EP Review: Hector Roots Lewis - D'Rootsman
by Gardy Stein
From pounding drums to vibrant vocals: the transition of Hector "Roots" Lewis from a skilled percussionist (who has worked with the likes of Chronixx, Protoje and Kabaka Pyramid) to an equally talented vocalist, accelerated by US-band Tribal Seeds' recent request to substitute for their front singer Steven Rene Jacobo, is made complete by the release of Hector's debut EP D'Rootsman.
Published under the joint roof of Cre8ive Tribe and Ineffable Records, five vibrant pieces acquaint us with the songwriting skills and the voice of this young artist, who is the son of the late Lover's Rock singer Barbara Jones, a fact that explains his early exposure to the art of singing. Riddim-wise, Hector teamed up with three producers who made sure that the EP rings with a variety of flavors: Natural High Jamaica, KongzDrumatic and Grammy-award winning J.L.L., who also acts as executive producer.
The latter provided the musical bracket for this EP, as he contributed both the opening track and the final Ups And Downs, a dynamic neo-Dancehall fusion reflecting on the rocky journey of life that was the first single (released in October 2021) and comes with a video that, next to Hector himself, sees cameos of Kelissa, Chronixx and other creatives. "A who dat, di Rootsman?"
But we are rushing ahead – let's stick to the track list order. The first song King Said starts with a dramatic crescendo of organ and bass, and the building tension is released by a drumroll and the singer's simple plea "Hail him!" at 00:23. Unfolding in an almost cinematic manner, the song is a praise of the Most High, carefully delivered by Hector's bright voice and beautifully enhanced by a perfectly arranged choir.
Up next is my personal favorite Let's Groove. Produced by drummer Kongz, it has that irresistible vibe that invites for dancing and having a good time while, lyrically, it speaks of lockdown and quarantine, giving away the period of its creation. In the accompanying video, the social distance forced upon us for months because of the pandemic is overridden by a small party crowd who gather at the Kingston Dub Club – yes, singer, you got us in the mood!
Both the funky Good Connection and Nuh Betta Than Yard, which reflects the playful Dancehall affiliation of its creators, were produced by Natural High Jamaica. An open verse challenge on TikTok and Instagram has brought the latter track, an ode to Hector's beloved home or "yaad", as Jamaicans say, to the attention of many fans and artists around the world, a lot of which have taken up the call and added their voices to the beat. Many of these contributions are worth watching, and some might well be featured in a future re-release of the song!
D'Rootsman is an exciting firstling of an artist who's been in the business longer than most newcomers. While the name of the EP might seem misleading (as there is no real deep Roots on the EP), it makes perfect sense when considering his moniker: "D'Rootsman represents my exploration of various indigenous sounds. Growing up as a child, I was never exposed to different types of music as I am now, and this EP embraces my growth and curiosity as an artist. This represents a version of myself that allows me to (…) share the story of my life experiences and encourage consciousness, upliftment, health and righteousness.", Hector "Roots" Lewis describes in the press release. Definitely one to watch!
Hector Roots Lewis - D' Rootsman
DIGITAL RELEASE [Ineffable Records, Cre8ive Tribe]
Release date: 11/04/2022
01. King Said
02. Let's Groove
03. Good Connection
04. Nuh Betta Than Yard
05. Ups And Downs