Tag Archives: I-Octane

Another head-nodder from Jah Sun

jahsun-newparadigmFor his brand new album New Paradigm U.S. reggae singjay Jah Sun has teamed up with Austria-based record label House of Riddim.

On the 16 track set they have invited an impressive roster of contemporary reggae artists from Jamaica and Europe – Dre Island, Million Stylez, I-Octane, Randy Valentine, Nikki Burt and Charly B.

House of Riddim has produced all tracks, which is rather unusual in reggae, and the album is solid, cohesive and firmly rooted in contemporary and up-tempo one drop reggae. Jah Sun sings, deejays and even showcases his rapping skills on a few tracks.

Best of the bunch are album opener New Paradigm, the Dre Island combination Carry On, with its dramatic strings, and the fist pumping Morning Sun, complete with intense horns and punky energy.

Included are also a few radio-friendly cuts, for example the slick I-Octane combination Peace Cry and Only Human, a cut sounding a bit like Paul Simon’s pop reggae smash hit You Can Call Me Al from the mid-80s.

Jah Sun is definitely a force to be reckoned with –as he also has proven on previous sets, particularly the excellent Rise as One – but this album means no paradigm shift in reggae; it’s actually rather traditional and the sound of reggae will probably stay the same.

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I-Octane aims for a global journey

I-Octane has over the past years voiced several hard-hitting dancehall productions. But on his new album My Journey he showcases his sometimes velvety, sometimes aggressive, singing style over both pulsating and mellow reggae beats. Reggaemani caught up with this confident singer, a workaholic that aims for the sky.

I-Octane_Press1I-Octane was born Byiome Muir in Clarendon, Jamaica, and started his musical career about five years ago. He is a singer that has managed to stay out of controversy despite being highly successful in dancehall circuits.

I reach him via Skype and initially we small talk about Tarrus Riley and I-Octane’s performance with him in Stockholm a few years back.

“It was a great opportunity touring with Tarrus Riley. He was like a big brother to us,” says I-Octane.

At the time I hadn’t heard much about I-Octane. One thing I remember from the concert though was his energetic voice and big smile.

He sits in a huge brown armchair in Tad’s Record’s office in Jamaica. And smiles. He also talks a lot and answers my questions thoroughly. That was not the case when I interviewed him two years ago as he was about to drop his debut album Crying to the Nation.

Independent artist
I-Octane is doing interviews for his second album My Journey. This effort is released via Tad’s Record and not reggae powerhouse VP.

“I never signed with VP. It was an independent album. My perspective and their perspective were different. I don’t believe in being signed to a label. I’m a free flowing artist and no one can stop me from creating songs, stop me from being a creative person. I like to record. I like to sing. I like to contribute to music,” explains I-Octane in a serious tone, and continues:

“If someone tries to stop me, I have a problem. I need to keep voicing. Be active. VP was doing the album because Robert Livingstone was the executive producer, and I was an independent artist for Robert. It was just the end product.”

More reggae, less dancehall
My Journey is more in the reggae vein compared to its predecessor. And that was the general idea.

“My career has mostly been about dancehall, so I decided that in 2014 I want to do straight reggae. Straight drum and bass songs. And I feel like I’m doing something substantial. I’m contributing to reggae and I have grown between the two albums,” he says, and continues:

“The album is more of me, more I-Octane. From my perspective it has a more worldwide appeal. When I was voicing it I was thinking about the world, not just Jamaica. I pronounce clearer now and it’s more English, more like an album that can cross a lot of borders. It’s a worldwide thing.”

But it’s not just I-Octane singing. It’s also the music and the riddims created by his long-time friend and hit-maker Andre “DJ Frass” Gordon. Together they have created a set jam-packed with memorable hooks and catchy choruses.

“It’s about how the songs are constructed, the riddims and the mood. The mood is different this time. It’s more current. I’m also a more mature vocalist,” he says.

Going global with confidence
The album title explains where I-Octane is coming from and all the obstacles and challenges that he has managed to overcome.

“Experiences have been harsh, but it’s great. I just put it in writing. I have learned a lot and I appreciate life more. I appreciate people more.”

I-Octane says that one of his goals is to go global and to reach a much wider audience. To be heard motivates him and makes him a better artist, he believes.

I-Octane_Press2

And there’s nothing wrong with his confidence. He gives thanks to the Lord for his musical gift and refers to himself as a super talent.

