Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gyptian 'Hold You' Review (VP)

Born Windel Beneto Edwards on October 25th, 1983 in the King Weston District of St. Andrew to a Seventh Day Adventist mother and Rastafarian father, Gyptian received his musical calling at the age of 7, when he began singing in the church. Recognizing his talent, his parents soon introduced the resistant youngster to Mr. Wong, a producer from Portmore in St. Catherine. “I did not take it seriously” says Gyptian. “My family members have always been carrying me to Portmore to see him, but I usually disappear. One day, they dropped me off at his studio and left me and it all began there.”

Under the guidance of Mr. Wong and the legendary Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith, Gyptian honed his unique sound, winning the 2004 Star Search talent competition at Ken’s Wild Flower Lounge in Portmore, earning him a spot at Sting 2004, dubbed the greatest one night reggae show on earth.

Nicknamed from his habit of tying a shirt around his head and twisting his chin hair like an Egyptian pharaoh, the young, gifted, and conscious singer is very protective of keeping his sound 100% Gyptian. “You have to think about what people think and how they feel, the real things that people see. Any track at all you hear from Gyptian, right by my fingers out of my head.”

The previously unknown vocalist rose to international acclaim in 2005 when his debut single ‘Serious Times’ on the Kenneth Wilson (Frenz) produced ‘Spiritual War’ Riddim hit the top of the local and overseas reggae charts. Gyptian solidified his place in reggae music shortly thereafter when ‘Serious Times’ defeated Junior Gong’s massive international hit ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ for Jamaica’s Most Important Song of 2005. Gyptian had indeed arrived and he quickly established that he wasn’t going anywhere. He released his solid debut album ‘My Name Is Gyptian’ in late 2006 and has since consistently generated quality singles for various producers, many of which have charted in Jamaica and abroad.

Fast forward to 2010 and we find Gyptian rising to a completely new level with the crossover success of the single ‘Hold Yuh’, crossover only in the sense of Gyptian breaking down the doors of so-called ‘Popular Music’ and forcing his way in without compromising. ‘Hold Yuh’ is unadulterated reggae/dancehall! The jam of the summer, ‘Hold Yuh's’ unlikely rise to world domination begins two years ago, in the studio of producer Ricky Blaze (AKA 21-year-old New Yorker Ricardo Johnson). In town to promote the more typical Mr Lover-Lover shtick that made up the majority of his first two albums, Gyptian popped in to see Blaze, who had the ‘Hold Yuh’ (as it was titled in the US) riddim but couldn't quite figure out what to do with it. According to NYC's Village Voice, the song instantly grabbed Gyptian's attention: "Go back to that, what a ping-ping ting!" he's rumoured to have said of the song's distinctive plinky-plonky piano melody. Gyptian then laid down a vocal that was deemed so unremarkable and weird he didn't even bother finishing it; no one told his label it existed, and Gyptian didn't even ask for a copy when he left the studio. Blaze felt it had something but wasn't sure exactly what, so he asked a club-promo friend to email it out to his dancehall DJs contact list as a favour. The track's momentum has been unstoppable ever since. Starting out in the reggae clubs of the Caribbean and NYC, it became a word-of-month phenomenon that graduated on to the daytime playlist of New York's Hot 97 in February this year, after becoming one of the station's most requested tracks.

It peaked at #77 on the Billboard “Hot 100”, #31 on the Billboard “Hip Hop/R&B Songs”, and held the #1 spot on Billboard’s Reggae Charts for 9 consecutive weeks. With the tremendous success of the song it’s only fitting that an album would follow soon.

On July 20th VP released Gyptian’s latest full-length album appropriately entitled “Hold You”. With “Hold You” Gyptian introduces the world to the new era of Sexy Reggae Music as he dedicates this album “to the ladies across the globe.” NPR (National Public Radio) has even stated Gyptian is “swoon-worthy stuff.”

Oftentimes when a successful single spawns an album the result is nothing more than a bunch of filler songs quickly put together in order to further capitalize on the success of the hit single. Thankfully that is not the case with “Hold You”. Gyptian along with producer Jon FX, who gets credit for 9 of the 15 tracks, have managed to create a quality album.

Following a brief, thematic intro appropriately called To Be Held the album commences with the all-too-familiar Beautiful Lady. A seemingly odd inclusion considering it was released as a single by Vertex Productions way back in 2005 and it was featured on “My Name is Gyptian”. However, it makes sense here given what it’s about and honestly, it was a Boomshot when it was first released and it’s lost none of its luster. Call Gyptian and All InYou both have a throwback feel reminiscent of late 80s, early 90s reggae/dancehall with its prominent, syncopated drums and simple, driving bass lines. The latter uses a sample from the most overused and oftentimes annoying riddims of all time, the name of which will go without mention because of its explicit nature. The title track Hold Yuh has a similar feel but is still fresh and original. Who could have guessed that a few very basic notes on a keyboard and an equally basic drum pattern would serve as a masterful backdrop for Gyptian’s unique flow and delivery? Its catchy hook will cause even the most reserved to sing along. Nah Let Go is another stand-out track. Set to a bubbling, up-tempo riddim Gyptian again presents a lyrical flow that is 100% his own. Rendezvous introduces a classic roots reggae riddim to the album. The drum and bass is ultra-heavy. To his credit, Gyptian rises to the occasion and matches the quality of the music with a nice delivery, all the while staying on topic. So Much In Love is set to a modern roots riddim and Gyptian again impresses with his passionate delivery directed to his empress. Drive Me Crazy would be a much better tune if the ‘autotune’ was omitted, something completely unnecessary when you have a voice as smooth as Gyptian’s. Selah closes the album. Like the aforementioned Beautiful Lady it doesn’t seem to fit albeit for entirely different reasons. However, when you listen to the lyrics it becomes very clear why it’s here as Gyptian fervently gives thanks to everyone who helped him to get where he is today. He calls out the naysayers but more importantly graciously credits everyone who believed in him. Hence, it’s a deserving inclusion and a fitting conclusion to the record.

Gyptian fans will be more than satisfied with ‘Hold You’. Reggae fans in general will find many pleasing moments. Those new to Gyptian based on the success of the single will find a record that should help them to appreciate reggae/dancehall for what it is. Again, ‘Hold You’ is reggae/dancehall in its purest form. Gyptian wisely refused to compromise the integrity of the music. It's 100% Gyptian and 100% Reggae. Jamaicans and reggae fans throughout the world should be proud! Recommended

Track listing:

1. To Be Held
2. Beautiful Lady
3. Call Gyptian
4. All In You
5. Hold You
6. Nah Let Go
7. Haffi Easy
8. L.U=V.E
9. Rendezvous
10. So Much In Love
11. Na Na Na (A Love Song)
12. Drive Me Crazy
13. Where You Belong
14. Leave Us Alone
15. Selah