Marcus Gad ADD
Album Review: Queen Omega - Freedom Legacy
by Gardy Stein
"An introspective and musical journey on new roots reggae and dancehall music (…)" – that's how the press release describes Queen Omega's new oeuvre Freedom Legacy. Produced by Lions Flow Productions and released by Baco Records, this project is a true Franco-Caribbean collaboration, 14 novel tracks that make you aware of the undiluted force of this powerful singer. She has been described as "sumptuous", "genuine" and "consistent", but the one characteristic that is associated most often with both her musical output and her live performances is the militancy with which she stands for her convictions – and it is this unapologetic combative spirit which is expressed on this album, too.
The picture of humanity painted in the first three songs is rather grim. While (Nah let nobody) See You Down speaks of a deep mistrust of those around us, as phrases such as "who can I trust but myself?", "it's a disgrace, cyan trust the human race" or "mankind is so quick to judge and condemn" attest. The subsequent Fittest brings the Darwinian maxim to the table, talking about greed and selfishness: "Manheart is wicked, cruel and cold, for the dollar brother sell out them soul…". Aligned with these lyrics, the two underlying instrumentals are rather somber too, but Queen Omega includes a beacon of hope by singing about the power of the Most High and the solidarity of like-minded people and friends. Touching on some widespread conspiracy theories, Micro Chip blames Babylon for trying to take control of the people, illustrating the theme with vivid images of the global lockdown. There's not only critique here, though, as the singer also expresses her suggestion for a new start now that the pandemic is over: "Replan, rethink, take time to reflect, each one teach one, there's no time for neglect!"
The remaining tracks on the album follow this more positive outlook. Ask, for example, encourages us to put our trust in the Most High, to ask and seek in order to receive and find, and to enjoy the little blessings in life. In a similar vein, Goodness shines with gratitude for all good and sweet things, basically saying that happiness is a matter of mindset: "Don't let anyone steal your joy!" While the riddims provided by Lions Flow so far were steady reggae / new roots material, this one is a surprise, containing many interesting elements like the spherical flute, the almost Latin guitar or, my favorite, the backing vocals arranged on different levels in perfect harmony with the singer. In the accompanying visuals, we see Queen Omega and friends enjoying life in a fine house with swimming pool, playing billiard and darts, while, on the other hand, two protagonists struggle with unfair treatment (losing their job and being bullied). At the end, though, they are smiling too.
"This one is for the Kings dem!" In Love Your Way, the Queen praises the way a Rasta man keeps himself, describing in detail both his looks and his character. It's not about making a move on him, though, as she also mentions the empress by his side; it's just a simple compliment she's sending out on a driving, uptempo riddim. Its female counterpart is the track Lioness, which celebrates the strength of women. "She's got the world in her hands, she's got the master key, she is the balance, without her what would life be?" Even the instrumental seems to capture a feminine energy, and I'm feeling straight up empowered when the last tunes fade. Speaking of empowerment: Extraordinary contains a mantra we should all listen to at least once a day. "Look in the mirror and say to yourself: I am strong, I am blessed, I am kind. Everything you need is inside, you are an extraordinary child!" Yes, every one of us is unique and important and has a purpose in life – it's just about finding it!
This brings us to the connections that the artist has found for four outstanding features. Wise Queens, the first in the playlist, brings in the energies of Kushite and Jalifa, whose delivery is even more militant than that of Queen Omega, adding her low growl to the song's glorification of Rasta virtues. Filmed in Trinidad & Tobago, the accompanying video brings together 20 or 30 women of the local community, portraying many others with brief shots of their daily activities. Turning to the other gender, Oneness invites Julian Marley and Yaniss Odua to the mic, who sing in English and French, respectively, about the need for unity for all mankind.
My favorite by far, both music-wise and in its vocal composition, is Agape Love. Flowing on a slow, dubby riddim interspersed with melodica sounds, the Queen and Marcus Gad sing to each other here, a link that was made during last year's festival summer in Europe. 'Agape', a word of Greek origin, describes the divine, altruistic love of God for humanity, or of devout believers for each other. Sweetness!
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the energetic Win, a fast-paced Dancehall tune that follows the less reggaeish tracks Natural Melody and Dynamite and closes the album. The special thing about Win, though, is not only this unexpected dip into a genre in which Omega is less present, but the exciting addition of singer and MC Soom-T. It's the first time these two ladies work on a joint project, but it hopefully won't be the last, because together they are pure fire!
Freedom Legacy or, in Kiswahili, Urithi wa Uhuru is an album that contains the many facets that Queen Omega has developed over the years of her career. The collaboration with Lions Flow was a fruitful one, and although the sheer amount of tracks makes it unavoidable that some of them sound quite similar, highlights like Goodness, Agape Love and Win create a diversity that her many fans will cherish, especially since the sound quality is top notch. Hear this lioness roar, people!
Queen Omega - Freedom Legacy
DIGITAL RELEASE [Baco Records]
Release date: 03/24/2023
01. See You Down
03. Micro Chip
04. Wise Queens feat. Kushite & Jalifa
05. Love Your Way
07. Agape Love feat. Marcus Gad
10. Oneness feat. Julian Marley & Yaniss Odua
12. Natural Melody
14. Win feat. Soom T