Sizzla Kalonji was ‘Born A King’

On May 6, 2014, Sizzla Kalonji will drop his latest effort titled BORN A KING (Muti Music), an album produced by Australian heavyweight reggae and hip-hop producer Mista Savona. 

Sizzla Kalonji released two albums in April/May 2014.  The first, titled Radical, is a collection of songs revisiting Kalonji’s early years with producer Philip ‘Fattis’ Burrell’s Xterminator label.  The compilation album was released on April 15, 2014 on the VP Records label.  Sizzla follows tomorrow with his latest studio album titled Born A King, which is described by Muti Music as a “balance of traditional roots reggae, dancehall, hiphop and global beats with all-out futuristic sounds and production.”   For the very first, Sizzla has teamed up with Australian heavyweight reggae and hip-hop producer Mista Savona (Muti Music) who combines his flair for sampling, composition and the full utilization of a ten piece studio band to deliver a modern roots scorcher that will have fans and skeptics alike pressing the back button after each track to “weel it” once again.

The album opens with the title track, a bombtrack steppers tune which will surely find it’s way on to Shaka’s golden turntable.  It is an explosive track which commits hard and doesn’t ease up until the final note.  Sizzla chants hard over Savona’s murderous riddim “Wise up all you boys and girls, you are all born to be a star.”  And the hook?  Well the hook is one that stays with you for days:

“Poor man suffering
Nah money we a look
Because the bills got to pay
And the food got to cook”

Savona follows up and sets the pace with one of the many standout tracks on the album titled “Champion Sound,” which features Kalonji and roots legend Errol Dunkley sparring over the Soundclash riddim (also featured as a remix with Turbulence which just doesn’t vibe on any level).  This riddim is one of the top five modern roots/dub riddims of the new millenium and one that I’ve been mad about since first hearing it on the 2005 collabo between the Bay-area’s Nightshade/Organized Elements crew and Scientist titled Nightshade Meets Scientist  (check a track called “Dred”).

Every track on this album is a worthwhile listen.  My favorite tune, a track titled “I’m Living,” is a big, big tune which clocks in midway through the album.  Featuring rock-solid guitars, keys, percussion, and melodica played by Baz Turnbull, Jake Savona and Bongo Herman, “I’m Living” is one of the best tracks ever  by Sizzla (also featured on the album in an acoustic mix).  Kalonji’s positivity is contagious on this track as he chants:

“I’m living for the sick and the poor,
The hungry and the shelterless sleeping on the floor
I’m giving all I’ve got and more
I know that Jah will open up the door
I’m living for the young and the old
For the blind and the deaf and the dumb as you know
I’m giviiing, jah jah love to all the world, beautiful people of di world”

The original mix of “I’m Living” is a brilliantly-written and produced modern roots reggae single that commanded much praise in 2013.  However, Sizzla’s words sung over an acoustic guitar are conscious, heavy, and downright impactful.  Kalonji really shines on this track in a way I’ve never heard.

Other standouts include the hip-hop-influenced “Set It Off,” the soulful “Got What It Takes,” and “Give Jah Praise” featuring Alton Ellis.

Born A King is easily Kalonji’s best album in a decade and one that will surely find its way onto the ballots of the Reggae Grammy Committee.  If you are one of those “old heads” who never really connected with the hard-hitting, high-powered and rapid-fire sound of the Firehouse Crew and Philip “Fattis” Burrell’s Xterminator sound which dominated Sizzla’s career for more than 15 years, you really should do yourself a favor and check this album.  Sizzla is in top form here.  His speedy chanting style which was hard to access by many reggae fans outside of jamaica, has been replaced with a vocal style that is more measured and deliberate, allowing Kalonji to better communicate his crucial message to the masses.  The Bobo Dread is back with Jah vengeance and babylon is running scared.

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