Best Conscious Reggae Albums of 2012
At every year's end, you’ll find lists of the year's best, and we here at Inity Weekly couldn’t help but to jump on the bandwagon. Still, we offer up a unique twist as we have enlisted Inity Weekly writers, other blogger friends and reggae aficionados to comment on their pick for the best conscious reggae albums of 2012. Our picks represent what reggae music is known and loved for - promoting a sense of consciousness whether it be social, environmental, or within. We have chosen albums that impacted us in many ways, with the belief that these albums can impact others as well. So, if we have listed it here, we are telling you to go out and support these artists who are continuing the tradition of raising awareness through music.
ARCHIVES DC - Self-Titled
My pick for top conscious reggae album of 2012 is the self-titled debut album of D.C.'s own Archives. I couldn’t have been more impressed with this modern-day gem, as it combines a solid foundation of classic reggae, while elevating the genre with fresh, talented artists. Ras Puma delivers emotional, soulful and wise vocals beyond his years, while being supported by an incredibly talented band made up of Lenny Kurlou, Desi Hyson, Mateo Monk, Darryl Burke, Leslie James Jr., and Justin Parrot.
The latest project of the Eighteenth Street Lounge (ESL) record label was released on July 11 and showcases the diverse sounds and rhythms found in the reggae genre. The classic sounds of roots reggae, rocksteady, early dub, and dancehall are fused with modern touches that easily make this album a favorite for reggae listeners across various generations. Aside from the brilliant production by Eric Hilton, the album is also very conscious, an element that is of utmost importance to the Inity Weekly family. The strong socially conscious messages found in The Archives and ESL Music at large, combine both traditional roots reggae messages, but also represent current political and social issues.
The Archives delivered an instant classic, especially the way that the album pays tribute to musical greats such Michael Rose of Black Uhuru, Sister Nancy, and Augustus Pablo, to name a few. This album is an accomplishment that shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially because albums like this don't come around very often. If the test for a great reggae album consists of authentic roots reggae, heavy dub, conscious lyrics, and talented producers and musicians, Archives pass with flying colors. This album for the ages truly has it all.
Gabriela Barbosa, Inity Weekly
BAMBÚ STATION - Children of Exodus
Though 2012 impressed me with a slew of heavy hitting conscious reggae albums, my pick for one of the year's best is Bambú Station's Children of Exodus. Unless you’ve seen and heard Bambú Station live, there’s little to prepare you for the band's power to evoke intense emotions with their words, unique sounds and engaging performances. Then again, you can prepare yourself by listening to Bob Marley, as Children of Exodus is a continuation of the messages from the legend's infamous Exodus album, but for today's generation. The Virgin Islands-based band has continuously confronted pressing issues of our time, whether societal or within. With songs such as "How Tings A Go," promoting self-reflection and maintaining balance within, and "Walk Ur Mile," a song that offers encouragement through the realities of life's struggles, Children of Exodus doesn’t fall short of educating the masses, maintaining a roots vibe, yet still composing sounds unique to the band.
As I stated in my interview with Bambú Station's Jalani Horton back in October of this year, "Bambú Station’s words and sounds have the power to evoke emotions and incite self-reflection as only revolutionary music can do." Thus, Children of Exodus does nothing less than successfully continue the legacy of true conscious roots reggae music.
Christy Jeziorski, Inity Weekly
BERES HAMMOND– One Love, One Life
The name Beres Hammond has always been synonymous with reggae music royalty. Not only has Beres cranked out a whopping 26 (yes, TWENTY SIX) studio albums since 1976, but each album has been as stupendous as its predecessor. Needless to say Beres’s 2012 album, “One Love, One Life,” did NOT disappoint. One Love, One Life is a tremendously well-produced two-disc album distributed by the legendary VP Records. The album features Hammond’s signature style of love ballads over new and reused roots-rock beats. One element of Beres’s music that remains original, however, is his lyrics.
