Review by Shelah Moody
Photos by Rock N Robins
Kabaka Pyramid and Protoje have a lot in common. Both Jamaican singer/DJs are leaders of reggae revival a movement of globally conscious Jah-centric, Afro-centric and dread-centric reggae/dancehall artists. This summer, both released dynamic albums that could easily become Grammy contenders for 2018. Ironically, both albums mine the talents of a young singer/songwriter called Chronixx, arguably reggae revival’s most popular act.
Kabaka Pyramid, “Kontraband,” Bebble Rock/Ghetto Youths International
Kabaka Pyramid’s “Kontraband” is a 16-track aural oasis, not suprisingly, because its executive producer is none other than multiple Grammy winner Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, who has an ear for perfection and top notch sound engineering and production. Keron Salmon, aka Kabaka Pyramid, is no slouch either. Before he honed his skills in the studio and collaborated with the General, he studied electrical technology at DeVry University in Orlando, Fl.
The title track, “Kontraband,” featuring Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, starts off with a a tongue in cheek tale of the two DJs sharing stories of being searched at travel checkpoints for ganja and paraphanalia, but if you listen closely, you will hear that the song is a metaphor for the road blocks that reggae musicians face while trying to spread their music and message to the massive. The struggle is real.
One of “Kontraband’s first singles that preceeded the full album, “Can’t Breathe” is a popular track that Kabaka performed as the opening act on Damian Marley’s “Stony Hill” tour last fall. The song ties into the slogan “I Can’t Breathe,” adopted by the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S., to mark the oppression of young African Americans by police chokeholds and other forms of brutality.
“Can’t Breathe” was produced by a brethren named Genis Trani Nadal from Barcelona,” said Kabaka, prior to the release of “Kontraband. “The song is an emotional release; it talks about how the system is kind of frustrating and how it feels suffocating sometimes; the way our people are going through sufferation in Jamaica and in certain parts of the world. It’s a late nineties Xterminator, Fattis Burrell kind of vibration and riddim and production. It’s very, very dubby and it’s a heavy one!”
Nigerian R&B/pop star Akon, joins Kabaka on “Africans Arise,” urging the people of the Diaspora to stay woke and band together to fight against mental, spiritual and physical genicide. Kabaka and Protoje collaborate on “Everywhere I Go,” another rage against Babylon systems of oppression; and the two DJ style blend together seamelessly.
On “Kontraband,” Kabaka is both lover and fighter, and “Kaught Up,” “Natural Woman” and “All I Need” (featuring Nattali Rize) are romantic odes to divine feminine energy.
Chronixx’ melifluous vocals add to the Nyabinghi -funk flavor of “Blessed is the Man,” one of Kontraband’s most soulful tracks.
The provacative “I’m Just a Man,” is a Rasta-funky, dance track that sums up Kabaka Pyramid’s message as a singer, DJ, songwriter, producer and activist.
“I’m just a man/not tryna be nobodys savior/just be upon my best behavior/I never let the system bring me down.”
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