Album Review: Blvk H3ro - Immortal Steppa
by Gardy Stein
Listening to this album, I wondered, for the first time ever, if its review belongs on a Reggae Site, to be honest. Where most other releases have a straight approach and an easily discernible pattern of Roots, Rockers, Rocksteady or Dancehall, the Immortal Steppa is a diagonal, zany, askew affair. No point of reference!
Why still publish it here? For one, artiste Hervin Bailey Jr. aka Blvk H3ro undeniably belongs to the vibrant, creative pool of the contemporary Kingston Reggae scene, having established firm links with Rastafari and the holy herb during his young career and gracing stages on Reggae Festivals and related events throughout Jamaica and even Europe. Then again, some of the tracks reveal their relationship with the genre only on second or third glance, such as the almost acoustic Mama (produced by Bastido) or Blvk Peppa, which is spiced with bass-heavy traces of Dancehall by producer The Grei Show. And, finally, the intro: from the 14 tracks included, only Feet Don't Fail has that unmistakable Reggae flow, created by Anthony Hibbert's Guerilla Music Productions, one of the more established producers of the riddim contributions.
In an interview with Jamaican Observer's Splash, H3ro revealed why almost every track has a different creator: "We had limited resources, so we decided to keep the production in-house. I also wanted my first album to be diverse and to showcase my skills and vocal range in different ways. All the producers that I worked with are young Jamaicans" (Jamaican Observer Splash, Feb. 15th, 2019)
Most prominent among those is Dennis "Greatest" Hamilton, who contributed Movin' On, Get High, the cinemaesque H3rb and the laid-back M.A.R.Y. The latter two were already released on H3ro's EP THC: The Herb Connoisseur back in 2016, as was Skydive (produced by Boomdraw & Kone), which features longtime buddy Leno Banton, son of the legendary Burro Banton, and vocals as twisted as the track itself.
Another interesting feature is Iotosh, offspring of Ragnam Poyser who was a part of the Xterminator Crew, on the trappy Watch Yuh Step by Palace Pikney. Last but not least, versatile Royal Blu joins Blvk H3ro on the JLL-produced Funk Out which, as the name implies, is a funky little thing, revealing the artist's musical socialisation with the likes of Michael Jackson and Kirk Franklin, including an unusual snippet of George Michael's Never Gonna Dance Again. More funk is coming your way in an adaption of Stevie Wonder's Superstition, while both Can I and My Love take on a more soulful, R&B-tinged approach.
Closing with We On (another The Grei Show production), the Immortal Steppa leaves me slighty confused ("What did I just listen to?"), but definitely impressed. And, as he stated in another interview, that might be exactly what Blvk H3ro intended: "What I want people to expect for sure, is new sounds, new melodies and new flows that will still have a nostalgic feel. My first full length project ‘The Immortal Steppa’ is like a menu of great soulful dishes to not only soothe your musical appetite but that will also inspire new cravings. The team and I put our literal blood, sweat and tears into it, so it’s definitely a passionate collection of sounds that we believe in with all our hearts. I guarantee there is a sound for every musical taste on this project!" (For The Culture 876, April 20th, 2018)
Blvk H3ro - The Immortal Steppa
DIGITAL RELEASE [Dub Shot Records]
Release date: 02/15/2019
01. Feet Don't Fail
02. Movin' On
03. Skydive feat. Leno Banton
05. Watch Yuh Step feat. Iotosh
07. Funk Out feat. Royal Blu
08. Can I (Show Ya)
09. Blvk Peppa
10. Get High
12. My Love
14. We On