Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Traffic Jam

Song: Traffic Jam
Artist: Stephen Marley
Album: Mind Control

Here is a surprise. I am not really much of a follower of reggae, the movement or the music. On a lark, and many recommendations, I got to listen to the new Stephen Marley album “Mind Control,” which is out today. Stephen is the third of Bob’s children, second with his wife Rita of a total of thirteen children. (Though only ten were actually his, he adopted two of Rita’s and Rita had one that wasn’t Bob’s… though Bob had already had three that weren’t Rita’s, and had four others without her as well after she had the one that wasn’t his, though Bob considered her his.) Confused? Oh well… one love.

Stephen had been part of the Melody Makers lead by his older brother Ziggy since the age of nine. He had recently produced his brother Damian’s three solo records, most notably last year’s “Welcome to Jamrock” which spawned the hit and more hip-hop flavored title track. I never listened to Damian’s record but read many positive things. I didn’t really dig the single which was, as mentioned, a bit more hip hop than the straight reggae we know of his father’s. Stephen’s work falls somewhere in between. There are tracks you would think are vintage Bob, and others that sound like an updated remix of some classic reggae, fresh beats, and fresh vibe.

Like most white hipster music lovers, my reggae collection consists solely of Bob Marley’s “Legend” and maybe a few Shaggy tracks. It’s half-way embarrassing. I really embraced Sinead O’Connor’s amazing reggae record from two years ago, but I just personally really like her… though it should be noted that she happened to use some of the hottest and best in the reggae biz for that record. It was just good, and surprisingly un-awkward given what it was. Stephen’s record is something different all together. This is a straight-up reggae record that just happens to be incredible. It features guest appearances by Mos Def, Ben Harper, and brother Damian himself, among others.

It’s hard for me to highlight just one track, but I suppose you have to hear the single, “Traffic Jam” which features Damian. It’s very catchy, and while a bit more “street” than the more laid-back reggae on the record, it’s far from Clipse. I am really digging this entire record and am highly recommending it. Again, I’m not a reggae fan by any stretch but sometimes great music is just great music. Missing are Bob’s more optimistic lovey-dovey lyrics, but this is 2007, “One Love” is falling on deaf ears. But this is not an angry political record, it’s just current and varied, a portrait of an ever-changing island life.

PLEASE go listen to some of the other tracks on his MySpace page.


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