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Macka B
Global Messenger
Ariwa


The first thing I couldn't help noticing about Macka Bís new release is the cover design. It is so bad it would make any graphic designer rip the beating heart from his/her chest. It looks like most of the bootleg reggae albums that you see being sold daily on the streets of New York. I want to get my mind past the artwork, but I kept thinking that I received a bad demo tape from a first time reggae artist. Iíll just try to move on.

Hailing from the U.K. sound systems, Macka B got his start as one of the top ranking DJís of the time and began recording for dub music veteran, Mad Professor and his respected Ariwa label. After a string of number one hits on the U.K. Reggae charts, Macka B has recorded over thirteen albums to date. The music production on this album isnít anything original, but remains strong, pulling its influences from older roots-reggae as well as the digi-type dub from the eighties and nineties. Mad Professor and producers Black Steel, Mafia and the Robotiks piece together some decent reggae tracks for Macka B to strut himself on, but Macka canít seem to find his strut.

The opening track "Power of Mind" starts with a jungle/drum & bass track, a nice innovation for a roots -reggae artist. It is a great way to start an album and shows the open mind of the artists involved. But the problem lies with the vocals. A majority of Macka Bís lyrics have a socio-political message with a positive undercurrent. This is a common thread in a majority of reggae music and should be welcomed in a time where a lot of dance-hall music cashes in on more violent imagery. Somewhere in the positive messages and Macka Bís delivery, I couldn't help but get the vibe of a college professor or even a Sunday school teacher who decided to get hip and use modern music to teach their daily lesson plan. The lyrics are written well, but Macka B tends to establish one vocal hook and wrap the lyrics around it making the track a little monotonous at times.

Most of the album stays within the reggae and dub parameters. Mad Professor and crew offer some nice EQ filters and delicious, dubby sub-bass. The production isnít raw like that of the early pioneers, but more polished like other Ariwa releases. The primary party foul is the use of a bass line from the oldie classic "Stand By Me" on Macka's "So Many Things." You can attempt to use familiar melodies from other songs (though done to death) but the "Stand By Me" piece only enhanced the cheesy atmosphere. His songs cover racism, oppression, giving respect to mother as queen of the universe etc--all topics I knew would be covered on any predictable reggae release. But Macka B surprised me with his humor and somewhat saved his album with tracks like "Christmas Cancelled." This song has a humorous take on the commercially saturated holiday and is entertaining because it falls outside of the atypical reggae album topics. "Santa Claus what a fraud never once come a me yardÖDonít you see that Santa and Satan have got the same

Letters?" Macka B pushes his humor even further on "Welcome The Grey" when he sings about becoming a silver haired dread, and despite the social notion that this is a bad thing, Macka has no problem with it. "Some people say why donít you use a hair dye I say why/ That is for other people and not for I."

Macka Bís global message is so positive itís hard to tell him the truth. Its like trying to tell your kids that their school plays kind of sucked. The problem is that after thirteen previous albums, you think he would be reggae master of the universe. Global Messenger is an interesting listen but becomes as cliché as the cover art.

-Justin Hardison

Track Listing:

  1. Power of the Mind
  2. Conscious Woman
  3. So Man Things
  4. Effects of Slavery
  5. Mother of Civilization
  6. Rasta Postman
  7. Do You Feel Irie?
  8. JíAdore le Reggae
  9. Dem Kinda Blackman
  10. Christmas Cancelled
  11. The Human Touch
  12. 4 Minute Vacation
  13. Beaucoup díAmour
  14. Welcome the Grey


Mike Doughty



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