Album Review: Queen Ifrica - Climb
Seeing herself not only as a singer and songwriter, but also as an unrelenting social activist, the driving force behind Queen Ifrica’s music has always been to raise a voice for the marginalized and disadvantaged members of Jamaican society – which is the vast majority of the three million people living on the island.
Issues like social injustice and violence, but also child abuse have been the topics of songs like Welcome To Montego Bay, Streets Are Bloody and Daddy on her second album Montego Bay back in 2009. Now, in 2017, we are not at all looking back at seven lean years, and yet we can expect seven fat ones!
Queen Ifrica has released several singles throughout the long brake between the albums which have shortened the wait, among them, critical tunes like Lie Dem A Tell and Ask My Granny, which eventually also made it on the third album.
Climb opens with a dialogue, or Trueversation, between Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and the Queen. Supported by a nostalgic Hip-Hop beat, the two lyricists describe the “intellectual attraction” between two partners of a reasoning. The chorus “action speaks louder than words not in all cases, words can take you very high places” elegantly sums up the message of the song, to never neglect the strength of words. That’s How It Is Sometimes is an up-tempo One Drop which resembles the overall forward-looking mentality and optimism which is so characteristic for this album: “You fail, you try, you laugh, you cry sometimes, learn your lesson, count your blessings.” With a similarly positive, yet more melancholic flavor, Love Is Not Blind, is an ode to the all encompassing “beauty of love,” endowed with emotional Dean Fraser sax lines and some beautiful, twangy vibrato chords on the guitar. With its driving and catchy melodies, Pleasure To See creates a contrast to previous, calmer songs and Queen Ifrica’s persistence in underlining the importance of oneness and unity is reflected in such strong lines like “greater is the power that binds us than those that divide us.” Lie Dem A Tell has probably already made it into your playlist since its release last year. The aggressive Dancehall tune heavily criticizes the Jamaican policy which grants foreign investors far too much influence in tourist resorts like Montego Bay and Ocho Rios ignoring the interests of the local population. Equally aggressive in attitude, Grabba is an outspoken anti-tobacco hymn. In a rather dark and gloomy mood, the dried tobacco leaf that many Jamaicans prefer to smoke their weed with doesn`t come off well under the premise of Rastafarian Itality. Understandably, the next song Medical Marijuana, doesn’t have such negative aftertaste. On the contrary, it is a joyfull outcry that Peter Tosh’s request to “legalize it” is finally being heard in more and more courtrooms around the world. The dreamy love song Good Man cherishes all the mutual dependencies and memories that couples have when in love and thereby manages not to be overly cheesy and sentimental. Black Woman takes a strong stance against the objectification of women in the media and the decreasing self-worth that many girls and women worldwide find them selves confronted with today.
The title track Climb is a motivational anthem which encourages us to keep doing our thing and never give up, even if life sometimes forces us to climb up out of the darkest pit. In All That I’m Asking, Queen Ifrica again shows herself from an affectionate and tender side, while this is certainly not true with Battlefield. Lines like “we never yield, … If you nah hear then you ago feel” make very clear that this majestic tune is very serious. While most of Queen Ifrica’s songs which deal with social injustice have particularly focused on Jamaican issues, I Can’t Breathe is dedicated to the victims of police brutality in the United States. The chorus of the tune is the popular American Spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot, which makes the symbolic link between Jamaican and US American racist experiences. Ask My Granny is not only a tribute to one of the singer’s close relatives, but mainly a statement that Jamaicans have always known their strengths, even during times in which the economic situation in the country has made it hard to “find ways to survive.” A truly authentic Ska tune, Rebellion is a call “against injustice, partiality, against sexual exploitation, mental slavery, brutality, against racism and scism,” and at the same time, it is a call to shake a leg! With the sensual Better Than Amazing and the cheerful and fun-loving Let’s Get Silly, the musical journey of Climb ends at the album’s Lovers Rock department.
Queen Ifrica’s third full-length studio album is a compilation of romantic love songs and conscious message tunes. Covering almost the entire range of “reggae genres,” it is as versatile and yet stylistically confident as can be; perfectly embedded in contemporary sound esthetics of Reggae, the album has Gospel, Ska, Lovers Rock and Dancehall tendencies. With Climb, the self acclaimed Fyah Muma has created a real gem among 21st century Reggae albums.
Queen Ifrica - Climb
[VP Records , ]
Release date: 03/03/2017
01. Trueversation feat. Damian Marley
02. That's How It Is Sometimes
03. Love Is Not Blind
04. Pleasure To See
06. Medical Marijuana
07. Good Man
08. Black Woman
10. All That I'm Asking
12. I Can’t Breathe
13. Ask My Granny
15. Better Than Amazing
16. Lie Dem A Tell
17. Let's Get Silly