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Jahdan Blakkamoore - Babylon Nightmare

Jahdan Blakkamoore - Babylon Nightmare

Jahdan Blakkamoore - Babylon Nightmare

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An ambitious concept carried off.


The first thing we hear at the start of Guyanese New Yorker Jahdan Blakkamoore’s second long-player is a sample of Ras Michael's portentous No Hoppers, refashioned in a hip-hop-meets-reggae fusion by Lustre Kings' Andrew "Moon" Bain and I Grade's Laurent "Tippy" Alfred. Immediately we know this is an album that looks forwards, backwards and in all directions to make its point. 

Jahdan Blakkamoore - Babylon NightmareThat point is often a serious one. 'Babylon Nightmare' is a concept album targeting what its author sees as Western Society's self-made confusion. Jahdan is a voluminous reader and it shows in a series of free flowing evocative images, frequently delivered in a rapidly spat rapper-deejay style. Yet he is also both an earthy, soulful singer and an occasional playful mimic. For self-deprecating love song Dim View of the World he invokes Lutan Fyah, before briefly channelling falsetto Sizzla and Pressure (All Over The World) and even a touch of Capleton (Red Hot). 

The production - from Lustre King’s co-founder Bain, Tippy and long-time Lustre collaborator Nick Fantastic - is beautiful rather than visceral. Live instrument sounds (clavinet, vibraphone, and some of the nicest horns you’ll ever hear) co-exist with the aforementioned foundation samples – check the use of Eek-A-Mouse's Ghetto Living in the unsurprisingly titled Down In The Ghetto. But an artist with as wide a musical scope as Jahdan was never going to employ one production team. Dean Pond's Pura Vida rhythm used on Pressure's Pure Life backs Songs of Love, while Mountains To Climb on Bobby Konders' now immortal Kingdom base rivals Chezidek’s Call Pon Dem and Collie BuddzLet Me Know.

European commentators as weighty as Rodigan has complained of hip hop affecting the sound of reggae. Yet whether you agree with them or not, what the US based Lustre Kings and Jahdan have done here is not the lazy or desperate trend following of which some Jamaicans are accused, but a carefully considered distillation of the influences around them. Earlier this year Nas and Junior Gong created a truly international work that fused ancient and modern, urban and rural sounds and ideals. This feels like chapter two. 

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