I already mentioned a while back the dulcet tones of I-Octane and how he constantly shares the truth and tugs on heartstrings in so many of his releases. The same goes for upcoming Brit dancehall singer Fresharda (possibly with a little more auto-tune, but it works a treat, so who cares).
Since the promo of Romain Virgo’s ‘I Know Better’ on VP Records in advance of his forthcoming LP ‘System’ (May 7th apparently) and Lutan Fyah’s two bangers ‘I’m Leaving’ (7” on Red Earth Records, 2011) and ‘Food’ (the latter produced by Shiah Coore, of Mad Ants Riddim fame, who promises me the official release is this month), I feel like my ipod really is cram full of real reggae, conscious material. A full spectrum of colour, and a breath of fresh air from the likes of Kartel and Mr Vegas (both of whom I dig, but in limited doses).
The maturity of Romain’s sound is astonishing considering his age; according to Wikipedia, he was born c. 1990. In ‘I Know Better’, the Jamaican singer explicitly makes the point of separating himself from beef, the possibility of being caught up in G culture;
“Me coulda have gun pon waist, boy dis and me kick off him face - me coulda, run de place, done de place…But me choose to keep it clean”
Coming from a yoot, this is so admirable, especially since Kartel is set to appear in the dock on charges of murdering Clive “Lizard” Williams. He’s a positive role model if there ever was one (whereas Assassin declaring that he has “a gangster attitude” pon the Rude Boy Remix, really isn’t). And you know when mans openly singing about his mother..
“Every time me think about me mother and the promise where me make to her, me know we can’t break that”
..he’s either a soppy bastard or a good man with family values. It’s the latter for sure. This isn’t a case of being holier than thee, just outright honesty. Goosebumps biznis through and through.
Above: Romain Virgo performing live
“No Money”, for me, shaped Virgo’s trademark candour - it’s the absolute antithesis of tunes like Merital’s “My Money (Ha Ha)” or Stylo G “My Style” (again, I do rate these releases, but it’s a tad egotistical for extensive listening). Divulging personal dilemmas, weakness and being broke isn’t fashionable, bragging is, but that’s where the division between apperceptive post-70s reggae and modern dancehall becomes quite blatant; catharsis vs. hype.
Above: Flippa Mafia spraying up Sting festival with Cristal (Photo: Giovanni Powell)
If we’re talking about genuine tings, Lutan’s beautifully gritty voice matches his expression of personal struggle to a tee. The production is so intelligent, catching every bit of breathing he makes (he’s had that going ever since spitting on the Addiction Riddim).
“I may not be able to meet my material needs, but Jah give I food to eat”