“Music is not hard for me. I just go to the studio and I never write. I hear a beat, I take up a paper and a pen and I record. I voice a lot of songs. I voice 20 and make 5. It’s not about the volume, it’s about substance”, he explains, and continues:

“It’s hard to market the brand properly. And that’s my aim now. Get in to major festivals and major concerts. The world needs to see what I’m capable of doing”.

The next generation
My Journey is a melodic and consistent set. It has an overall pop feeling to it and the upbeat dancehall cuts are few. The man responsible for this is DJ Frass.

“Frass is my brethren and he has produced a lot of hit songs. He’s comfortable to work with and he’s also a workaholic. We help each other,” he says, and continues:

“Frass produced the album, but we got all these great musicians in Jamaica to work on the album. All the great players played them.”

I-Octane’s youthful and energetic style is popular, especially in Jamaica. Over the years he has been nominated and won several music prizes in both Jamaica and abroad. The most recent ones are two top prizes and Jamaica’s Youth View Awards, where he was awarded Favourite Local Music Video and Favourite Music Collaboration.

“I was nominated in ten categories, but it’s not about being the winner. I was a winner in ten different categories,” he says and concludes:

“It’s great in terms of marketing. Kids are the next generation. It makes me a better person. I want to work harder and contribute more. You can be five, six or seven years old. Music is always music.”

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I-Octane’s hit-filled journey

i_octane_my_journeyI-Octane has been on the music scene for about five years. He has been prolific in the singles market, but has been less productive when it comes to albums. My Journey is his second album and follows Crying to the Nation released in early 2012.

While his debut set was overseen by a variety of producers, the catchy My Journey is directed by I-Octane’s long-time friend and hit-maker DJ Frass. Together they have created a contemporary Jamaican pop album, of course highly influenced by both reggae and dancehall. Mainly reggae actually.

The culture and lovers themed My Journey is an entertaining and lively album filled with lots of energy, beautiful hooks and memorable melodies. And the youthful I-Octane is a varied and passionate singer that can be both velvety and aggressive in the same verse. Closing track Burn It is an excellent example of this – at times smooth as a silk, but suddenly shifting to a more rugged approach.

Definitely a solid album, and particularly enjoyable are album opener Time Will Tell, the warm and easy Stepping in the Name of Love and Babylon, a track where rock guitars make an appearance. Not always welcome, but this time it works quite well.

I-Octane has already proven himself being a fresh and talented singer, and with this second album he keeps the reggae flame burning bright.

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A cohesive reggae and dancehall debut by I-Octane

One of the most hyped albums in the last six months has just reached the record stores. I’m talking about I-Octane and his debut full-length set Crying to the Nation where he has partnered with Shaggy’s former manager Robert Livingston of Scikron productions.

I-Octane has been in the music business for about five years and has dropped several popular tunes in Jamaica and abroad over the last two years. Three of these are included on the new set – Lose a Friend, Nuh Love inna Dem and Puff It. Most of the other songs are actually new.

During the years I’ve followed I-Octane he has managed to voice both roots riddims as well as up-tempo dancehall scorchers. Crying to the Nation follows the same path.

But this album is more than just 16 dancehall and one drop tunes. I-Octane has successfully incorporated a certain dancehall edge to most of the tunes, both lyrically and musically. It might be his energetic and rough vocal style, clever song writing or focused production.

Ballads such as The Master’s Plan and the modern classic Lose a Friend will most certainly have a lighter or two in the air when performed live.

The faster paced System A Beat Them, with its tight drum and bass groove, and the sing-a-long friendly Tarrus Riley combination All We Need is Love, are among the highlights.

Crying to the Nation is a surprisingly cohesive debut and showcases an interesting and versatile talent with the ability to reach a wide audience.

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Fresh talents for the future

Each decade has stars that top the charts and sell out concerts all over the world. In the 60’s it was singers and vocal groups such as Slim Smith, Desmond Dekker, The Techniques and The Paragons.

In the 70’s reggae went truly global because of reggae icon Bob Marley. Big labels such as EMI, Capitol, Island and Virgin all took a great interest in reggae and signed artists such as Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals, Jacob Miller & Inner Circle, Third World, The Gladiators and The Mighty Diamonds.

