Kabaka's partnership for ‘Kontraband’
Kabaka Pyramid's self-sufficiency extends to recording most of his vocals alone in his base studio off Half-Way Tree Road doing the audio engineering himself. It is consistent with his initial 2004 foray into committing his voice to posterity, plugging a microphone into a computer in Miami. "I don't even remember what programme," Pyramid tells The Gleaner. "That was the original" - his first official release was Rebel Music in 2011, the Lead The Way EP featuring various artistes was in 2013, and the Accurate mixtape was done two years ago.
However, this year's debut album, Kontraband, which peaked at number three on the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart earlier this month, marks a major departures from the 'go-it-alone' model he had previously pursued with the Bebble Rock outfit. Kontraband is produced by Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley, Pyramid noting that it is a partnership between Bebble Rock and Marley's Ghetto Youths International. It allows for the level of presentation which he wanted. Kabaka tells The Gleaner that some artistes' first album make no impact and it is not until the third or fourth that they start to get recognition.
"I always have a home studio. You don't have much budget, but when you come out with your album, you want it done a certain way. I knew that Gong would come with the level of production and presentation - that financial strength. All the work we were doing up to that point - the singles, the EP, the mixtape, the shows - were leading up to the album," Kabaka revealed. Those factors apart, though, there was the matter of artistic admiration. As Kabaka puts it, "when one of your idols in music say yes, you don't say no."
Describing part of the creative process, he said, "is a balance. Damian trust me when I am to record. I can go in the studio and voice myself. Me can go in Damian studio and voice when he is not there. But there are times when I want him there. It is good to take coaching and listen to other people."
As is customary when preparing an album, many more songs were recorded than the 16 which made the final cut for mixing about 40 in all. "I still have a lot of unfinished stuff that did not make it. If me have a chorus or verse, me can see where the song is going. If the team mine and Damian feel the energy, we work on it. We have a collaborative decision. Obviously, my opinion count for a lot, but I am not the type to push it," he said.
Among the songs on Kontraband are Make Way, Well Done, Reggae Music, Lyrics Deity and Meaning of Life. The title song is a Kabaka Pyramid/Jr Gong duet, their often humorous take on being searched by the police. Pyramid tells The Gleaner that he was not thinking of a Jamaican situation when writing the lyrics (although he says "me get search in Jamaica too"), but an experience in Bavaria, Germany, when the tour bus got "dig dung."
"From the start to the end of the second verse it was all a vibe thing in the studio. We come up with four lines and agree a 50/50 process, right. When we doing to tie it all together we start to conceptualise, make the thing consistent," he said.
Having completed his debut album, Kabaka Pyramid does not have a timeline for putting out his next full-length project. "Me just want everybody listen the album and listen it keenly, especially Meaning of Life," he said.