Review Summary: As Jah was in the beginning...
During the late nineties there was a revolution happening within reggae music as many artists, especially Buju Banton and Capleton, turned away from the themes of slackness and violence that were usually associated with dancehall and returned social themes and the message of Rastafari. This development led to a new sub-genre of reggae known as conscious reggae. Into this revolutionary backdrop appeared one of the most talented and prolific artists in the history of reggae, Miguel Orlando Collins a.k.a Sizzla.
Sizzla's “Royal Son of Ethiopia” was his sixth album of all new material since his debut which appeared a mere four years previously. It came in the wake of his high profile and critically acclaimed albums “Praise Ye Jah”, “Black Woman and Child”, and “Freedom Cry” and as such with this high profile release, for UK reggae giants Greensleeves, his followers were eagerly expecting another classic. Upon it's release however many were disappointed, claiming that it did not match the high standards set by his previous albums. This is a rather foolish assessment in my opinion and while I would agree that it is not as consistent as his previous efforts I would also say that the majority of this album is the best that Sizzla has ever sounded.
The album begins strongly with two tunes which powerfully introduce the Rastafarian faith which dominates this album; “I and I am the royal son of king David...” Sizzla affirms over very fresh sounding rhythms mirroring whiteness and energetic expression on the album cover. In a similar vein is the fiery dancehall of “Burn Dem Turf” where a seemingly endless quantity of rhymes are fiercely chanted at the listener.
Tracks that may appeal to those more familiar with traditional reggae are “In This Time”, an emotional duet with similarly inclined artist Luciano, “Ripe Leaf” which scorns those who show no love, and “Babylon Homework” which highlights the corrupt nature of the oppressive Babylon system. These tracks feature classic reggae rhythms with a digital edge on to which catchy melodies and swift rhymes are effortlessly conjured.
However back to the downfall of this record which is its inconsistency. Poor efforts include include “What does Life Worth"” and “Break Free” which, while not awful, sound flat compared to much of this album. Also sub par is the whiny “Mental Chains” and “A Wah Dat”, in which a relaxed beat clashes with the militant chanting of Sizzla. Overall however, despite being inconsistent, this is still a very strong release from one of the most talented artists of the conscious reggae generation. I would suggest perhaps picking up “Praise Ye Jah” or “Black Woman and Child” to appreciate the style of the man before moving on to this though.