In the 80’s reggae went digital – Wayne Smith voiced the immortal Sleng Teng riddim that was a huge success at least in the Jamaican dancehalls, and Barrington Levy dropped his anthemic Here I Come.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s several reggae artists were signed by major labels, and the smash reggae/pop hits started to invade the charts. Shaggy’s Oh Carolina, Shabba Ranks’ Mr. Loverman, Ini Kamoze’s Here Comes the Hotstepper and Chaka Demus & Pliers’ Murder She Wrote went gold and platinum around the world.

Sean Paul conquered the early 21th century with his second album Dutty Rock, an album that has sold more than six million copies and includes the successful singles Gimme the Light and the Billboard Hot 100 topper Get Busy, on the Diwali riddim. No other reggae artist comes close to Sean Paul’s success, even though there are other big sellers, such as Wayne Wonder’s No Letting Go, actually also on the Diwali riddim.

But who will carry the torch forward? Who will score the next worldwide smash hit? It’s of course impossible to know who will be the next big reggae thing, but there are several artists worth keeping an eye on.

The list below contains ten artists, known and comparatively unknown, that I always check out on riddim compilations because of their vocal abilities and styles. These artists also have in common that none have dropped more than one official full-length album.

Jah 9
The first time I heard her breezy voice was on Protoje’s debut album The Seven Year Itch. Since then she has dropped the single Warning featured on Solid Gold Vol. 1. I expect big things from her.

Kayla Bliss
Has been rather quiet since she dropped her debut album Roads to Bliss in 2008, but has started to work with Xterminator Productions and recently put out the convincing Rock n Sway.

I-Octane
I-Octane has one foot in dancehall and the other in conscious reggae, and there has been a buzz around him for several years. In February he drops the highly anticipated debut album where he has hooked up with Shaggy’s former manager. Did anyone say hit potential?

Popcaan
Came to my attention in 2010 when he was featured on Vybz Kartel’s Clarks. He has recently started to work with contemporary dancehall masters Mixpak Records.

Chris Martin
Such a talented singer, most of his material is worth picking up. His Paper Loving and Top a Top on the Cardiac Bass and Fairground riddims are sublime.

Romain Virgo
Dropped his self-titled debut album in 2010, an album where he had teamed up with acclaimed producer Donovan Germain alongside Shane Brown. It has been followed up by several strong singles, where of I am Rich in Love is a certified scorcher.

Sena
Probably the most unknown singer on the list, but nonetheless very talented and interesting. She has recorded mostly in the hip-hop/roots reggae vein. Crucial cuts include Work It on Eyes on My Purpose riddim and Outcry in the City on Stronga riddim.

Da Professor
Recently released his excellent debut album The Laboratory for Jamaican producer Don Corleon. He is a versatile singer that is as comfortable singing funky soul as gritty dancehall.

Hollie Cook
Hollie Cook has music in her veins and her debut album was produced by Prince Fatty – one of UK’s finest and most interesting producers. Her jazzy tone could probably produce a bona fide chart topper.

Protoje
Has announced that his coming album will be heavier than his debut –a direction that may not lead to instant success. But his voice, delivery and melodies leave me longing for more.

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I-Octane is the fuse between reggae and dancehall

Jamaican singjay I-Octane has put out a veritable hit cavalcade for the last two years. Now he has signed with reggae giant VP Records and his debut album Crying to the Nation is scheduled for release in February. Reggaemani got a chat with him about his upcoming album.

The reggae industry is still largely based on singles rather than albums, and I-Octane is a proof that you don’t need an album to score huge success around the globe. Singles such as Nuh Ramp Wid We, False Pretenders, Puff It, Lose a Friend and Mama You Alone have made I-Octane a household name in both reggae and dancehall circuits.

Considered becoming an architect
Byiome Muir, better known as I-Octane, grew up in Sandy Bay in the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica. Just like many other Jamaican artists his passion for music started at an early age and he often sang at home or in school, where he could be found beating out a rhythm on the school desk. No schoolyard clash or concert was complete without an appearance from the aspiring singjay.

“It was an energetic thing,” says I-Octane on the phone from Jamaica.

Even though a career in music was an appealing choice for I-Octane, he didn’t neglect his studies and waited to venture into singing full-time.

“Mama said education comes first,” he explains on the poor and crackling phone line.

Initially he considered becoming an architect, partly because he had an affinity for sciences, but had no money to finish a degree.

“Instead of sitting at home and be a non-progressive element, I got into music,” he says, and adds that he might get into architecture later on to have something to do outside the music business.

Working with Donovan Germain
I-Octane started performing under the name of Richie Rich, and just like Buju Banton he started singing hardcore dancehall lyrics, but later switched to a more cultural approach.

