“Radical” review

This is brutal.radical

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the album most longtime Sizzla fans were anticipating most this year is a disappointment.  Sounds strange to say considering how great some of these tunes are, but give me a minute to explain.

Basically this album is two separate animals – genetic cousins, but not identical twins by any means – wrestling for control.  There is the modern (but still rootsy) Sizzla on tracks like the several-years-old singles “What’s Wrong With The Picture,” “Burn Dem Schism,” and “Golden Rule” (which came out originally with the title “Obtain Jah Knowledge”).  He also shows up on the fairly annoying “Everybody Has To Live” – the annoyingness here is no fault of Sizzla’s, who delivers admirably, but rather the riddim which employs a really obnoxious and persistent wah-wah sound.  Most of these songs are good.  (“That’s Why I Love You” is really not though, and wasn’t when I first heard it in 2008.)  A couple, especially the lovely “Best Thing In My Life,” are even great.

The other animal is a very early (the earliest, really) incarnation of Sizzla who burned it down on vinyl singles and later albums like the beloved “Praise Ye Jah.”  The title track, “Sad Mistake” (not the song you may think it is), and “Hardcore” all hail from this era.  As good of songs as they are, they sit uncomfortably next to songs that were clearly recorded many years later.  More frustratingly, I’d swear – maybe not with a gun to my head, but otherwise I feel fairly sure – that some of these songs are not mastered at the correct pitch here.  On “Hardcore” especially, Sizzla sounds suspiciously chipmunk-like, and the riddim comes off as nearly frantic, as fast as it moves along.  Sizzla’s voice dropped to a huskier register over the years anyway, so when you put these old songs next to newer ones and then speed them up a little as well, the juxtaposition is just bizarre and frustrating.  And after the first half of the album is done, these songs dry up completely – which is maybe for the best given the indifferent presentation.  Only the borderline-magical “I Am No Better” (the 16th and final track) brings this vibe back to the album.

And that’s only the most glaring issues.  Others include the choice of a lead-off track, “Protect My Life” (third Sizzla song by that name) which has a falsetto chorus that even drove me around the bend, and I have a high tolerance for that.  “That’s Why I Love You” has an audio glitch around the 3:13 mark on the word “riches,” which was present in the earlier single as well and apparently never fixed.  Who was in charge of the final master on this, and did they even listen through it to make sure it was ready to press?  “All Da Time” has a weird hip hop vibe that is out of place even in this shaggydog set; when you’ve already got whiplash from going back and forth between two eras of Sizzla, you don’t really want something that sounds like one of the bum tracks from “Brighter Day” t-boning you in the intersection too.  “Fly High Fly Low” is another familiar old single without much to recommend it – just a feather-light hip hop beat, and for some reason, a shorter mix here than the original single (which was almost a minute longer).  And “I’m A Winner” is another hard left turn in an album that needs fewer of them – or more of them, I’m not quite sure which.

It remains to be seen how the third (and maybe fourth?) Sizzla album(s) this year will be.  But of the two we’ve got so far, I think history will be a lot kinder to “Nuh Worry Unu Self” than “Radical,” which is fairly slapdash and would be just a complete mess if I didn’t feel so strongly inclined toward a few specific songs here.  Maybe one of these days, VP will get into the vaults and give us a well-sequenced, properly-mastered collection of dusty old obscurities (of which we all know there are probably many more).  Unfortunately, “Radical” isn’t it.  I don’t really know WHAT it is.  A fairly bad album that swallowed a really good EP whole, I think.

3.5/10 *

* Boilerplate score explanation: This being a site devoted SOLELY to Sizzla, you might guess that I’m pretty biased in his favor.  Nonetheless, I intend to review his albums from time to time, and I want to judge them against one another primarily.  So the basic scale is that “Black Woman & Child” gets a 10, and “Addicted” gets a 1.  That’s the scale we’re working with.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shamelessness.

I don’t understand who does this kind of shit.  I understand why (get more views on their video) but man, it’s just annoying and does not predispose me to want to follow this artist any further.

What this appears to be: some girl on a track called “Touch Me Right” with Sizzla, Damian Marley and Gaza Slim (?).  What this actually is: some girl’s track, followed by “Rock Stone” (a song by Stephen Marley, not Damian).  So you’ve already heard the part that you want to hear.  Video below just for reference, so you know what I’m complaining about, but I don’t really advise watching it.  Because why would you?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s A Rocky Road (from the “Radical” album)

This album is coming fast – in fact my copy is already on its way to me courtesy of the VP web shop.  Can’t wait!  This is pure vintage Kalonji right here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nuh Worry Unu Self coming to CD (I think)

Here’s the kind of scoop you won’t get anywhere else.  I couldn’t find a contact for John John and no one else seemed to know anything about it, so eventually I just e-mailed Sizzla’s own email address for bookings, and apologetically asked if there was a CD on the way for this album.  And a few hours later I got a to-the-point reply: Yes, it is.

I assume the man himself would know, and I assume this is the man himself since I got the email from his official Facebook page.  So there you go – a physical version is inbound at some point.

And also, whoooooo, Sizzla emailed me today!  Gotta love the internet.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ANOTHER new album incoming??

