Tag Archives: Shaggy

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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Grammy Awards Nominees announced

grammy_awardSo the time has come for the much discussed Grammy nominations and yesterday the nominations for the 56th Grammy Awards were announced by The Recording Academy.

Jay Z tops the nominations with nine; Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams each garner seven nods.

For the reggae genre, five artists fight for the lustrous award – Beres Hammond and his double disc One Love, One Life, Ziggy Marley and his live album Ziggy Marley in Concert, Sizzla and his The Messiah, Sly & Robbie and their Reggae Connection and Snoop Lion – as Snoop Dogg labeled himself at the time – Reincarnated.

Pick of the bunch is by no competition Beres Hammond. Second, and far from the top spot, is the surprisingly strong Reincarnated.

As usual I would have presented a rather different list of nominations, and I’m not surprised a Marley had to be thrown into the list. But for the bigger artist albums of the year I’m surprised that Etana’s Better Tomorrow and Shaggy & Sly & Robbie’s Out of Many, One Music did not make the final cut.

The Grammy process this time registered more than 22,000 submissions over a 12-month period ranging from October 1, 2012, to September 30, 2013. The Grammy Awards will be held on January 26, 2014.

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Shaggy and Sly & Robbie rock the dancehall on new album

ShaggyOutOfManyOneMusicNew York City global hit maker Shaggy has for his latest album Out of Many, One Music teamed up with successful production duo and riddim section Sly & Robbie along with Steven “Lenky” Marsden, probably best known for being the mastermind behind Sean Paul’s smash hit Get Busy.

The title of the album is a wordplay with Jamaica’s motto “out of many one people” and the 13 track set collects no less than 13 guest artists, including both reggae and R&B singers, for example Ne-Yo, Damian Marley, Tarrus Riley, Chronixx, Konshens, Beres Hammond and Tessanne Chin. An all-star cast to say the least.

Out of Many, One Music collects – just as Bitty McLean’s latest album – a number of familiar and vintage Sly & Robbie riddims, but also a few blistering ska blasters. But overall it’s contemporary rub-a-dub with retro sound effects, live horns and bubbling bass lines.

A late at night feeling is present on several tracks. On songs like All We Need is Love, Fight This Feeling and You Girl you’ll get an urge to slow whine your waist and rub shoulders all night long.

The strongest cut is however the slightly more up-tempo Deadly Love. This moody minor key masterpiece features impressive tongue twisting from Shaggy and his vocal interplay with Tessanne Chin and Peetah Morgan is brilliant.

Out of Many, One Music doesn’t have any monster hits like It Wasn’t Me, Boombastic or Oh Carolina, but it’s one of Shaggy’s most authentic reggae oriented albums yet and an impressively cohesive effort. It will certainly rock dancehalls from the Caribbean and the U.S. via Europe and Africa to Asia and Australia.


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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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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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Taddy P puts the bass in the front seat

Bass player Taddy P has toured the world and performed on stage with artists such as Freddie McGregor, Sanchez and the late Dennis Brown.

His skills has also been utilized by lovers rock singer Maxi Priest, and Taddy P has been his personal bass player for many years.

Maxi Priest is also one of the 14 singers that Taddy P has invited for his sophomore album Gimmie Di Bass. Other well-known names are Tanya Stephens, Shaggy and Bunny Rugs of Third World.

Gimmie Di Bass hosts 15 tunes whereof two are dub versions. It’s soulful, mellow and harmonious. It also has a lot of bass solos. Too many actually. It gets a bit tiresome and cheesy after a while. Especially in the softer tunes, such as the largely instrumental Michael Jackson tribute Lady in My Life and Too Busy that features strings and Maxi Priest on vocal duties.

I usually also like by bass lines deep, rough and tough. Gimmie Di Bass is too cozy and smooth.

There are of course exceptions. The hypnotic Play for Me with Deesha on the microphone and the rhythmic and melodic Let’s Get it Started, with vocals from Shaggy, Red Fox and Chevaughn, are two such.

But Gimmie Di Bass is probably better suited for the bedroom than the dancefloor.

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