t the same time that ragga is making its presence known in the mainstream with the likes of Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder hitting the charts, its also found a relative renaissance in the underground. The time is ripe, so to speak, for this genre to blow up. Enter Kevin Martin, aka the Bug, who has been creating some of the freshest ragga tracks since 2001. On this full length, Martin enlists the help of numerous vocal collaborators (Tikiman, Daddy Freddy, Roger Robinson, Singing Bird, Toastie Taylor, Wayne Lonesome, and He-Man) to help create an aural landscape of paranoia, urgency, and- most importantly- bass.
The album was not directly recorded for Rephlex (distributor in the UK) or Tigerbeat6 (in the US), however the album both fits neatly into each others oeuvre nicely. The reason? The album maintains a beautiful sense of balance between static, bass, and melody. On a tightrope walk between these three elements, Martin ties each track together with a different vocalist to complement the hard-edged instrumental backings.
The up tempo highlights of the album come in the form of the Daddy Freddy contributions. “Politicians & Paedophiles” and “Run the Place Red” are both blinding slabs of distorted ragga that rarely let up enough for the listener to breathe. The songs are both so full of sound that the effect is one of suffocation, but as long as you keep dancing it doesn’t matter. There’s a reason that Freddy was once labeled the “World’s Fastest MC.”
The down tempo highlights can be attributed to the spoken word collaborations between Martin and Roger Robinson, as the beats slow down and the lyrics take over. Robinson is a talented poet, otherwise, but here his contributions add a layer of depth to the proceedings that was not present before. As a respite from the frenetic pace of most of the album, the Robinson tracks are welcome.
Overall, Martin and friends has constructed a worthy album of bass driven ragga tunes that reflect each artist’s particular love of music. The music is capable on each, while the MCs each add their own original brand of voiceovers, some succeeding wildly, others turning in relatively sedate performances. And that’s perhaps what the album’s greatness hinges upon. In each case the song is controlled by the ability and tenor of the MC. When it doesn’t work as well, “Superbird feat. Singing Bird” for one, then the track is only saved by the instrumental backing. When Martin and the collaborator hit upon a fruitful combination? Then it turns into some of the best distorted ragga you’ve ever heard. An album to jam to, surely, but how often will you be breaking it out if you aren’t a fan of the genre? Not too often, I’m afraid, due to the mediocre nature of the entire product.