Review: Kabaka Pyramid – Kontraband

Kabaka Pyramid recently released his debut album Kontraband– a joint release between Ghetto Youths International and Bebble Rock Music. It’s a 16 track album which is well structured and showcases Keron Salmon or Kabaka Pyramid as we know him firing his lyrical prowess over some fine rhythms both as a solo artist and in some fine combinations (but more on that later)

By DJ 745, Irie Jamms Radio Show, WorldAReggae

In recent years, we have come to know of Kabaka Pyramid’s music via the release of various EP’s and mixtapes and to think that his debut EP Rebel Music was unleashed way back in 2011 yet it has taken seven years for the debut album to come to fruition.

There has been widespread talk of the involvement of Damian and Stephen Marley who are in fact the album’s executive producers since 2015 after Kabaka was sent the rhythm to ‘On The Corner’ by Damian which resulted in his biggest hit to date ‘Well Done’. A scathing attack on the government over a fierce rhythm shared with some of his peers including Jesse Royal and Iba Mahr and one of five songs on the album produced by Damian Marley.

‘Well done, well done, Mr. Politician Man
You done a wonderful job a tear down we country, demolition man
Well done, Well done, Mr. Politician Man
You done a such a great job selling out we country with you business plan’

Reasoning with Kabaka previously at Bebble Rock HQ in Kingston, the signs were there that an album was in the making as far back as 2016 and I would safely assume that this album has tracks that date back to then.

The title track ‘Kontraband’ is shared with Damian Marley and both artists fire lyrics back to back like there is no tomorrow over a hip hop infused rhythm with vocal snippets and sound fx with Damian chanting ‘Kontraband’ throughout whilst both artists share the real life plights that many reggae artists go through of being on the road and stopped and searched by the cops. A video of the Title track was recently released.

Lyrically, there are no surprises from Kabaka on this debut album- personally, he has been at the top of his game in terms of his lyrical content, style and delivery- and this is embodied within ‘Lyrics Deity’ which has an excerpt of a speech by H.I.M. Haile Selassie I where he claims ‘ dem no got no style like wi…… mi lyrical from mi born, bun the fire red and yes it hotta than a sauna’ again over a hip hop beat which suits Kabaka’s lyrical metaphors likening his mic to that of an axe for a tree cutter-pure genius! Produced by Zeke Stern for Green Lion Crew this is definitely a stand out track on the album.

‘My Time’, recorded at Bebble Rock Studios in Kingston shares a catchy, airy rhythm and sees Kabaka in a more singjay style reflecting on the importance of working hard and determination but now claims ‘I’ve been waiting patient so long now my time to shine’. True to life in Kabaka’s case given it’s been a seven year journey since his debut EP release ‘Rebel Music’.

The sixteen track album has no less than seven combinations including one with U.S. Virgin Islands artist Pressure Busspipe. ‘Make Way’ is a sure fire opening track and reaffirms what we already knew- that this album was going to be a heavyweight album and sets the tone for the rest of the album- – having Pressure Busspipe’s gruff voice announcing ‘ghetto youths busting through your gateway’ alongside Kabaka’s own hurricane inspired lyrics works really well over a rhythm produced by Protoje/ 8track /The Drum Keys and features the musicianship of Donald “Danny Bassie” Dennis, LaMont “Monty” Savory and Paris Dennis II. Great mix by Gregory Morris.

Speaking of Protoje, he pops up on ‘Everywhere I Go’ which is also produced by Damian Marley and is a reflective song talking about the plights of the modern world –pollution, religious wars, slavery, man-made diseases, the list could could go on. Protoje coming in and adding his verse just adds another level to this song which is thought provoking yet deals with the realities of the modern world we live in.

Former singles ‘Borders’ featuring one of the most in demand artists from Ghana- Stonebwoy and ‘Can’t Breathe’ are also included as is another superb combination with Akon for ‘Africans Arise’. Kabaka has previously covered similar sentiments on a previous single ‘Fly Di Gate’ and is in its simplest definition a song of upliftment and hope. Some great backing vocals from Sherita Lewis on this one.

The depth of the lyrics becomes much more philosophical as we get into the album and a prime example of Kabaka’s songwriting abilities are clearly demonstrable on Genis Nadal produced ‘Meaning Of Life’ and features a sample of a Barrington Levy single from the eighties ‘Don’t Run Away’. The song is really thought provoking and speaks of reincarnation, evolution and karma and also the plight of the child who is born with only one limb or a child who dies young and asks the question ‘do you go to heaven and live eternally with all your brethrens?

‘Natural Woman’ is a song for all the queens and as the title suggests –it’s a song about natural beauty and self worth. We live in a society where everything is dominated by media images of the ‘perfect look’ (whatever that may be) and Kabaka denounces things such as false hair and bleaching and really urges women to be proud of who they are and how God created them.

The album has been carefully thought out and Kabaka delivers a well crafted debut album including other songs ‘I’m Just A Man’ (produced by Irievibrations Records), ‘Reggae Music’ (produced by Natural High Music) and two other great combinations, including one with Chronixx ‘Blessed Is The Man’ and Nattali Rize ‘All I Need’.

The balance between reggae/ hip hop/dancehall is spot on and will no doubt gain the works of Kabaka Pyramid a wider audience as he prepares to tour the world with ‘Kontraband’. Duane, Abishai and The Bebble Rock Family have kept their promise of delivering an album that is sure to be a highlight of the music calendar for 2018 and as Kabaka Pyramid would say ‘Accurate’! We here at WorldAReggae second that!!