M-16 starts ‘shat’ section of 'Natural High'
The Natural High-produced album Urban Roots is a refreshing reminder that a various-artistes collection need not be a riddim-driven set. Initial expectations of a number of performers trying to eke out diversity from the same musical bed were quickly and happily dispensed with by Chezidek's World War 3, which follows Dre Island's strong opening track, Live Forever.
However, on a set of a generally acceptable standard, it is Keida's M16 (track 5), which starts the strongest continuous segment of the album. It goes through to track 9, Lutan Fyah's Royal Empress and can be considered a five-track sub-album on the 16-track set. In between them are Jah Over Evil (Free'dem), Out Di Box (Stevie Lighting), and Best-Kept Secret (Locked Away) by Kelissa.
M16 is an exquisite combination of a rockers rhythm, which starts without fanfare; vocals, which verge on R&B in the earliest stages before going through various stages to almost deejaying then back; and a strong anti-violence message. She sings what is perhaps a personal warning or general advice to fellow artistes:
"You will never capture my mind
If you serenade me with your M16."
Then, spanning the transition from bassline dominating to the trap set joining in, is the observation:
"I've never heard a crowd request an encore
From a Beretta before ...
So let your music be your weapon
You woulda really mash up the lawn."
And Keida puts the way in which people are shaped by their circumstances this way:
"Well if you put me inna the bank, I'm a bank manager
Put me inna the bar, I'm a bartender
If you put me on a horse, I'm a horse rider
An' if you gimme big gun, me a go tun murdera ..."
'Nah change no law'
Jah Over Evil is an insistence on heterosexuality, without threatening anyone with dire consequences, the deejay stating:
"Well make dem know we nah change no law fi suit dem habit
From a no man an woman tings say we ago ban it
So how dem fi go roun di Bible an dis Jah disciple
Tell dem say a Jah over evil
Well a jus de woman dem we feature, drink we medina ..."
Stephen Newland (Stevie Lightning) of Rootz Underground is known for his physically intense performances, and on Out Di Box, his vocals portray, in sound what his body does on stage. And in the track about being creatively out of the norm, he does sing, "Everything weh I an' I do well, I put passion inna dat." So sung, so done.
The second lady in the album's strongest segment, Kelissa, contributes a fine love song, the type about love that is no more but is still incomparable. It is delivered in parts in a matter-of-fact tone - she is simply stating what is happening ("You've got the key to my heart, so I can't find no love again/And it's been so long, but can't seem to forget") , not necessarily bemoaning her fate. Still, there is some hurt. She sings: "You told me that I was your treasure/But treasure just don't last forever."
Lutan Fyah is also thinking about male-female relationships in Royal Empress, deejaying the virtues of his "real lioness with a brave heart" to the slowest beat on the Natural High CD, a delightful departure from the outright rockers that dominate the rest of the set, with some variations in the later part before the closing dub duo.
Said rockers are consistently strong throughout the album, but at points, the lyrical content is not as consistently strong, despite the performers' good delivery. Keznamdi, who does 10 Pound (Hustle Marijuana), and Mikey General, who sings about Rastafari on Ancient Order, give expected treatment of accustomed topics. Makonnen and Rseenal have good voice variations in pitch and speed but state Rastafari's presence in the 'streets' in less than impressive ways. Eva Hype tries too hard with delivery and lyrics in asserting his musical strength.
Out-of-character Field Marshal
Juju Blood's Field Marshal, which misses its shot at Rastafari lyrical revolution and at one point is repulsive ("Abduct you wifey, leave all the baby bawl/Kick way you two foot in you own blood you crawl") is out of character for Natural High.
Still, Jahvinci's Rudebwoy and Police records the similarity of violent bent by those on opposing sides of Jamaica's street battles, and in the earlier part of the CD, the Jovi Rockwell and Jesse Royal combination Mash Me Up is a pleasant trip into the joys of what sounds like the young stages of love ("She say I love you scary like the Spice Girl Mel").
The producers close out the CD with a dub duo, They Don't Know and Live Forever, a welcome exploration of the possibilities of rhythm and effects, with harmonious vocals. It is a distillation of what they have done throughout the entire set, putting the sounds of wind instruments, synthesisers, and ultra-reliable drum and bass together to excellent musical effect.
1. Live Forever (Dre Island)
2. World War 3 (Chezidek)
3. 10 Pound (Hustle Marijuana( Keznamdi)
4. Mash Me Up (Jesse Royal)
5. M16 (Keida)
6. Jah Over Evil (Free'dem)
7. Out Di Box (Stevie Lightning)
8. Best Kept Secret (Locked Away) (Kelissa)
9. Royal Empress (Lutan Fyah)
10. Ancient Order (Mikey General)
11. Hit After Hit (Eva Hype)
12. Real Talk (Makonnen and Rseenal)
13. Field Marshal (Juju Blood)
14. Rudebwoy and Police (Jahvinci)
15. They Don't Know (Dub) (Natural High Music)
16. Live Forever (Dub) (Natural High Music)