...this is a collection way beyond any textbook definition of roots and culture
Andrew McGregor 2003
Reggae is dominating the mainstream in a manner not seen for decades. The Diwali rhythm patented by Stephen 'Lenky' Marsden has already propelled the likes of Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder to crossover stardom, as well as proving utterly infectious to urban America -witness Lumidee or the forthcoming Missy Elliot single "Pass The Dutch."
However, for some, the substance of Reggae 2003 is too simplistic. Sean Paul rarely strays beyond smoking draw and sticking to the laydeez like glue. More controversial stars-in-waiting too often straddle that thin line between stupid and clever.
Yet, if there is one artist ready to provide musical and lyrical nourishment to the masses it is the mighty Sizzla Kalonji. Could the current vogue for all things JA finally gain him the wider audience he deserves?
Marking Sizzla's sixth Greensleeves album in as many years, Rise To The Occasion is certainly another slice of conscious and dextrous lyricism. Produced under the guiding hand of Donovan Vendetta Bennett, this is a collection way beyond any textbook definition of roots and culture.
The title track sounds, bizarrely enough, like a future funk classic. A call for positive activism it rides the dirtiest of synth lines and utilises a vocoder in the chorus. Its for you to make the best in life, cries Sizzla. Its a cut that would sit happily on NYCs Hot 97 playlist.
The rest is equally eclectic. "All Is Well" draws on the afrobeat influences prevalent since 1997s classic Black Mother Child, "Give Me A Try" wanders easily into soul falsetto territory, while "In The Mood" is madcap jazz. Fortunately, Sizzla's distinctive vocal force, whether brimming with Rastafarian ire or cooing sweet love, can knit styles with ease. The more definably reggae offerings like "Give Praises" and "Nice & Lovely" are the exceptions here.
Hitting the hour mark, and from such a prolific artist, 'Rise To The Occasion' had the potential to be a struggle. No chance, after Andre 3000's "The Love Below" this is probably the most varied and ambitious album of the year.