The U.S. reggae scene seems to the thriving and no less than four bands have put out albums during the past months. I’m talking about The Simpkin Project’s Beam of Light, The Green’s Marching Orders, Iya Terra’s Sacred Sound and Soja’s Poetry In Motion.
All these bands have a roughly similar sound with a hybrid of pop/rock and reggae. These bands are not as much rock as Rebelution and not as rootsy as Midnite. They are somewhere in between and offer a lightweight sound rooted reggae, but with influences from pop, rock, blues, dancehall and Americana.
Many songs sound like vacation tunes and offer a mouthful of sunshine and beautiful harmonizing. The production is glossy, polished and overwhelmingly radio-friendly. Check for example The Green’s All I Need, The Simpkin Project’s Some Thing’s Don’t Change and Soja’s Sing To Me.
The U.S. reggae scene has been growing for several years with many new groups and artists. These four bands – at least Soja, The Simpkin Project and The Green – are some of the more well-known and they have managed to attract an audience that is not necessarily hardcore reggae fans. Happy to see that they are spreading the reggae gospel.
The U.S. reggae scene has never been really thriving, and most reggae coming from the States is usually pretty lightweight and often heavily inspired by rock and punk. It has changed a bit though, much thanks to the prospering VI reggae scene and bands and artists like Midnite, Pressure, Niyorah and Bambú Station.
And the U.S. reggae scene is also much of a domestic scene and local acts tour North America like crazy. One of those acts is the immensely popular Soldiers of Jah Army (SOJA), an eight piece band that has been together for 17 years.
Their fifth album Amid the Noise and Haste is as radio-friendly as their previous sets with influences from pop, rock, latin and hip-hop. And its title nails the sound, because this album certainly doesn’t run towards a red light and singer and fan favorite Jacob Hemphill barely raises his frail and nasal voice. It’s full of slow jams and laid-back grooves with a more buoyant cut here and a muscular guitar solo there.
Amid the Noise and Haste is partly produced by Jamaican-born super producer Supa Dups, known as a founding member and owner of the Miami-based Black Chiney sound system. But he is also known for working with several reggae, dancehall and hip-hop heavyweights, and he has managed to win no less than three producer’s Grammys for his work with Drake, Bruno Mars and Eminem.
Several guest artists are featured on the album – Damian Marley, Collie Buddz, Michael Franti, J Boog, Anuhea, Nahko, Trevor Young, Alfred the MC, Bobby Lee and Mala Rodriguez. According to SOJA these performers help to demonstrate each song and either relate or convey messages of social resistance, environmental consciousness and personal reflection.
They want the listener to connect with his or hers inner self and take control over one’s own destiny while listening to gently vibrating reggae music.
Today popular U.S. reggae band Soja released their fifth studio album Amid the Noise and Haste, a set featuring guest performances from Damian Marley, Collie Buddz and Michael Franti. It has been produced by multiple Grammy award winning Jamaican producer Supa Dups, who has previously worked with Bruno Mars, Rihanna and John Legend.
Soja will have an album release show in Washington DC, and that show can be seen below. The show starts at 8.30 PM EST.
U.S. reggae band Soja announce their new album and drops the initial single I Believe, a song featuring Michael Franti and Nahko.
The pop-infused I Believe is taken from Soja’s upcoming fifth album Amid the Noise and Haste, a set expected to be put out in July or August. The single was produced by multiple Grammy award winning Jamaican producer Supa Dups, who has previously worked with best-selling artists such as Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Eminem and John Legend. And I Believe certainly has a strong crossover potential.
“’I Believe‘ is about life; being kind to others and making the most out of the time we have with those that surround us,” says lead singer and guitarist Jacob Hemphill in a press release, and adds:
“Whether we are family, friends or strangers, how we treat one another and energy we share dictates our existence.”
Over the course of the past few years, Soja has sold more than 200,000 albums and headlined shows in more than 20 countries around the world. They have also been touring like maniacs and have die-hard followers following them from city to city.
U.S. reggae rock band and Billboard Reggae Chart toppers Rebelution have a new album out on June 10. Count Me In is the band’s fourth album since their debut in 2007, when Courage to Grow was released.
Rebelution was formed in 2004 in Santa Barbara, California, and they have a strong following in the U.S., where they have toured relentlessly for the past years, just like their counterparts in Soja and Tribal Seeds.
