstar Gentleman has recently put out an unplugged set, like so many other reggae artists have done recently. Tarrus Riley, Clinton Fearon and Richie Spice are three examples. Gentleman’s album is however a bit different since it was recorded with a live audience and with a full orchestra – including both horns and strings – backing him.

But just like several other unplugged sets it’s not really unplugged or acoustic, as it’s supposed to be. That doesn’t matter, since this is truly a great album.

I’ve never been a huge fan of live albums though. Don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with it being very hard to create that live feeling on record. But on Gentleman’s MTV Unplugged it works really, really well. It sounds like it was a huge concert.

The deluxe edition of this album collects no less than 28 tracks taken from all but one of Gentleman’s albums. No cuts from his Trodin On set, but several from his most recent efforts – Diversity and New Day Dawn. Included are also non-album cuts like Tranquillity, To the Top and Runaway along with a cover of the Bob Marley’s classic Redemption Song.

There are also two new songs –the heartfelt No Solidarity, sung together with Ky-Mani Marley, and Warn Dem, a scorching call and response combination with Shaggy aimed directly at all best of the year lists. Those tracks are together with a furious version of Leave Us Alone, originally on his Journey to Jah album, some of the brightest highlights.

The MTV Unplugged format was immensely popular in the 90s and I thought it was dead, but this album shows that it’s still very much alive and kicking.

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Gentleman has come a long way

Successful German singjay Gentleman has gone from dropping hip-hop and conscious roots via eclectic dancehall to reggae-tinged electronic dance music. Over the years he has toured the world and recorded extensively in Jamaica and Europe. Reggaemani caught up with him while he was in Jamaica making music videos and promoting his latest album New Day Dawn.

Gentleman is probably the most successful European reggae artist today, even though the European reggae scene is strong at the moment with several artists making a name for themselves in the Caribbean and the U.S. Gappy Ranks, Million Stylez, Randy Valentine, Patrice, Jahcoustix and Lion D are some of the singers and deejays that come to mind.

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But the reasons behind his own global success isn’t something Gentleman thinks about on a daily basis.

“Otto Tilmann is my real name and I don’t play a role. I have a passion for music and a hunger and strive to develop myself. And one of the key things is the right surroundings. No man is an island and I have a sense for good people, people that give me energy and people that I can learn from,” says Gentleman, and continues:

“I don’t know where I’m going and I’m surprised to have come this far. I’m not the best song writer and not the best singer. I just love music. I make music for myself.”

Gentleman’s success earned him a contract with a major label in 2010 and last year he dropped his sixth album New Day Dawn, his second on Universal. Being signed to a major label has given him a lot of muscles in terms of marketing and promotion – very important these days when anyone can start a label and distribute and sell music via the Internet.

Working with the right people
I reach Gentleman on his mobile phone, while he’s on a break from shooting a music video in Kingston, Jamaica.

“This is where it’s happening. It’s the motherland of the music I do. It’s good for the motivation to be here and I also get some great feedback here. Music is very important in Jamaica and it’s on a natural level,” explains Gentleman.

For a European – or anyone not from the Caribbean – it’s hard to get attention on Jamaican radio, something that UK-based producer Frenchie talked about in a recent interview with United Reggae. This has not been a big issue for Gentleman though.

“I receive some radio play, but I’ve never really worked hard to get it. I’m just glad my music gets played sometimes. If you want to be accepted, if that’s your goal, it will be hard. I never strived for it and I’ve never aimed to be successful in Jamaica. I’ve spent a lot of time in the studios here, and with the right people. But music comes first and people second,” he states.

Gentleman has previously worked with several big producers, both within reggae and from other industries as well, for example Benny Blanco, who has worked with superstars such as Britney Spears, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.

New formula
On New Day Dawn he has tried a new formula – doing most of the production himself.

“I was ready for it and wanted to do it different this time. Different compared to previous albums. I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound and with a vibe like that you can’t compromise,” he explains, and continues:

“This time every riddim was suited for me and I didn’t have to compromise or anything. I worked with different musicians, like the drummer of my band, and together we finished the ideas I came up with. It was all natural and I knew where I wanted to go. If I would make an album with different producers again, it has to be right.”gentleman_newdaydawn

The end result is a slick and clean album with weeping acoustic ballads and house-inspired dancehall. But one drop reggae is not completely left out of this contemporary cocktail. Another Drama, with its dub mixing and crying saxophones, or Road of Life, with its catchy na-na-na, are two fine slices of modern reggae. New Day Dawn certainly stands out compared to his previous albums, partly thanks to its more mature approach.

“The album is versatile. On one hand you have handmade roots reggae, and on the other hand you have dancehall and an electronic sound. It’s a lot of passion and love in the project. I love it and a lot of the songs also work well on stage. I had imagined how I could deliver on stage and the result is very alive,” he explains, and continues:

“I grow with the times. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over. Roots is my first love and probably my last, but I don’t like categories. Roots reggae is at the center of everything.”

Follows his inner voice
For Gentleman New Day Dawn stands for a new beginning and a new opportunity, it’s just a matter of attitude.

“There is a revolutionary dynamic in this world. Just look at Cairo. There was a revolution in Egypt and this has been a significant experience for me. Young people striving for change, striving for a new episode. It’s very positive, even though there still is a lot of darkness out there,” he says.

