Tag Archives: Protoje

Jah9 delivers a relentless Jamaican roots album

disc-3110-jah9-new-nameIn January last year I wrote a piece about fresh talents for the future. The list included conscious female singer and poet Jah9, a singer who I had an overwhelming encounter with on Protoje’s debut album The 7 Year Itch.

Now she has released her debut album New Name, produced by Rory Gilligan from Stone Love. It’s a striking, mature and contemporary roots effort without any major cross-over attempts. Jah9’s solid and sophisticated voice floats over muscular and relentless bass lines, echo-laid drums, dramatic horns and bright flute.

It sounds like she has done this forever and it’s hard to believe that New Name is her debut set. But, then again, she developed her craft on the Jamaican live music scene, which has probably given her valuable experiences and many opportunities to cultivate and foster her own style.

Among the several highlights are the powerful and previously released title track, the uplifting single Jungle and the percussion heavy closing track Inner Voice.

New Name is now available on CD and digital platforms.

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A darker side of Protoje

disc-3108-protoje-the-8-year-affairJamaican singjay Protoje’s second album The 8 Year Affair is – just like its predecessor – a mix of previously released masterpieces and fresh gems. And just like last time most of the set is produced by his cousin Don Corleon.

It also contains a number of combinations. This time Romain Virgo, Tessanne Chin, Chris Watts and Toi are invited to the party.

The 8 Year Affair collects sweet and tender ballads where Protoje longs for his special queen, but it also, and more importantly, contains several dark minor key masterpieces, showcasing a new, deeper and more melancholic side of Protoje and beat maker Don Corleon. And I like it. A lot actually. Some of the bass lines presented on this album will make your living room start humming.

Don Corleon has glanced at some of the key dancehall producers from the early 80’s and it’s not only Kingston Be Wise that echoes vintage Sly & Robbie. What he has added is a touch of hip-hop and a ton of energy. A few surprises also turns up and most unexpected is the affectionate violin in Come My Way.

Protoje has obviously matured over the two years since his debut set and I hope he’ll stay on this path and not start to stray.

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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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Sparkling chemistry in Da Professor’s laboratory

Professor is a popular title in the reggae industry. You have Mad Professor and Professor Grizzly. But also three artists with just the title. Or almost anyway.

Groundation’s lead vocalist Harrison Stafford has an alter ego called Professor and in the 70’s and 80’s there was an Jamaican engineer who also went by the name. The latest addition is Da Professor, who was born and raised in Kingston, but has also spent time in Florida and New York.

His debut album The Laboratory is produced by Don Corleon – one of Jamaica’s most prominent contemporary producers, and well-known for his slick, polished and stylish productions, usually with a tasty feel for pop melodies and memorable hooks.

And Da Professor’s debut set is no exception. It’s smooth journey into Don Corleon’s blend of one drop reggae, dancehall and R&B.

His production is spiced up by Da Professor’s interesting vocal style, or styles. He can switch from soul-styled singing to gritty deejaying in a jiffy.

Even though the album boasts three duets – J Boog, Ken Boothe and Protoje – you can easily be fooled that it’s one more singer on board on several songs. When I listened to tunes such as By My Side or the upbeat Party Non Stop I could swear that another one singer handled the chorus and another the verses. But no. It is Da Professor all along.

 It must have been a great chemistry in the studio when this album was recorded, because The Laboratory is yet another strong effort from the Don Corleon camp.

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A midnite meeting with Pressure, Don Corleon and Protoje

At Uppsala Reggae Festival in August I had the opportunity to interview Don Corleon – one of Jamaica’s slickest and most successful contemporary producers with a variety of booming riddims behind him. By his side was also Pressure and Protoje.

Check the interview over at United Reggae.

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Sneak preview of Dub in HD

It is not often these days that you hear dub music produced and mixed in Jamaica. Last year Alborosie put out Dub Clash, a limited edition project where he had dubbed some of his own material, as well as other well know reggae tunes, in a vintage dub style.

Now it is happily enough time again for a Jamaican dub album.

In February a Youtube clip of Jamaican producer Don Corleon dubbing in his studio started circling around. Soon it was made official that he was working on a dub album titled Dub in HD.

The album presents ten dub versions of riddims such as Drop Leaf, Major and Seasons, but also individual tunes, like Protoje’s Wrong Side of the Law. The former was actually the first tune that you could hear the Don experimenting with dub.

Reggaemani now has the opportunity to present a sample of one full track from the album. Below you can listen to Natural Black’s Far From Reality on the Seasons riddim.

This is a wonderful initiative from a young Jamaican producer, and I certainly hope that others will follow in his footsteps.

Dub in HD is available for digital download on June 21.

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I’m enjoying a 7 Year Itch

Last year Jamaican singer/singjay Protoje came to prominence with his debut single Arguments, produced by his cousin Don Corleon.

Now Protoje is about to release his debut album 7 Year Itch, also produced by Don Corleon. The release has been preceded by a well orchestrated marketing campaign – free download of single J.A, a documentary called The 7 Year Wish, an album sampler, and last but not least, a bunch of strong singles, all included on the album.

The songs on 7 Year Itch have been written over seven years and Protoje sings about this process in the percussion driven title track and album opener. The album is characterized by strong pop melodies and a vintage reggae feeling on most of the tracks. The only exception is the electric contemporary dancehall in Overtime.

Bob Marley’s spirit rests heavily on several of the songs and sometimes it sounds like The I-Threes are signing the background vocals.

Protoje has also invited three guest artists – well known singers Ky-Mani Marley and Gentleman as well as upcoming female singer Jah9, whose jazz-tinged and Erykah Badu-esque voice beautifully suits Protoje’s patois heavy delivery.

I’ve been looking forward to the 7 Year Itch album for a long time and I’m very happy to say that it fulfilled my expectations. Protoje has obviously had a great mentor when making this album and it’s an itch that I’m glad to have experienced.

The album is due on January 25 and will be available digitally as well as physically.

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Pärla från Protoje

United Reggae puffade för en tid sedan för en fantastisk låt av jamaicanske Protoje. Den lilla guldklimpen heter J.A , är producerad av Don Corleone och finns att ladda ner gratis via Facebook.

J.A har gått på högvarv i min stereo de senaste dagarna, vilket förvånat mig en smula eftersom den innehåller på gränsen till farligt mycket auto tune. Men märkligt nog så får J.A mig att smälta. Körerna sitter där de ska och det klinkande pianot i bakgrunden gör hela skillnaden.

Debutplattan The Seven Year Itch ska enligt United Reggae vara på gång. Håller den lika hög klass som J.A så kan det vara något stort på gång.

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