Son of Calypso
Too bad the Lafayette Reggae & Cultural Festival isn’t around anymore. It would be a great way to intro Smoov Ras to a bigger stage and to music lovers of Lafayette who don’t frequent live music venues.
Ras is a dynamic artist who has managed to make something new out of something borrowed on Son of Calypso. It doesn’t hurt that it has an ultra-clean production at the hands of Chad Fouquier.
The record starts out with the incredible “Never Meant to Be.” With its beeps and blips, quick snares and lyrics scattering all over, it is definitely not something that Bob Marley could have envisioned, yet it will get its hooks into any Tuff Gong fan (or fans of any genre). Taken on the face of the first cut, this record is more modern hip-hop — with a sing-song style vocal performance and delivery somewhere between a slightly nasal KRS-ONE and Smokey Robinson. The track stands out not just because it is a rap song with a very small touch of reggae feel, but it is interesting and fresh, bridging modern hip-hop electro sounds with lyrics that are not written at a third grade vocabulary and reading level. In other words, it’s not “Watch Me (Whip/ Nae Nae).”
After, he starts to make his way back to the core of reggae. It’s a slow process that finds the two genres slowly becoming one then drifting apart. Songs turn to islands, smoke and Babylon. Throughout, hip-hop lingo and bravado doesn’t fade as quickly as ganja smoke, giving a modern take on reggae. He slows down and gives a Jamaican version of a love ballad, then throws out a heavy bass number called “Outer Spacin.” “Radio” has shades of The Roots and a chorus that might owe a little to the Notorious B.I.G. but sung like Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s better-sounding cousin. “Higher” has a slight rock edge, calling up some of the crossover sounds of Cypress Hill’s Skull & Bones.
Though some songs are scattered in their lyric structure, it holds the attention.
No matter your political leanings, “Gun From” — probably the most reggae track on the record — will get stuck in your head. No matter which end — or right in the middle — of the hip-hop/reggae spectrum Ras is in, there is always a modern edge and bounce.
As good as the record is, the next move is likely going to be the most interesting.
Will Ras branch out to more hip-hop sounds or dwell in the reggae he loves? Either way (or both), based on Son of Calypso, it will be worth repeated listens. — NP