Alborosie – Freedom & Fyah
1.) The Prophecy
2.) Can’t Cool
3.) Fly 420
6.) Rocky Road
9.) Life to Me
11.) Carry On
13.) Zion Youth
The Pier Album Rating:
Release Date: May 20th, 2016
Record Label: VP Records
Official Website: Alborosie Website
Alborosie (Alberto D’ Ascola) is a Sicilian-born musician who started his career in the band the Tickets. After the band played Jamaica, Alborosie became inspired by the Rasta/reggae culture and changed his life around. He moved to Jamaica and became a musical engineer. The multi-instrumentalist now runs his own Shengen Studio in the foothills of Kingston. He has since released one hit record after another, including Soul Pirate, Escape To Babylon (2009), 2 Times Revolution (2011), Sound The System and Dub The System (2013), and Alborosie Meets King Jammy – Dub Of Thrones (2015).
For Freedom & Fyah Alborosie branches out from his rather roots-oriented compositions, integrating loads of dubstep, dub, and synth-ier drum patterns reminiscent of mid-career Black Uhuru. At first, I was nervous for another once-roots musician to fall into the contemporary dancehall/club reggae mix puddle. Then I really listened in, and although Albororsie took some dancehall leaps, he’s still very into roots grooves.
Production-wise, Freedom & Fyah is as steady (if not steadier) than his previous releases: vocals high and clear in the mix (not easy to accomplish for a rapping Rasta), paunchy bass, clear drums, and the rest of the band integrated as needed. Granted, with Alborosie’s producer background, he’s got excellent sense of mixing.
A key track is a team-up with Protoje. “Strolling” is the swashbuckling tale of Rastas taking to the streets, with the two of them word-slinging with their complementary-but-unique swaggers, evoking the montage scene from Rockers! when the characters congregate to the sounds of Peter Tosh’s “Stepping Razor.”
Freedom & Fyah offers many more similar song set-ups, which include rowdy choruses sometimes sung by guest stars, usually including some tasty, catchy hook; then Alborosie lays in with rapid-fire rhymes and sometimes tender melodies. This formula hasn’t failed him yet, so he hasn’t needed to deviate. Freedom & Fyah marks playful risk taking without uprooting what makes Alborosie a unique character.
“Cry” is an example of this. The chorus is simply “I cry for my people everyday,” but repeated, sunken into the drink of bass n’ drums. And I’ve been singing it in my head since the first time I heard it! “You’re full of broken dreams,” Alborosie offers, “well, you can’t just restore… Will you be a Jedi star/ in this here Star War?” The one drop is heady, as is the lightly dabbled-in Autotune (something he employs often but tastefully).
The earlier Black Uhuru reference is to “Rich” — another album highlight with an Autotune-cushioned chorus: “When your dollars drop in/ like in a gambling machine,” the Sicilian-Rasta rolls out, somehow making the two lines rhyme; “If health start ta’ fail/ and your face get pale,” he adds, “money won’t make you rich.” The roots instrumentation synced with whirly-girly synth and digital drumming is a healthy dose of playfulness.
The first single off the album, “Fly 420”, is both a classic-sounding Alborosie herb anthem and a dubstep/remixed model molded to be the 2016 Spring Break soundtrack topper. The rhymes land one after another over the bullet-resounding drums. This song is proof that Alborosie walked in with a mission. At this point he’s an authority on the game. Even my least favorite song, “Judgement,” is no less finely executed; it’s just a dancehall/club ready booty-shaker drenched in synth drums and not my favorite kind of reggae; Alborosie has mastered it, though.
I prefer the roots of “Carry On,” punctuated by horns, vocal harmonies, and Alborosie singing with grit, “Some people/ without the benefits/ there ain’t no friendship,” and one highlight of Freedom & Fyah is that the songs are coherent, not just beats for a rapper to slay over. I also prefer the dub-wise closer “Zion Youth” for similar reasons.
And overall, as one user commented below a Youtube video of Alborosie put it, “Don’t tell Alborosie what to do. He knows what he’s doing.” I’ve found every one of his past releases inspired, bursting with creativity with a surprisingly wide vocabulary for such a musical style. Freedom & Fyah is no different. It’s great to hear that, after so many years at the controls, Alborosie lives up to our expectations and his intentions.
Written & Reviewed By: John Powell
[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, NOT the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]
Watch: Alborosie – “Poser”