Their new album was produced by the band themselves and features guest appearances by dancehall artist Collie Buddz and legendary roots reggae singer Don Carlos, who also shows up on the aforementioned Tribal Seeds’ new album Representing.
The album’s 11 tracks is in a press release described as positive, inspirational and encouraging and aim for having an optimistic impact on society and life.
“A lot of what we hear every day is that money measures success,” says vocalist Eric Rachmany, and adds:
“This new album is a reminder to spread love and positivity to the people around us – these are the true measures of success.”
I’ve just had my first encounter with Hawaiian six piece band The Green. They’re part of the burgeoning U.S. reggae scene with successful bands such as Groundation, Easy Star All-Stars, Soja, Rebelution and John Brown’s Body. And Midnite of course. Even though they represent the Virgin Islands.
Their third album Hawai’I ’13 was recently released and it went straight to the top of the Billboard Reggae Chart and #77 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.
And when listening to the 15 track set it’s easy to understand way. It’s easy accessible and just as appealing as a big scoop of chocolate ice cream on a hot and sunny day.
Some will probably dismiss this album and its fusion of reggae, pop and soul, with a slight touch of rock, as lightweight pop reggae. Well, yes, it is slick and it is as polished as a Wall Street bankers shoes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hawai’I ’13 is jam-packed with infectious melodies, skanking grooves, memorable hooks, beautiful four part harmonizing and sing-a-long choruses.
It can be a bit slick and sugary though. The piano ballad Chocolates & Roses is one such example. Luckily enough there are a number of standout tracks that will keep you interested – Good One and Something About It are two such examples.
Hawai’I ’13 is a positive album from start to finish and it sounds like a warm breeze on a beautiful beach. This is good times with a capital G.
U.S. reggae band SOJA’s front man and lead singer Jacob Hemphill struggles to save the world. He packages his music in a neat and sweet wrapping paper, but the inside is sour since the lyrics often deal with tough issues such as the environment and the many problems the human race is facing.
As the son of a former IMF representative he has politics and economics in his blood, and when he and his family lived in Liberia in the 80’s he experienced war on first-hand basis, an experience that has shaped him as a person.
SOJA with lead singer Jacob Hemphill in the middle.
SOJA’s latest album is called Strength to Survive and was released in January in the U.S. and in October in the rest of the world. It was produced together with mainstream pop producer John Alegia, who has previously worked with Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer and Jason Mraz.
Compared to previous SOJA albums this one is the most pop influenced yet, even though they have had the same formula from the scratch.
I got a chat with Jacob Hemphill when the band was on a European tour and we talked about politics, Strength to Survive and why oil is the greatest threat to mankind. Check the full story over at United Reggae.
Seven piece U.S. reggae band SOJA’s fourth album Strength to Survive was released in January this year, but has recently got a European release courtesy of VP Records with no less than six bonus tracks – four acoustic versions and two new versions of Everything Changes, one with French singer Balik from Danakil and one with German singjay Gentleman.
SOJA was formed in 1997 and dropped their debut album three years later. Singer, guitarist and front man Jacob Hemphill has since the beginning of the band’s endeavors strived to write serious lyrics with messages of unity, universal love and the many challenges the human race faces.
As the son of a former IMF employee Jacob Hemphill has probably learnt a thing or two about politics and economics, and now he’s on a mission to save humanity and this planet with music and lyrics rather than policies and legislative initiatives.
On Strength to Survive SOJA has together with producer John Alagia – responsible for several albums with Dave Matthews Band – managed to put a glossy wrap around the somber lyrics consisting of beautiful, bright and melancholic melodies and memorable hooks.
Jacob Hemphill is a talented songwriter with a singing style sometimes reminiscent of Bob Marley, nowadays minus the patois accent. His nasal singing, sometimes bedroom-like whispering, flows nicely over the easy skanking reggae grooves comparable to artists such as Bruno Mars or Jason Mraz.
Over the years SOJA have built-up a diehard fan base and have headlined large theaters in more than 15 countries around the world. Certainly an impressive accomplishment for a band that sings about saving the environment and their hopes about the world coming together as one.
I have a hunch that Jacob Hemphill’s pretty boy looks and charisma might be the secret ingredient in the SOJA formula for success apart from them being able to write pop songs with a message.