Continuing to cultivate both their polished digital sound and their stable of vocalists, Top Smile Records returns for its third collection of 7″ vinyl releases. It seems Switzerland is starting to become a reliable source for digital reggae, as High Smile HiFi continues to focus on quality productions rather than worrying about any hype or (mis)perceptions. These three slabs of wax present just as many riddims, although with four featured vocalists – including the increasingly resurgent Little Harry – only two of the versions are included.
The first release is an all-UK affair behind the microphone. Tenna Star’s “Right Now” is an urgent cry to action: his soaring tenor blends spiritual calls for guidance with condemnation of the world today. The backing track is bouncy, with high-toned synth skanks that provide a solid counterbalance to the bass line.
Ras Negus I handles the same riddim on “Family,” with his gruffer delivery in stark contrast to the positive lyrical content: ‘great responsibilities awaits us, we gotta be courageous, unity is strength Selassie I taught us, and listen to the teachings of Marcus!’ The chorus then – strictly conscious with the ultimate message that ‘family is important’ – is an engagingly specific lyrical turn dedicated to minimising relationship strife and thus avoiding single parenthood.
A simple-yet-tough groove, “No Friend A Dem” is led by its thick bass and quirky teasing melody while Little Harry calls out the disloyal and hypocritical. Refusing the friendship of those who ‘sell out dem families and also dem friends,’ it’s easy to see this as real life in song for the 80s dancehall deejay who obtained stardom as an early teen. The version lets the rhythmic nuances come through cleanly, classic digital yet primed for the 2015 dancefloor.
There’s also a retro-styled video shot in Jamaica, featuring Little Harry atop roofs, in the market, riding the bus, and even tending birds, giving the viewer a surprisingly intimate look into the singer’s life.
The final 7″ features S’Kaya on “Deejay Livication,” celebrating the mic life. From chanting down Babylon to talking about roots and culture to upping the selector, all’s covered here in a captivating sing-song style. It’s always a pleasure to hear a youthful vocalist who already possesses both a smooth swagger and an attention to lyrical detail. On the flip side, the instrumental finds the keys coming through cleanly and the low-end appropriately at the forefront, with the drums filling in all the spaces.
All the label’s vinyl is available from Reggae Fever. And if you’re curious about the previous two Top Smile releases, read on: