Album Review: Alborosie - Destiny
by Steve Topple
After a two-year hiatus following his last release For The Culture, Alborosie has returned with another offering – and it’s quite a different beast to his previous record.
Destiny, released via VP Records and Shengen Entertainment, sees Italian-born, Jamaica-based Albo move further forward with his sound. For The Culture, in the most part, was a throwback affair with its use of analogue kit and synths – albeit with a dose of Hip Hop thrown in for good measure. With Destiny, Albo has changed tack somewhat – honing in more on Roots, but with some modern twists.
However, what hasn’t changed tack is that most of the record is composed, instrumentalised, produced, mixed, and mastered by him. No mean feat as always – but Alborosie has done it with aplomb.
The album opens with the title intro – a stripped-back, ethereal Dub affair which serves more as a transition into Destiny. Viral follows, with a Revival Reggae sound: those harder Hip Hop drums, coupled with Roots sensibilities like a bubble rhythm, and winding bass. The additional touches of regals horns and some decent synths serves Viral well.
Over My Shoulders featuring Buju Banton takes the very 2010s Revival sound and brings it into a minor key-led 2023. Ominous drums centre around some Trap vibes, including those signature buzz rolls on the hi-hats. The bass is brooding, the arrangement on the verses stark versus the intense chorus – and the winding horns finish this off well. Banton and Albo pair off superbly together, and the result is a strong, haunting track.
Rastazeneka winds the vibes back to something more traditional Roots. The smooth, swaying horns, tinkering piano riff beyond the bubble rhythm, and the slick backing vocals complement the winding bass and fluid drums. Then, Faith featuring rising star Jaz Elise is back to the 2020s, Trap-meets-Roots sound. A swooping bass, hi-hat Trap buzz rolls, and some synths make this perfect, modern fayre – and the inclusion of the infinitely talented Elise is a genius move, with both artists showing their vocal dexterity well.
No Good Again is soulful Roots – note the very well-arranged horn line, and call and response backing vocals. Meanwhile, Give It To Them featuring Burro Banton is a modern take on a Rub-A-Dub sound: unfussy chord progressions, bass-heavy, drum-led, with a decent wind – but to bring it into 2023 some nice engineering across the vocals. What vocals they are, too – with Albo and Banton giving sterling performances.
Next, and Destination (Interlude) is a soulful transition into the next part of Destiny – which is Royal Throne featuring Ezhel. It makes for a more soulful yet smorgasbord-like tone to the album, with a synth horn line that could be straight out of the last century but buzz rolls that are very 2023. The breaks are well arranged, and Ezhel is a revelation: smooth, engaged, and very talented. Turkish-born rapper Ezhel is a big star in his native Turkey, and he has previously helped Gentleman expand his audience base with two collaborations. Clearly, Albo could gain a lot of Turkish fans, now!
Focus is a decent piece of stripped-back Reggae-Dub which is Old Skool in flavour. But Nah Sell Out featuring Grammy-winning Kabaka Pyramid is back to the 2010 Revival sound. Imposing drums which marry with the bass dominate the track, driving it forward. A synth horn line serves as a secondary vocal, and the use of sirens and chomping keys give Nah Sell Out a very unsettling, edgy tone – with Pyramid being on top form as always.
General is perhaps the most unexpected track of Destiny: a Hip Hop/Trap freestyle beat meets Reggae instrumentation over the top, coupled with some scratching effects. Conversely, I Got You is then an open tribute to an earlier Reggae sound – particularly mid-70s Bob Marley. It’s laid back yet richly arranged, with superb attention to detail in terms of chord progressions, the horn line, and a fluid rhythm section that gives the track momentum, where the rest of instrumentation wouldn’t. Albo’s vocal here is particularly strong – perhaps his best on Destiny – showing his prowess as a Soul singer, complete with some skat. It’s glorious, wonderfully understated and one of the album’s strongest tracks.
Finally, Dubalist featuring Sugus is a Dub track, pure and simple, and closes Destiny. It’s highly effective: electronic-heavy but with a brilliant keys line, rich and layered, complex yet effective and including some very choice synths and samples. Bliss – even more so, because Sugus is actually Albo’s wife’s grandmother, so closing on a family affair is the perfect conclusion.
Much like the musical themes, Destiny is a melting pot of ideas and narratives within the lyrics. From Viral’s take-down of our modern obsession with vacuous celebrity, now compounded by social media, to Rastazeneka’s delicious dig at Big Pharma – proclaiming natural medicine (i.e. weed) is better – Albo deals with many themes surrounding the modern world.
No Good Again discusses how Albo stays true to his beliefs in the face of modern Babylon and its proponents’ persistent mendacity – and will continue with his music (as should all Reggae artists) despite this. Focus is perhaps the natural progression of this – with Albo telling us to ignore the haters – with Nah Sell Out compounding both these messages, reminding us money is the root of all evil.
Spirituality is dealt with via Over My Shoulder, which pays homage to Jah in a world spinning out of control, while Faith also does similar. But Albo also deals with themes of love, too. Royal Throne is a glorious tribute to the sanctity of a spiritual relationship, despite the trappings of the world being against you – but also a person’s own, inner royalty too.
But again, I Got You is perhaps the best of all this. Albo sounds sincere, almost improvised, with his tribute to the person in his life who has made it complete. It feels the most authentic of all the tracks, both musically and lyrically – and should be the album’s biggest release.
Overall, Destiny is a marvellous piece of work from Alborosi. Musically, it’s a change of course from For The Culture, but that’s a good thing as it once again shows this artist’s diverse and multifaceted talents. Stirring, infinitely listenable, and oozing quality. Excellent works.
Alborosie - Destiny
ALBUM DIGITAL / CD / VINYL [VP Records]
Release date: 05/26/2023
03. Over My Shoulders feat. Buju Banton
05. Faith feat. Jaz Elise
06. No Good Again
07. Give It To Them feat. Burro Banton
08. Destination (Interlude)
09. Royal Throne feat. Ezhel
11. Nah Sell Out feat. Kabaka Pyramid
13. I Got You
14. Dubalist feat. Sugus