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What I’m listening to this week: Anthony B

July 29, 2009

Seven Seals – 1999

I mentioned Anthony B very briefly in my World Reggae review, so I thought now seemed like a good time to review one of his albums, Seven Seals.  B’s style of reggae falls mainly in the dancehall category; there’s a lot of deejaying, and this is also the album where the nickname the Conscious Entertainer comes from.  Anthony B is a devoted Rasta concerned with substance in his lyrics and Seven Seals is rife with hardcore positive Rasta messages and the full intention of influencing the youth (and anyone else) who might be listening.  A lot of it is directly addressing specifically Jamaican social issues, like street violence, gangs, and political corruption.  If that turns you off, it might also help to know that Anthony B is a fantastic at what he does and the vast majority of the album is highly energetic, powerful, and is set to music made for dancing. 

Seven Seals begins with the track “Conscious Entertainer” (first featuring the always popular Rasta/Haile Selassie praising intro) and you get one of the best songs on the album straight away.  The song rails against people who would dare keep down B’s message, as well as those who choose to live a less than positive lifestyle.  The next track, “Free” continues down that same road, except it focuses more on a constructive goal of “freeing” ghetto youths by introducing them into the Rasta lifestyle.  Both songs are beat-heavy and musically hard-hitting, and B’s rapping and deejaying is first-rate, rolling over the tracks with vigour and fearlessness.

“Who Shoot First” has a ska/Caribbean-influenced musical track, while Anthony B preaches to wrong-doers that a life of crime has unintended consequences and “A who shoot first a no who draw”: no one who participates in the lifestyle is immune.  “Family Business” is a lot more specific to mafia bloodshed, but the convicted disapproval is the same, while the track itself carries a bouncy rhythm and musicality.  Things slow down in a rare way for a reggae artist with B’s kind of authority on the compelling “Mr. Heartless”.  B’s voice and lyrics take the forefront on this seriously haunting song, while he is backed up by a fantastically produced rich track of strings, background vocals, and guitar work.  “Mr. Heartless” breaks down the essence of Anthony B’s message into a potent form of straight talk that is wrought with real emotion (check out the lyrics here).

The sinewy “Nah Go Hide”, in the roots reggae style, is another must-listen track from Seven Seals dealing with an ever-present Rasta subject, legalizing/decriminalizing sinsemilla.  With superb guest appearances, a simmering musical track, and without appealing to the lowest common denominator,  “Nah Go Hide” definitely ranks among the best of those that take on the subject.  “Dem A Question” is another departure for B, finding him delivering it up toasty over a rough and circuitous synth rhythm.  He takes on this classic style swimmingly.  Also essential is Seven Seals‘ bright and upbeat remix of “Hello Mama Africa” and the delightfully done put-down, “Me Dem Fraid Of”, near the end of the album.

Other songs on Seven Seals aren’t quite as potent, but still plenty entertaining, like “Cover You Tracks”, “Conquer All”, “You Move Me”, and there are also a few forgettable tracks.  A few misfires from 18 tracks is understandable, while it’s also arguable that Seven Seals could have been a major sensation had it been trimmed down.  Overall, this is an album that anyone who loves reggae should consider owning.  Anthony B’s style matches his grand goals, and listening to an artist with that much fire in their belly is a real pleasure.

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