Review: Rock & Groove Riddim
by Steve Topple
The much-anticipated Rock & Groove Riddim from Protoje’s In.Digg.Nation Collective has just dropped. Worth the wait? Hell yes.
The Riddim itself is pure In.Digg.Nation ingenuity. A one drop is present, but the grimy distortion of the kick drum on the 2nd and 4th beat is straight outta trap. A solid reggae bubble rhythm flits in and out, while dubby synths are omnipresent, almost performing their own backing vocal line. Meanwhile, the drums break into a rocky chop at the end of every 4th bar, and the keys tinker a distinctly funky RnB riff. That’s your musical ‘rock and groove’ right there.
I don’t need to tell you that the production, engineering and mastering are all top quality – as you’d expect from In.Digg.Nation. But I do want to tell you that the performances from the four artists featured are absolutely sublime.
Sevana kicks it off with Haul and Pull. It’s a Soul-driven, powerhouse performance. She displays superbly controlled vocal gymnastics – effortlessly moving between her alto and soprano range and her head and chest voices. The cautious tale, about how the system is dragging us towards our own destruction, is a clever juxtaposition to the upbeat Riddim. It’s near perfection, personified.
Naomi Cowan follows with Peace of Mind. In contrast to Sevana’s soulful interpretation, Naomi leads us into Reggae territory. Her vocal delivery is impressive: sharp, punchy and clean. She uses clever syllable phrasing to accentuate the music. Then, Naomi couples all this with rapid-fire double and triple time vocal rhythms. The complex, multi-layered backing arrangement finishes off this stunning work.
Sweet Inspiration is from Lila Iké. There’s something magical about her voice, almost Jazz in its quality and interpretation. Lila’s vocal is effortless, smoothing over syllables and gliding through the space between semitones. Call and answer RnB backing vocals compliment her delivery, and the whole package is a Jazz/Soul fusion which cements her unique approach to her craft perfectly.
Last up is Jaz Elise with Rock & Groove. She has already honed a delicious style, blurring the lines between Reggae, Hip Hop and Dancehall. Jaz instinctively flips between a sultry vocal, a winding while delicate singjay and a laid-back rap. It’s almost a sequel to her massive summer hit Fresh & Clean. Gorgeously delivered, pleasing on the ear, Jaz continues to define the sound of the summer well into winter.
The four artists have done an impressive job, putting their vocals centre stage. They all seem to intuitively react to the music in their own, very special, ways. Included in the release are dub versions of each track.
But more importantly, Rock & Groove is about what the Riddim represents.
There’s been a growing movement of female artists emerging from Reggae-based culture. A wind of change is sweeping the scene. Gone are the old misogynistic and patriarchal norms. Emerging from their ashes are women who are breaking industry stereotypes and operating at the top of their games.
But more importantly, there’s no one ‘Queen’ of this movement. They work as a community, supporting each. While they are all musically different, they also all share the same conscious values. And ultimately, they are collectively moving the goalposts to be equal with the men.
That’s the real story behind Rock & Groove, and Oneness Records’ Lioness Order Riddim (April 2019) before it. While the performances are exceptional, the composition intricate and the production innovative, it’s what the Riddim represents that is truly groundbreaking. All hail every single Queen of this ‘emancipation movement’. Long may they reign, equally.
Rock & Groove Riddim
DIGITAL RELEASE [In.Digg.Nation Collective]
Release date: 12/05/2019
01. Sevana - Haul & Pull
02. Jaz Elise - Rock & Groove
03. Naomi Cowan - Peace Of Mind
04. Lila Iké - Sweet Inspiration
05. Sevana - Haul & Pull (Dub)
06. Jaz Elise - Rock & Groove (Dub)
07. Naomi Cowan - Peace Of Mind (Dub)
08. Lila Iké - Sweet Inspiration (Dub)