Tag Archives: Jamaican hip-hop

The Jamaican hip-hop scene is gaining momentum

Five Steez at ManifestoJamaica Festival 2011.

Five Steez at ManifestoJamaica Festival 2011.

Jamaican hip-hop has recently started to get attention with several notable releases from the likes of Five Steez and Nomad Carlos along with some successful events in Kingston.

The scene is still however deeply underground and there are strong forces standing in the way of increasing the presence of hip-hop in Jamaica.

On behalf of United Reggae I interviewed Five Steez, Nomad Carlos and Inztinkz to find out more about the roots of Jamaican hip-hop, its future and why rap artists are feared by the local Jamaican music industry. Check this thorough story here.

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Nomad Carlos travels back to the 70’s and 90’s

In reggae the 70’s is usually referred to as the golden age. According to several writers hip-hop also has it’s golden era – a period ranging from the late 80’s to the mid to late 90’s with artists such as Public Enemy, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and many, many more.

It seems like several of the hip-hop artists coming Jamaica have been influenced by this period, and one of the latest additions is U.S-born, but Kingston raised, Nomad Carlos.

His first release was the mixtape Live From Yard hosted by DJ Ill Will and DJ Rockstar. Now it’s time for his debut album called Me Against the Grain.

This excellent album is available as free download and contains 15 tracks produced by nine different producers with their own sound. But somehow the album sounds surprisingly cohesive, and the only odd – in a good way – track is the Bob Marley-tinged reggae effort Make it Work.

There is however reggae influences throughout the album with some dub effects and reggae bass lines, but also the fresh Barrington Levy sample in Murder Mystic.

The eclectic beats range from the grim and militant, such as Track Killaz, to the dreamy acid jazz feel of The Grain and the initial single As Real As It Gets.

Nomad Carlos mixes his patois accent with standard U.S. phrasing and reflects on personal life and day to day experiences growing up and living in Kingston. And he doesn’t shy away from criticizing the government or the authorities, as could be heard in Murder Mystic, a love and hate story about living in Jamaica:

“…When election come around you hear the real murder music, gun fire beat its own rhythm, politicians stay in power when they should be in prison…”

“I grew up where corruption determines the life, you could pay of police and not get logged, it’s like we make crime look like it’s legal, you got a church every square mile, but the living still evil, you get by off the links you possess, pull a few strings, money they always accept, if there’s a murder, a robbery, a break-in, the cops takes an hour to get to the scene, yo, a joke thing, ain’t nothing gonna change…”

In the golden age of reggae lyrical political militancy was a key ingredient, and in the golden age of hip-hop militant beats and innovative sampling was hugely important. Nomad Carlos’ debut album is a melting pot of 70’s reggae and 90’s hip-hop done with a great deal of love.

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Five Steez represents Jamaican hip-hop in fine style

My first musical love affair was with hip-hop in the early 90’s. I almost wore out my CD’s with Cypress Hill, NWA, Public Enemy and many, many other great hip-hop artists and groups from the east coast to the west coast.

To me the 90’s is the golden era for hip-hop, and that’s why I really enjoy Jamaican MC Five Steez’ debut album War for Peace. This 25 year old Kingstonian has managed to rise through the obscure Jamaican hip-hop scene to tell his story to the world.

The 13 cuts are produced but no less than nine different producers and is loaded with haunting, grim beats, wicked, well-thought samples, looped vocal snippets and socially conscious lyrics. Just listen to the brilliant Propheticz or the up-tempo Rebel Music.

Five Steez isn’t arrogant and doesn’t brag about material obsessions, having the shiniest jewelry or the baddest beamer. He rhymes about overcoming obstacles, exceeding expectations, social issues and struggles of everyday life.

This is a bona fide hip-hop album that draws inspiration from jazz, blues, soul, funk and reggae. The only track that lies close to reggae is the Kabaka Pyramid-produced Blazing. Kabaka Pyramid is also one of five guest artists that take the microphone on War for Peace.

Five Steez is not a deejay or a singjay. He’s an MC in the truest sense. So don’t dismiss him as the odd cousin from the country. He’s part of the hip-hop family. He’s the real deal.

War for Peace is available on CD and digital download.

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