Review Summary: somethin jus pop up, like bred outta toasta!
Within the the modern dancehall genre good album releases seem to be few and far between. Even the most talented and respected artists release albums which are generally agreed to be pretty damn awful among hardcore dancehall fans and critics alike. So why is this trash released? Generally it is because there is a strong focus on singles, and after so long an artists most popular tunes are thrown together and called an album. This is a very bad way of doing things in my opinion as albums usually end up with no sense of cohesiveness simply to favour what will be most commercially successful. An example of this is Elephant Mans “Let's Get Physical” which features an array of guest appearances not suited to the dancehall sound at all, e.g. Chris Brown, Rihanna, and Wyclef Jean, to gain some attention. For this reason the underground dancehall releases have usually been the best for quite a few years now, perhaps because of the artists having more creative control rather than being pressured to sell records. Its no surprise then that the best dancehall album of 2008 was this underground record from Vybz Kartel.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1976 Adidja Azim Palmer, a.k.a Vybz Kartel a.k.a Addi di Teacher a.k.a Gaza Thug, is among the modern dancehall elite comprised of such artists as Mavado, Busy Signal and Assassin. For deeper insight into this character you needn't look any further than “Teacher Intro” in which the man announces himself with great vigor, “Well it's Addi di Teacher, di dancehall Mozart...”, and despite sounding like a complete show-off it's extremely hard to argue with his insane vocal flow. What unfolds over the next 12 tracks, not counting the skits (which are actually quite entertaining), is damn-right brutal masterclass showcasing Kartels inventive lyrics and vocal flow.
But this album does not totally revolve around Kartel, as some credit must be paid to the prolific teenager Stephen McGregor, son of veteran reggae singer Freddie McGregor, who takes care of production duties on this album. Although McGregor's rhythms are quite similar in style they are varied enough to keep the listener interested throughout the album as well as providing a sense of cohesiveness which many modern dancehall albums lack. Particularly impressive is the hip-hip flavored “Court Case” which breaks into a cool reggae rhythm in the chorus and complements Kartels melodic plea; “mi never bring no gun that day!”. Also good are the scratching sounds and Bounty Killer sample in “Imagine”, the epic “Solomonic Chronic” which sounds like something out of Star Wars (if they smoked weed), and the subtle almost hypnotic synthesizers in “Life Story”.
Kartels best moments are probably in the fast paced “Dream”, the evil flow of obscenity which is “Buss My Gun”, and “Life Story” in which he describes his struggles and rise to fame and fortune. Less impressive is “Luxury Love”, where the vocals sound out of place over a lame keyboard line, and “Addi Addi Addi”, which has the same boastful attitude as the intro without such good lyrics. Also the bonus tracks on the Japan version find Kartel mutilating his vocal talents with a vocoder and just sound lackluster compared to the actual album. Despite this “The Teacher's Back” is an excellent hardcore dancehall release, mainly due to its consistent atmosphere and lack of any high profile money spinning guest appearances. Highly recommend to anyone interested to anyone interested in the modern dancehall, or even hip-hip, sound.