Reggaeville Riddim Corner #9 [August 2015]
09/08/2015 by Dan Dabber
DA WORKS PRODUCTION - MEDDI RIDDIM
Contrary to other contemporary musics like hip hop and EDM, reggae culture is hyper-aware of its rich musical history, and Meddi Riddim is a good example of how this history lives on through current releases. With a feel-good vibe, Meddi incorporates the earthiness and laid back tempo of roots reggae while employing a danceable bounciness that can be traced through 80’s and 90’s dancehall back to early reggae of the late 60’s. In other words, this riddim (and reggae/dancehall/riddim culture in general) is timeless and will fit right in at the local dance whether selectors in your part of the world prefer vintage reggae/dancehall, contemporary reggae/dancehall, or a mix of the two.
Da Works are a bit of a mystery, referenced as Da Works Production, Da Works Music, and Da Works Enternational in various places throughout the internet. With very little available information and even an uncertainty about what the label is called, there are only a few things that can be said about this album with any reliability: Meddi Riddim is Da Works’ first juggling to be released to a broad audience and it is an extraordinarily strong project, especially for a first release.
Part of what makes Meddi a strong first juggling for Da Works is the lineup of artists included in the release. However the roster is also unnecessarily large at eighteen total contributors, and a riddim album of this size can be intimidating to listeners who are not accustomed to hearing the same beat played on a loop. Those dedicated enough to sift through the heft of the Meddi release will find some gems from popular artists - Anthony B’s Don’t Stop Trying, Turbulence’s Love You Always, and Give Thanks To Life from “One Blood” Junior Reid, whose long anticipated The Living Legend album also dropped in August. Dig just a little deeper and find many more quality tunes from talented, but slightly lesser-known reggae artists like Bascom X, Chezidek, Chrisinti, Mr. Perfect, Junior X, and Zamunda.
TJ RECORDS - TEARS OF JOY RIDDIM
TJ Records is having a busy summer. Just last month the industrious dancehall label released Seh Feh, one of the four riddims covered in Reggaeville Riddim Corner #8. And while it is still a little too early to judge how Seh Feh will ultimately be received, it is never too early to drop a well strategized follow up for good measure. That follow up is TJ‘s August release, Tears Of Joy Riddim, a juggling inna style that is worlds away from Seh Feh’s buoyant party-vibe.
The serious demeanor of Tears Of Joy Riddim is present in the riddim itself, as well as in many of the lyrical themes presented by the featured artists. But, despite its emotional tension, TJ’s newest release is a party riddim, borrowing heavily from RnB to create a danceable, upbeat vibe. Tears Of Joy features organic instruments, including soulful guitars, stark pianos, and a rim click-heavy drum kit, culminating in a composition that would be equally appropriate for lovers or sexy lyrics as it would be for more sentimental tunes. Either way the riddim is nice, and it is probably just a coincidence that Tears Of Joy is slightly reminiscent of Chimney Records’ popular 2013 riddim, Rising Sun.
While Tears Of Joy and Rising Sun share similar musical and lyrical themes as well as a few common artists in their lineups, Tears of Joy has a smaller, more dancehall-oriented cast of contributors, including Raytid, Shawn Storm, and Vybz Kartel. Kartel’s Believe It is cleverly written and catchy, but Worl’ Boss puts out so much great music that his contribution to Tears Of Joy will likely only resonate as an average performance from the self-proclaimed Dancehall Hero. His fellow Gaza soldier and co-defendant, Shawn Storm, had a slightly better showing with Life Again, but this track, even more so than others, demonstrates that Storm’s connection to Kartel extends beyond courtrooms and recording studios to affect Storm’s pen and vocal delivery. The aforementioned Raytid as well as Vershon, I-Octane, Demarco, and Jah Vinci, who also has a previous connection to Kartel and his Gaza music syndicate, all have formidable versions, though none stand out immediately as future hits.
