Review

LABEL: BELOVED RECORDS
RELEASE DATE: APRIL 10, 2012

Mention the name ‘Papa San’ to anybody who has a real appreciation for pure Dancehall/Reggae music and, you should have for yourself a full blown conversation that has the ability to span 3 decades of references. That’s a fact. It’s also fair to say (I think) that if you haven’t heard of Papa San, you may either be someone who isn’t Jamaican or maybe just a young toddler-and if you’re of the latter and just happen to be reading this, “how did you get on the internet?”  Still, if you fall into either of those categories, you might as well stick around for the rest of this review then, as this may be that one vital album that your library is missing out on and, which I have the awesome opportunity of tell you about.

Now, here’s a quick history; in the last 15 years or so, the Dancehall/Reggae’s gospel scene have been steadily bolstered by the presence of one in particular, Papa San, who just haven’t been able to run out of steam. And that is just his gospel career, which began in 1999. Go back to 1986 and you’ll have over 12 hours of music to support your time travel trip to when the artist actually came onto the scene. In the early 80’s to early 90’s Papa San was one of Reggae’s poster boy, and he boasted the impressive lyrical skills and stage decorum, along with charm (if they ladies had anything to add), that made him a reggae’s star boy. He was celebrated abroad and his presence on a concert line-up would be the delight for fans and promoters alike. Talk about a payday! However, a series of life changing events, including the murder of his brother in 93’ coerced him to hold life in perspective and made him reckon with the eternal state of his soul. In other words, Papa San found Jesus-or maybe the other way around-and neither his world, nor the one he lived in would never again be the same. Notably-and rather logically-he decided that he could no longer do secular music and therefore, as a result of the new influence in his life, would crossover into gospel. Mark that day, friends, as the day when the state of Dancehall/Reggae Gospel would never be the same.

Fast forward to 2012, he proves why he is still one Dancehall/Reggae’s most prolific and fruitful personality with his latest ‘talk of the town’ album, entitled My Story. It’s his fifth in his gospel catalogue, and all of this is just a testament to the fact that he has been around for a while and will likely remain for the times to come, as far as musical presentation and charisma are concerned.

The album was actually released in Jamaica in November of 2011, and was schedule for an international release in April of 2012. It’s a personal sort of album, as you can imagine from its title and it shows how versatile he can be as far as music goes. For instance, he remains a bit-old school/traditional with songs like “God is Love”, “Love is Galore”, and title track “My Story” among a few notable others with the distinctive reggae ‘one-drop’ drum style and prevalent lead guitar and intermittent keyboard input on each track.  On the other hand, he boasts his extra-national musical influences on the session’s first track “Rescue”, and even “Talk To Me” or even “Go On”, while all the tacitly maintaining the reggae identity of the album.

Lyrically? Honest followers of Papa San can already know what can expect as he is known for his ability to weave together verses, choruses and hooks like a wordsmith skilled at writing in rhymes, while still very much able to present a completely entertaining, yet convicting message through the 16 track LP. Otherwise, his simple-rhymed, straightforward yet, witty delivery on “Glory God” is a prime example why he is a crowd favorite at major events as, he has a whole lot of fun telling different stories about his life, marriage, and other topics. It’s the recurring ‘freestyle’ reggae drumbeat and the effervescence of each line, which usually has the crowd waiting on the next line that will definitely make this the concert track wherever he performs. Sure to be hits like “He Paid it all’-which might actually be the far Christian cousin of Gyptian’s “Hold You”, and “Source of Strength”, which features Nicole C. Mullen are examples of why he has been able to remain relevant and hold his spot on the ever shifting Dancehall/Reggae scene.  I believe it is the messages of encouragement and hope mingled with the gospel, all in either urban or very explicit terms that continue to draw people to his work.

It’s safe to say that each and every feature on the album had a good day during their respective recording sessions as they add tremendously to the album’s worth. It features the likes of Nicole C. Mullen, as mentioned earlier, Nicole Salmon with a spellbinding chorus (on “Devotion”) and, Trey Lorenz on the ‘foot tapping, soul-searching, hit-the repeat’  “Rescue Me”. On each of the tracks though, Papa San is never out-shined and he complements his guest really well. Also, in a funny-turned worship-turn get this kid a record deal-back to funny- interlude, Papa San invites his daughter to ‘minister’, and, does she deliver? Whew! I know that I am looking forward to her breakout album in the future. Talk about shrills down your spine! The first time I heard it, I was stopped in my tracks, which, is no big deal unless you’re that guy standing still with his iPod in his hand on a busy road. Anyway, even the man himself is excited about it and he shows it, rather hilariously, at the end of her thrilling rendition.

Finally, and probably not as important yet, characteristic of Papa San’s style where, on each album he has a recurrent phrase, on ‘My Story’ this time around, he can be heard saying either “work wid (with) us” or, “gone mi gone again”, which I can’t help but saying along. It is just one of those many features of Dancehall/Reggae, which make that type of music so entertaining.

All in all, this is an indispensible album as far as Dancehall/Reggae gospel is concerned and, I encourage you; if you are reading and you musical taste buds are tickling, pick up this album! It should be memorable experience. For the record, my favorite track is “He Paid It All”.