“I grew with the music and I grew as an artist and found out the best side of me,” he explains, and adds:

“It’s my own flavor.”

I-Octane was picked up early by veteran producer Donovan Germain, and while working with the Penthouse label he decided to change his name to something more representative.

He chose his name because of the high energy level in high octane gas, and personalized it by substituting the “high” for “I”. And a star was born.

After three years he left Penthouse and signed with Arrows Recording, a label for which he had his first hit single – Stab Vampire. The single served as a catalyst for his career, and he was suddenly approached by several notable and established producers, something that broadened his repertoire.

“It’s very important to work with established producers. They pave the way,” he explains, and lines up a veritable who’s who in the contemporary Jamaican music scene for whom he has worked with:

Don Corleon, Jukeboxx, Cashflow, Russian and Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor.”

Signing with VP
Today I-Octane is independent. He has started his own label, moderately named Conquer the Globe Productions.

But he has also signed a joint venture deal with VP and Scikron. The latter is a label owned and operated by Robert Livingston, a name that might not ring a bell for the broader public, but he is the man behind multi-platinum artist Shaggy and hits such as Oh Carolina, It Wasn’t Me and Boombastic. He has also worked with artists such as Super Cat and Tiger.

Blends reggae and dancehall
On Crying to the Nation I-Octane smoothly blends roots reggae with dancehall energy. And this is where he wants to be.

“I’m a fuse between reggae and dancehall. I’m a new version of reggae and dancehall in one,” he says, and describes the album’s theme:

“It’s about what’s happening in the streets and what’s going on in the world. It’s about keeping the Almighty close, keeping Jah close.”

“The music speaks for itself”
I-Octane has become known for his haunting crackling voice, frank lyrics with cultural topics and simple sing-a-long hooks. On Crying to the Nation he is set to continue in the same vein, which is communicated in the title.

“It’s a global topic, and a global title. It’s not only Jamaican. People across the globe can relate to it and feel the struggle. Crying to the Nation is the whole entire globe – America, Japan, Canada,” he says, and praises the musicians he has worked with:

“It’s a great album, and you can hear each and every person in there. You can hear the time and effort they put in. It’s one of the best albums I know of in this age, and the music speaks for itself. Any individual that comes in contact with it will like one song. It’s a great work, and I have great expectations on it.”

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Tarrus Riley briljerar

Onsdagskvällen är iskall i Stockholm. Utomhustermometern visar omkring tio minusgrader. Det är med andra ord ganska långt ifrån den jamaicanska tropiska hettan. I alla fall utanför Kägelbanan på Södra Teatern. Inomhus håller Tarrus Riley hov och levererar en veritabel hitkavalkad i ett furiöst tempo.

Kvällen börjar sömnigt. Duktiga, men rätt tråkiga, sångaren Duane Stephenson inleder omkring halv elva på kvällen, en timme efter utsatt tid. Konserten är vid den här tiden långt ifrån fullsatt och Duane Stephenson anstränger sig inte nämnvärt för att roa publiken under sina dryga 20 minuter på scenen.

Lovande singjayn I-Octane är det desto mer liv i. Han far fram och tillbaka över scenen likt en speedad road runner. Han gör sitt bästa för att väcka liv i publiken, som nu börjat växa betydligt.

Även om I-Octane gör en godkänd insats så spelar han inte samma division som kvällens huvudperson. Faktiskt inte ens samma liga. Tarrus Riley fullkomligen kör över Duane Stephenson och I-Octane med sin scennärvaro, sin intensitet och sitt låtmaterial.

Tarrus Riley kliver på scenen klädd i hatt, slips, skjorta och glasögon. Han ser ut att komma direkt från skolbänken på något amerikanskt Ivy League-universitet. Men allt visar sig bara vara en chimär.

Tarrus Riley är en briljant entertainer och lyckas göra tuffa liveversioner av sitt många gånger harmlösa material. Tillsammans med niomannabandet ger han redan bra låtar som Beware, Micro Chip, System Set, One Two Order och Good Girl, Gone Bad nytt liv. Han lyckas till och med göra Michael Jackson-covern Human Nature riktigt intressant. Mycket tack vare tempohöjningen.

Publiken har kul. Tarrus Riley har kul. Stora delar av bandet har också kul. De enda som verkar ha tråkigt är de två körsångerskorna som mest ser ut att frysa.

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