If you haven’t visited the following page before, you might want to bookmark it.  This is Sizzla’s official Facebook page.  Why am I linking to it now?  Well, maybe because of this tantalizing status update:

sizzla fbSo… there’s that.  No further mention of who he’s recording with, when it will be out, or what label will release it.  If I had to make wild, unsubstantiated guesses on all three, I’d say Bread Back (with an outside chance of Don Corleon), sometime in late 2014, and VP/Kalonji Records.  But who knows?  I’m just excited to be back in a time where Sizzla albums arrive practically as often as major holidays.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rock Stone w/ Stephen Marley & Capleton

Stephen Marley is easily my favorite of the still-living Marleys.  His production is quality stuff and his Bob-like vocals just hit the sweet spot for me.  So, a Sizzla and Capleton collab with the man is MOST welcome, and this is a very good one.  Check it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gangsta

Here’s an odd, odd single.  The riddim is pretty smooth in an R&B way (no reggae in sight though, sorry).  Sizzla brings a chorus that is superficially pretty, until you pay any attention whatsoever to the CRAZY lyrics.  The verses take it even further, with ten-years-ago-style super-rough vocals and “brains on tar”-type sentiments.  I actually… don’t quite hate this.  It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure.  But it’s also just a step or two removed from the wack pseudo-gangsta rap Sizzla was seemingly spitting off the cuff around the time of the “Babylon is Burning” promo/bootleg/thing that was circulating online.  People who mostly like the earnest, pious side of Sizzla will dislike this intensely, and with good cause.  People like me who grew up listening to N.W.A. and Dr. Dre might have some grudging affection for it despite their better judgment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Time Now w/ Goddaz (preview)

I don’t know what this is.  Hopefully this song will pick up after the opening 30 seconds.  This intro isn’t doing much for me though – what’s with the piano?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFNBL_HdZdY

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Nuh Worry Unu Self” review

nuh worry unu selfHere we have the first new full-length from Sizzla in 2014, and it’s a doozy.  “Nuh Worry Unu Self” follows arguably Sizzla’s biggest album of the last 6-7 years (at least in my book), which was “The Scriptures,” also helmed by producer John John.  Right now only a digital download is available – more on which below.

This album kicks off with a single from a couple years ago, then called “Never Sell Out Your Soul” and now freshly renamed “Reach For Your Goals.”  It’s pretty and meditative – a very atypical opener for a Sizzla album, and to my ears almost a little cloying in how soothing it gets.  I don’t know that I would have picked it for the lead-off track, but it’s a nice tune that I can’t help singing along with.

Serious roots vibes come in after that, letting you know on no uncertain terms that this is indeed a sort of sequel to the very back-to-roots “Scriptures” album.  The title track is just gorgeous, with a chorus that is almost stunningly lovely due to the combination of the DJ’s melody and the warm production.  After that the heavier, minor-key approach of “What’s Wrong” is a welcome change-up while still keeping the classic reggae approach going.  This establishes the predominant sound of the album: one drop riddims, lush mastering and an instrumental palette rich with live-sounding instruments.  Throughout, Sizzla is responsive to the material and brings some of his best melodies on a release in some time.

There’s really just one curveball, the digital hip hop-influenced track “Look a Wuk” with Mykal Rose.  Even this manages to keep a somewhat throwback vibe with a beat that wouldn’t be wildly out of place in the first (post-Sleng Teng) decade of dancehall; Tommy Lee Sparta, this ain’t.  Otherwise this is pretty clearly a roots reggae album like its predecessor.  The mood stays pretty even, and with highlight reel tunes like “Burn the Herbs,” “Thanks And Praise” (only the fourth Sizzla song by that name, but this is one of the better ones) and “Come On” (another new song with an old name), this is definitely a worthy entry in the Kalonji catalog.  Special note should be made of the big, big retro-dancehall tune “Squeeze Me Tight.”  This is a total get-up-and-move-your-ass song, and justifies breaking from the more pure reggae of the majority of the album by being just so damn fun and catchy.

Two footnotes of some interest should be added here.  One is that the mastering is a little strange.  All the tracks sound good, but a few cut off somewhat abruptly instead of coming to a natural conclusion or fading out smoothly.  For instance, the very first track “Reach For Your Goals” fades, fades… and then just stops before it’s faded all the way.  Both “Keep Out of Corruption” and “Thanks and Praise” stop out of the blue, back to back.  This suggests the release might have been a bit rushed, as no such issues afflicted “The Scriptures.”

The other is that as of this writing, there’s no physical release and no indications that there will be one.  John John has little to no web presence – no Facebook or official web site that I can find – so I asked around with my other resources (the esteemed Ras Achis, the good folks at Ernie B’s reggae store, and whoever answers e-mails for VP), but found out that no one knows a thing about this.  Hopefully a CD will eventually appear as the material here is too good to be consigned to an mp3-only existence.

Overall, “Nuh Worry Unu Self” is a worthy successor to 2011′s “The Scriptures,” if not quite as magical as that album so unexpectedly was; and if you were a fan of that one (or are a fan of Sizzla’s whatsoever) you’ll want this for sure.  Go buy it legally and support John John – and maybe if we’re lucky the interest and revenue will result in a CD as well.

8/10 *

* Boilerplate score explanation: This being a site devoted SOLELY to Sizzla, you might guess that I’m pretty biased in his favor.  Nonetheless, I intend to review his albums from time to time, and I want to judge them against one another primarily.  So the basic scale is that “Black Woman & Child” gets a 10, and “Addicted” gets a 1.  That’s the scale we’re working with.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mafia Music III w/ Rick Ross, Mavado

This is one of Sizzla’s infrequent hip hop collaborations.  He has a sampled/looped vocal in the background of the whole track, and then comes in with a real (albeit brief) part toward the end.  I’m not a huge Ross fan but this track is alright.  It and the album it appears on are available for download now, too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment