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Protoje - Ancient Future

Protoje - Ancient Future

Protoje - Ancient Future

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Protoje's proper album.


There's no denying Protoje’s gifts as a lyricist, performer and recording artist. But up until now albums by the soft spoken, steely Rasta deejay with the country accent have promised rather than fully captured his potential. 

That's not to say he's been shabby in the format either. Debut 7 Year Itch married a precocious prospect to a unified sound, yet contained tension between cousin Don Corleon’s R&B pop reggae rhythms and a rootsier demeanour. (Moreover, one of the best tracks Our Time Come didn't make the cut due to sample clearance issues).
Follow-up 8 Year Affair found a more mature Protoje in control, making nods to Sly and Robbie. Even so, it gave a slight hint of transition between strong singles like This Is Not A Marijuana Song (added for practical reasons) and the dread serious finale.
Protoje - Ancient FutureWhat was missing was a sense of note-for-note synergy across the whole project. And on third effort Ancient Future - with Don’s producer role taken by fastidious roots rhythm maker of the day Winta James - this has been achieved.
The opening section does not suggest the out and out roots record you might expect from Winta. Protection, bearing the Kymani-ish tones of new artist Mortimer and second track Criminal find Protoje (part of a wider Jamaican movement that has gained traction in the US media) bringing his love of hip hop to the fore, riding hybrid guitar chop, boom bap beats.
Yet there is plenty of classical reggae to follow: the horns-drenched All Will Have To Change; the political system scorning Sudden Flight utilising Jesse Royal, Sevana and Jah ThomasGunshot rhythm; and Protoje’s herbal co-production Bubbling containing a sample of Zap Pow’s song of the same name. Though the tempo rises for the island disco pop of Love Gone Cold featuring Sevana and the Prince Buster pilfering ska Answer To Your Name, the production keeps everything flowing.
As well as musical cohesion this is probably Protoje's tightest long-player lyrically, serving delicious couplets of social commentary, sad romance and introspection on a songly basis. He sings minimally – preferring to let his collaborators (sampled or present) handle the melodies while he spits controlled aggression over correspondingly crisp drums.

The all too familiar clearance issues mean that proposed closer Used To Be My Life mixed by England’s Prince Fatty is not included (thanks to its use of a John Holt cover of Bread’s Baby I’m A Want You). However that does mean we get a big ending via The Flame featuring Kabaka Pyramid and a psychedelic soul strings paradigm shift.

The demise of the autobiographical titles is no accident. Time will decide if Ancient Future yields as many commercial singles as previous records (although you can chalk up Chronixx collab Who Knows and vocoded Waterhouse kiss off Stylin’ already) but in an EP and mixtape age Protoje has made a proper album that sounds nailed down from end to end.

Tags: Protoje

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