Kabaka Pyramid makes his ‘Kalling’
Kabaka Pyramid’s The Kalling, his sophomore project, is one of the five albums nominated in the Best Reggae Album category for the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, which unfolds on Sunday at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
“It’s Rastafari calling the youths to stand up for their rights,” Kabaka told The Sunday Gleaner when asked for a summation of The Kalling.
“ The Kalling is really about my journey in music being for a higher purpose, not just to get rich or popular, but to inspire a higher vibration in whoever listens. While the majority seek pleasure and sense gratification, there are a few who the Most High ‘kall’ upon to keep the balance inna earth. Music is what I use to answer the ‘kall’, and you can feel it throughout this album. I think my audience will see the growth in my songwriting and delivery, along with Zilla’s top-notch and diverse production, making it easy to follow me on this journey from start to finish – no filler tracks to be skipped.”
On this Grammy-nominated project, he worked closely with Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley, who produced the tracks, made beats and even programmed drums.
“Damian outdid himself on The Kalling. It is sonically cohesive. Every song has a different signature. It is an organic production. My band [Bebble Rock] went into the studio and played some of the tracks,” Kabaka added while declining to name a favourite track.
The critically acclaimed album, which received 4.7 million on-demand streams in the US last year, is heavy on collaborations, and Kabaka calls it his “pandemic album”.
Among the songs are Mystik Man, featuring Peter Tosh; Red Gold and Green, featuring Damian Marley; Make Things Work; Grateful, featuring Jemere Morgan; Stand Up ft Nathalia; Mr Rastaman featuring TIFA; The Kalling featuring Jesse Royal, Protoje and Stephen Marley; Faded Away featuring Buju Banton; Addiction; Energy featuring Jemere Morgan; Mary Jane featuring Black Am I; EZ Ride; Life Is Everything featuring Answele and Kontraband, Pt. 2 (Bonus Track) ft Damian Marley.
Sharing his overview of some of the songs on The Kalling, Kabaka explained that Addiction speaks to persons being hooked on things like the phone, online shopping, sugar and food; Energy “is a feel-good kinda vibe”; the song with Tifa, he said, “is almost like a beat that Timbaland would have made in the ‘90s” and Fade Away samples veteran singer Junior Byles’s song of the same name.
Kabaka has a lot of respect for multi-Grammy winner Damian Marley and his work ethic. He has been working with Marley for a number of years and collaborates with him on the hit song Kontraband, which is also the title of his debut album.
“Damian and I are both thinking, spiritual people. And we can reason on a deeper level,” he said.
The Kalling was released on Friday, September 30, and although Kabaka wasn’t focused on a Grammy nomination during the process, he noted that being named made him feel “truly honoured”.
“Now it will be recorded in the history books, and no one can take that away,” he added.
In a social media post about The Kalling, Jr Gong stated: “There is always certain ones that the Most High call up on to do a different work. That’s how I feel about the music. It’s really about changing the vibration; it’s all about word sound … the vibration of the whole planet, really. This is our pandemic product. This kept us sane throughout the last two and a half three years. This is an important album, especially in terms of the messages that it is sending out right now ... much needed but very absent from our sphere of music. There is an underlying vibration that this is for a higher purpose; that’s why we seh The Kalling.”
On Sunday, Kabaka Pyramid is scheduled to walk the Grammy red carpet and listening keenly for the news will be his mother, who was among the first persons he called when he heard that The Kalling was nominated for a Grammy.
The other four albums nominated in the Best Reggae Album category are Koffee’s Gifted; Protoje’s Third Time’s The Charm; Sean Paul’s Scorcha, and Shaggy’s Come Fly Wid Mi.
The 2022 Best Reggae Grammy was won by SOJA for Beauty in the Silence.
‘Gifted’ – Koffee
At 22, Koffee released Gifted, her 10-track, full-length, debut album. Released on March 25 through Promised Land Recordings and RCA, Gifted was number two on the reggae chart on April 9 with 3,500 equivalent album units sold.
A blend of reggae, dancehall, and Afrobeats, Gifted is the follow-up to the EP Rapture,which made Koffee the youngest sole female artiste to win the Best Reggae Album Grammy. Rolling Stone labelled the album “brilliant”, while NME noted that it is “another giant step forward for reggae’s bright new star”.
Gifted also has a deluxe edition that includes Toast; W, featuring Gunna; and Rapture.
For 2022, Gifted amassed a whopping 77.88 million on-demand streams.
‘Com Fly Wid Mi’ – Shaggy
Rock icon Sting and diamond-selling regae and dancehall artiste Shaggy, critiqued as “an unlikely pair”, showed their mettle by winning the Grammy Award in 2019 for their collaborative album 44/876. The two combined their talents again in 2022 for the Sting-produced album Com Fly Wid Mi, which features Shaggy singing the Sinatra songbook in reggae style. Frank Sinatra tribute albums seem to have a romance with the Grammys. Billboard.com noted that “two previous Sinatra tribute albums won Grammys for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album – Tony Bennett’s Perfectly Frank (1992) and Willie Nelson’s My Way (2018). Seven others were nominated in that category – Barry Manilow’s Manilow Sings Sinatra (1999); Keely Smith’s Keely Sings Sinatra (2001); Michael Feinstein’s The Sinatra Project (2008); Bob Dylan’s Shadows in the Night (2015), Fallen Angels (2016) and Triplicate (2017) and Nelson’s That’s Life (2021).
The 11-track album – Com Fly Wid Mi – was released on May 25, 2022, on all digital platforms.
Come Fly Wid Mi sold 358 copies in its first week and didn’t make it in the top 10, but clearly, it is not a numbers game when it comes to Grammy nominations. Shaggy has been busy on the international circuit, even doing an interview with Grammy.com, and he is ready to celebrate on Sunday.
On November 22, he posted on social media, “A week later and still buzzing from the news that COM FLY WID MI is #GRAMMYs nominated for Best Reggae Album! Congratulations again to my fellow nominees and thank you @RecordingAcademy for this honor! I’m thrilled to be included as part of Music’s Biggest Night on @CBStv and can’t wait to celebrate alongside you Feb 5.”
‘Third Time’s The Charm’ – Protoje
Protoje’s sixth studio album, Third Time’s The Charm, was released on September 23, 2022, on In.Digg.Nation Collective and RCA Records labels and is the singer’s second album to be nominated for the Reggae Album category of the Grammy Awards. A 10-track set, it features collabs with artistes such as Samory I, Lila Iké, and Jesse Royal. Third Time’s The Charm peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart and by year end, with first-week sales of 270, it amassed 5.2 million on-demand streams in the US.
‘Scorcha’ – Sean Paul
Scorcha, which comprises 16 dancehall tracks, is the eighth studio album by Sean Paul. Released on May 27, 2022, through Island Records, it features collaborations with Gwen Stefani, Shenseea, Stylo G, Damian Marley, Nicky Jam, Tove Lo, Jada Kingdom, Pia Mia and Ty Dolla Sign. In its review, Forbes magazine’s headline stated that “Sean Paul Turns Up the Temperature With ‘Scorcha’ Album”.
Scorcha debuted at number six on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart, and Kyann-Sian Williams of NME gave it a four-star rating, out of a possible five, calling it “pop-accented bops from the Godfather of Dancehall”. Its first-week sales of 1,700 equivalent album units, which included 600 copies in album sales and 1,400,000 in on-demand audio and video streaming, were described as “lukewarm”. However, after 16.2 million on-demand streams in the US by year end and a Grammy nomination, Scorcha is definitely scorching.