Gentleman strives to do good and is a very positive person, something that’s also reflected in his lyrics.

“Every feeling I have flows through my music. There are days when I go through life reaching nowhere. It can be depressive, but two days later it’s a new vibe. It’s just a matter of decision and perspective, what you see and what you feel,” he says, and adds:

“I follow my inner voice and I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, I just do it. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s not.”

Pure Gentleman
Gentleman has a history of voicing a lot of combinations with other artists. On Diversity, for example, he shared vocal duties with Christopher Martin, Tanya Stephens, Red Rose, Million Stylez, Patrice and Sugar Minott. He has also dropped an album together with Richie Stephens. But on New Day Dawn it’s just Gentleman.

“My first album had no combinations either. This time I didn’t have a plan, it just happened. I just loved the songs and loved the idea more and more without any features. I didn’t need it this time,” he says, and adds:

“I love to work with other people, but it was time for a pure Gentleman album.”

“A change is in the making”
15 years have passed since Gentleman put out his debut album Troddin’ On, a set that offered a potent mix of hip-hop and dancehall. In 2002 his perspectives had changed and his breakthrough album Journey to Jah was released. This album showcased a new and rootsier side of Gentleman with guest performers such as Luciano and Capleton.

Now, twelve years after his breakthrough, things are different. The music industry has undergone huge changes and Gentleman is a superstar in his native Germany.

“I’m still the same and I have the same direction, but the world is much more complex and things are not black or white. It’s not as easy today as it used to be. I didn’t think too much in the beginning. Today, I know what people want, I’m a better song writer and I have process. Some lyrics from back in the day would not do it today,” he explains and adds:

“The whole music business and how we consume music has changed. It’s not better or worse today, it’s just different. Good or bad, I don’t know. But the morality is gone. People don’t spend money on music anymore which makes it difficult for newcomers. There is a lot of talent, but no opportunities. Labels don’t work the way they used to. They are looking for that one hit and it’s not easy. But I think a change is in the making. It’s moving in cycles.”

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Lightweight and catchy from Sebastian Sturm

Sebastian Sturm A Grand Day Out - 2013The German reggae scene has been thriving for years, owing much the success of global reggae/pop phenomenon Gentleman, but also thanks to artists such as Jahcoustix, Patrice and Sebastian Sturm. The two former dropped albums in June and September respectively and now it’s time for Sebastian Sturm and his band Exile Airline to unleash the Jamaican produced set A Grand Day Out.

This 13 track set was recorded in Germany together with Stephen Stewart and Sam Clayton Jr and then mixed in Kingston by the same duo. The result shows a more reggae-oriented Sturm. The rock influences on Get Up & Going from 2011 are traded for a more pop-concerned approach with traces of both ska and soul. His love for Bob Marley-styled tonality and phrasing is however intact.

This is not a roots reggae album. Not by a far. It’s actually rather lightweight, but the melodies are infectiously catchy and I find myself both nodding my head and stomping my feet, especially to the rocking and well-arranged Sand in Their Machinery.

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Slick and clean from Gentleman

disc-3118-gentleman-new-day-dawnGerman singjay Gentleman is probably the biggest and most successful European reggae artist today. In 2010 he was signed to a major label and dropped Diversity, a set where he collaborated with U.S. super producer Benny Blanco, who has worked with artists such as Britney Spears, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.

On Gentleman’s sixth album New Day Dawn – his second on Universal – he has mostly taken care of production duties himself. And the result is a slick and clean album with several slow and weeping acoustic ballads. He also ventures into electronic dance music on a number of tracks. But one drop is not completely left out of this contemporary cocktail. Another Drama, with its dub mixing and crying saxophones, or Road of Life, with its catchy na-na-na, are two fine slices of modern reggae.

New Day Dawn is probably not for those who fell in love with his hip-hop-infused debut album Trodin On or his roots-oriented second album Journey to Jah. But looking at his career this album was the next natural step for him. It sounds like a logical follow-up to Diversity.

The CD version of New Day Dawn collects 16 tracks, whereas the version offered on digital platforms only has twelve tracks.

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Richie Stephens’ and Gentleman’s album for grown-ups

richie-stephens-gentleman-live-your-life-artworkIn the summer of 2011 acclaimed German singjay Gentleman and veteran Jamaican singer Richie Stephens – known for his silky bedroom pop ballads – released Live Your Life. This partly acoustic, put your lighters in the air, reggaefied pop song was an immediate success, and so was its more dancehall-oriented follow-up Warrior.

These two hit songs encouraged the duo to do a full album titled after their debut single, and Live Your Life contains four other duets plus four individual tracks from each vocalist.

Live Your Life is adult soft rock and pop influenced reggae with hints of dancehall and rocksteady. Richie Stephens distinctive, warm and deep voice contrasts very well with Gentleman’s youthful and more energetic approach, especially in album-opener I Found Heaven which is reminiscent of late 60’s and early 70’s DJ and singer combinations.

This is reggae by the good guys for the wholesome moms and dads, and it’s well-produced and directly aimed an audience that doesn’t want any fuss with their reggae. It’s uplifting, but at the same time harmless and polite, even though I get a little upset when I hear the version of the stadium rock classic Drift Away, which has been versioned to death.

Live Your Life is for some reason a U.S. release only, and over there it’s available on CD and on digital platforms.

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