Premiere: Down A Yard – LawGiver the Kingson (Music Video)

The always versatile, ever-reliable LawGiver the Kingson (Born Oneil Mark Phoenix, in Kingston Jamaica) is back with a new track from his forthcoming album Creation (set for a summer release) – and here, we’ve gone down a yard. 

Down A Yard, released via Imperishable Uprising, sees LawGiver team up with K-Jah Sound from Poland (who also was responsible for the 2019 World A Reggae Riddim), who provides the music, a particularly Dub-heavy and ominous Roots track. The song was mixed at Cleveland Browne’s Up Suh recording studio by Marvin Jackson – while the mastering by Jemoi Monteith is slick, efficient, and focuses well on the Dub layers of the track. 

There are classic elements at play, here. First, the rhythm section is particularly central to the overall sound. The bass is extremely deep: far down its register and with a very rounded sound, it runs a sometime drop-beat rhythm across a melodic riff – but the dropping of a beat is well-placed to help the track peak and trough; always on the second bar of a two-bar phrase – which flips the traditonal idea of a Reggae one drop on its head.

Keys run an obligatory bubble rhythm, while a distant guitar performs a complementary skank. Drums are also central – avoiding a one drop in its entirety, instead having the kick run a stuttering line, while snares hit the two and four and hi-hats tinker in between. Overall, this whole rhythm section arrangement serves to nod to the Roots and Dub that came before it – but also cements the more modern sound of Down a Yard.

On top of this, there’s some great use of additional instrumentation. A striking electric guitar line raspingly weaves across the track, screeching an intricate solo line. There are some interesting synths that tinker in the background, while an electric organ brings something more ceremonial in.

However, it’s the Dub engineering that gives Down a Yard its sound. The pointed breaks – where the track strips back to drums, bass, and briefly the keys – are effective. The use of reverb is strong, with it being rhythmically included notably across the keys and LawGiver’s vocal. And what a vocal it is.

LawGiver has a recognisable sound, now – that vertical embouchure dominating across a rich and rounded mid-range tenor. He is forthright, here, singing the track with his chest and not dropping a note across a complex melodic and rhythmic line. LawGiver switches his style between singjay on the verses – delivering complex lyrics across equally complex rhythmic lines – before delivering a straighter vocal on the chorus. Narrative-wise, LawGiver also provides a powerful sermon on how those of us at the bottom of society are impoverished and coerced into violence and hatred by the system – and con,nue to allow it to happen. His notes around genocide “eastside to westside” are particularly pertinent, as he declares “things getting worse”. It’s skillfully constructed and highly relevant.

There’s also a Dubwise version of Down a Yard, too – which sees much of LawGiver’s vocal stripped back, leaving a slightly pared-back rhythm section. This allows the additional instrumental lines like the guitars and synths to come to the fore. The maintaining of much of the backing vocals is also interesting – and Down a Yard (Dubwise) is strong. 

Overall, Down a Yard is a solid and effective track from LawGiver. Great production combines with a dea arrangement, LawGiver’s powerful vocal, and some appealing lyrics. A promising start to the lead-in to his new album Creation – and certainly giving you the feeling you need to ‘watch this space’.

By Steve Topple