Album Review: Dre Island - Now I Rise
by Gardy Stein
"This album speaks of arising, growth, new beginnings and emerging from the ashes and at this time these are all the things we need based on what is happening right now. (…) I am inspired by life and everything I do is inspired by the father and so I am moved to drop this album at this time because I am divinely inspired to do so." (Dre Island)
Five years in the making, the time is now for Dre Island to release his debut-album Now I Rise. The Kingston-born and -raised youth has come a long way from his first single Reggae Love in 2013, followed by charismatic stage shows triggering international attention, to the full-fledged artist he is today. As such, he and his label Dre Island Music are responsible for the executive production of the present album, although he teamed up with Kingston Hills Entertainment and NYC's DubShot Records for good measure.
It's with an eerie feeling the lyrics of the opening track Kingdom fall on our ears, knowing that the album went through the final mastering well before the vile homicide of George Floyd provoked an international outcry. Almost literally, Dre Island predicts what's happening in the big American cities today: "Watching we shake up every city and break up dem bones when rasta youths come fi claim dem own…" Co-produced by Anju Blaxx, the track has a gripping marching riddim to which both the staccato delivery of the verses and the hypnotic melody of the chorus make a perfect match.
Other producers lending their skills to the project are Jam2 (My City), Teetimus (Four Seasons) and Winta James (Never Run Dry), thus expanding the scope of the musical experience by R&B, Disco and HipHop flavours, respectively. Barkley Productions add the pensive Be Okay, which brings us into the realm of features. The unmistakable voice of Jesse Royal teams up with Dre Island to confront us with the way we treat our environment: "She give you all this food to eat, all this air to breathe, all these memories, and this is how you repay her?"
Further features include newcomer Alandon on Run To Me as well as genre-celebrities Chronixx (Days Of Stone) and Popcaan on We Pray. About the latter, Dre Island says: "I can take no credit for a song like that. Yes I wrote the lyrics and built the rhythm and I voice the track, but it's a prayer, not just a song so how a man fi tek credit for something that come from above."
Turning to the title track Now I Rise, it kind of sums up the mood of the release. What we hear is not a Roots Reggae album musically, but it incorporates much of the confident, rebellious Rasta mindset Dre Island has grown to identify with.
Closing the album, Still Remain is one of the most powerful tracks. Produced by Dretegs Music, it creates a dense, almost ominous atmosphere in which Dre Island's vocals unfold their full potential. Harbouring an insistent roughness, they still bring across the emotion necessitated by the lyrics, so vividly depicted by the accompanying visuals.
A special treat for fans and important contribution to these times, Now I Rise will be released as deluxe edition on June 26th, including three additional tracks plus the stirring Justice, a feature with Wyclef Jean talking about racial divide and the continuous, unjustifiable murder of black people.
Dre Island - Now I Rise
DIGITAL RELEASE [DubShot Records]
Release date: 05/29/2020
02. Now I Rise
03. We Pray feat. Popcaan
04. Never Run Dry
05. Days Of Stone feat. Chronixx
06. My City
07. Four Season
09. Run To Me feat. Alandon
10. Favorite Girl
11. Be Okay feat. Jesse Royal
12. More Love
13. Still Remain