For decades, Beres has written thought-provoking lyrics that speak to the ups and downs of love, as well as conscious lyrics that allow his fans to take a critical look at society’s ills. But whether serenading fans about the human condition or preaching about uplifting the disparaged, Beres’s albums have always found a warm spot in his fans’ hearts. One Love, One Life certainly delivers and likely will go down as one of the best reggae albums of 2012.
Shomari Ward, Reggae 101, Inity Weekly
CLINTON FEARON - Heart And Soul
Describing Clinton Fearon's last album, Heart and Soul, is like referring to a time machine. Being an acoustic album, this is where the real vibes come from. No editing, no addition of electronic music, only the man, his talent, and his overall musical gift. Mindless to mention how deep Clinton Fearon's impact on reggae music was, from the Gladiators band era to 2012. He is giving music what is needed - glory and honesty.
I tend to believe that there are conscious reggae artists out there who are deserving of much of our support, and Clinton Fearon is one of them. The impact of his voice and words in Heart and Soul will touch your heart.
Fred "ReggaeLover", Chief Editor, Voice of the Sufferers (France)
MIDNITE - Children of Jah
When it comes to the best conscious roots album of 2012, there really is no contest. I predicted back in July when I reviewed this album for www.worldareggae.com that Midnite's Children of Jah is not only the best reggae album of 2012, but it is also their best work to date.
I'm not a Midnite fan but, in my opinion, it's one of the best reggae roots albums I've heard in twenty years. It's not that I haven't followed Midnite's progression, in fact, the brothers Benjamin lived in my hometown (Washington, D.C., USA) for quite some time before returning to their native St. Croix to set up the African Roots studio. I truly believe they are one of the most talented and prolific reggae outfits around. However, like many, Vaughn Benjamin's "chant and call" style, which gives their music an overtly spiritual and African feel, is extremely hard to decipher. The riddims have always been solid. But not like this.
I don't know if multi-talented brothers Ron and Vaughn Benjamin set out to make a more accessible record, but that is exactly what they did. And unlike most records which are recorded in an attempt to reach a wider audience, this one works - and it's heavier than ever. The album includes 14 tracks, each one better than the next. Listening to it for the first time, I expected the album to lose strength toward the middle and end. However, with tracks like "Carboniferous Land," "Bad Man Trade," "In the Hands of Jah," and the astounding closer "Nothing Restrain," Midnite has assembled their most consistent album since Ras Mek Peace. It is a reggae roots album the likes of which we see once every 5-10 years.
Yes. It's that good.
Michael Watson, Chief Editor, Midnight Raver Blog
SOJA - Strength to Survive
The 2012 release of Strength to Survive was a pivotal moment in the history of SOJA, especially after it was featured on Billboard's Top 40 Albums list. Front-man Jacob Hemphill describes messages in the new album that are centered on facilitating awareness about the struggle to preserve the human race. These themes are apparent from the beginning of the first track “Mentality”: “Even asleep, mentality's awake...Nobody realizes how much we can take... Let's save the future of the world for our sake”.
Lyrically, Strength to Survive weaves a winding road that most people can relate to having travelled at some time or another – concern for the environment, political statements, perseverance, questions about love and life, guilt, frustration about injustices and inequality, and resolve to make things better. The title track “Strength to Survive” questions the world's ability to continue functioning despite the choices its inhabitants have made: “We can kiss it goodbye... our sun, our moon, our earth, and our sky... our world will recover in a billion years... but only if we're not even here”. For an album highlighting the growth of a lyrically solid band who has paid tribute to various musical influences within their reggae origins, you will not be disappointed with Strength to Survive.
Carla Felten, Inity Weekly
Having worked in the reggae music scene in southern Florida and internationally for over twenty years, I was pleasantly surprised to hear SOJA's 2012 release, Strength to Survive. The band carried out the music with a different approach from their past albums, yet still maintained the essence of reggae music and conscious lyrics at that. In my opinion, it's one of the best conscious reggae albums of 2012.
Lance O, DJ, Host, and Founder of Kulcha Shok Muzik
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