Kontraband is a must-have

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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There is nothing contraband about Kabaka Pyramid's debut album titled Kontraband . The new 16-track set, from the artiste considered part and parcel of reggae's revival, has all the elements required for a strong, sturdy compilation of reggae music, and therefore something that should not be withheld from any serious reggae music lover.

Never one for frivolous matters, Kabaka Pyramid gravitates towards issues relating to oppression and the multiplicity of events which form the black experience. As a result, Kontraband is replete with topics which may be considered heavy but never seem burdensome. This is perhaps due to the great treatment given to each track in the mix.

During a recent listening session held at the legendary Tuff Gong Recording Studio, Kabaka Pyramid never missed an opportunity to express gratitude to Damian “Junior Gong” Marley, Stephen Marley, and the team from Ghetto Youths International camp for their assistance in pulling Kontraband together. Damian Marley is listed as executive producerand has producer credits on a number of the project's tracks. He is also guest on the set's title track, Kontraband.

In addition to Marley, the array of producers whose individual work went into the collective whole that is Kontraband includes Spanish producer Genis Nadal. From Barcelona, adds his touch to two tracks: Can't Breathe, which dropped last year; as well as Kaught Up, which was premiered on BET Jams a few weeks ago. Locally, he went with young beat builders Natural High Productions, Green Lion Production, and Irie Vibrations. Amidst this collection of producers, the one constant is Kabaka Pyramid doing well to anchor and bring together what is a strong, authentic reggae sound — driving bass lines offset by interesting and complex rhythm sections. Add to that thought-provoking lyrics.

In the past Kabaka Pyramid has collaborated with other acts, his best-known duet being Mi Alright with Chronixx. For Kontraband, it is an impressive list of acts who share the microphone with Kabaka Pyramid. US Virgin Island reggae act Pressure Buss Pipe adds his signature sound to Make Way; Ghana's Stonebwoy is on Borders; Akon chips in on Africans Arise; Protoje returns the favour on Everywhere I Go; Chronixx duets with Kabaka Pyramid on Blessed is the Man; and Australian musician Nattali Rize is on the album's bonus track All I Need.

“This has been a very long road,” Kabaka Pyramid told the Jamaica Observer. “The project has taken about three to four years to finish, but I am pleased with what we have come up with. I love the versatility a little of everything... There are tracks like Time Fi Shine, which is my baby I produced. Reggae music is my ode to reggae. Meaning of Life is my personal favourite, while I'm Just a Man is the most personal track on the album,” he continued.

Kontraband is set for release on May 25.

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