FEDERATION SOUND - HIGHLAND RIDDIM
Federation Sound, comprised of core members Max Glazer and Kenny Meez, is one of the most powerful dancehall influences in the US. Throughout the crews’ nearly 15 years of existence, they have successfully managed to infiltrate both traditional dancehall markets and urban markets consistently and on a number of levels. Based in New York and, up until fairly recently, Philadelphia, Federation Sound has invaded every possible venue and party on the east coast, playing alongside hip hop DJs as well as other dancehall and reggae sounds. Originally known for killer mixtapes, they have also played on the radio and have a weekly podcast called Federation Invasion. They have other DJs, selectors, and sound systems perpetuating the invasion, having released remixes, singles, and riddims that have been in circulation throughout the world.
Produced by newcomer Selecta 7, Highland Riddim is the newest release from Federation Sound. The beat is minimalistic, depending heavily on a strong low end and crisp, driving snares that inspire involuntary head nodding. There is an undeniable danceability factor but an element of weirdness as well, fueled by a simple synth melody which seems an uncharacteristic sound for dancehall. One might even go so far as to call Highland “quirky,” deriving inspiration from Ward 21 riddims like Cosa Nostra and Monkey Barrel as well Future Vibez Productions’ tremendously popular Badman Forward Riddim from 2006.
The connection to Badman Forward was not lost on Screechy Dan, whose Highland version features a modified hook borrowed from Richie Feelings’ Badman Forward version, Sell Off. Ward 21 is also represented in this juggling through member Kunley McCarthy, who provides two versions, including a combination with protégé, Marcy Chin. Mr. Lexx, who has worked with both Federation Sound and Ward 21 extensively in the past, has a Highland tune called Wine Up, which does not live up to his versions on Cosa Nostra or Monkey Barrel. The Highland tunes likely to invade the dance are Vybz Kartel’s Sumn Sumn, which served as the lead single for this release, and Shawn Storm’s Knock Knock, which is both good enough to stand on its own as a single and a nice complement to Kartel’s version.
ADDE INSTRUMENTALS/21ST HAPILOS - LATE SUMMER RIDDIM
21st Hapilos has made a name as the leading online distributor of reggae and dancehall music and, over the past few years, they have also had a hand in the production of several riddims. The most recent juggling to carry the Hapilos name in the production credits column is Late Summer, produced jointly with Sweden’s Adde Instrumentals, who first caught ears in Jamaica with his 2011 Summer Time Riddim. Summer Time included two giant hits; Kartel’s Summer Time and Popcaan’s Ravin’. It would appear, based on the similarities between Summer Time and Late Summer, that Adde and 21st Hapilos are trying to recreate some of that 2011 summer love in 2015.
Much like Adde’s hit riddim, Summer Time, Late Summer clocks in at 100bpm and establishes a party vibe with a splash of sentimentality by mixing up organic pianos with cold, bright synths. Both riddims are also built with a similar structure, varying between stripped-down parts that allow the artists’ verses to breathe, and huge, powerful movements that inject energy into the hooks of the songs. The most obvious connection between these two riddims is their names, with the latest release, Late Summer, sounding like a Hollywood sequel to the successful box office hit, Summer Time.
Summer Time Riddim’s sequel, Later Summer Riddim, is missing Vybz Kartel and Popcaan, who were the stars of the original, but the producers, 21st Hapilos and Adde Instrumentals, were able to land some other big names to take their place. Veteran singer, Mr. Vegas, contributes a love song called Fall In Love Again. Blak Ryno also serenades the ladies with My World and Collie Buddz of Come Around fame had a similar romantic theme in mind for Like Yuh Miss Me. Demarco’s One More Time Again and Gage’s Nuh Touch Mi Cup both accentuate the party vibes of Late Summer, making this riddim a fun and sexy way to end the summer of 2015. The Late Summer tunes most likely to make an impact on the dance are probably Fall In Love Again, My World, and Nuh Touch Mi Cup, but if they do catch a buzz in the dance, it will not be until the summer is long gone.
LISTEN TO THE RIDDIMS IN THE MIX: