(March 2018, Irie Ites)

With poise and discipline, King Kong’s Repatriation is equal parts statement and celebration. Over polished heavyweight rhythms – all fresh takes on vintage styles – the least-searchable Waterhouse-style singer brings his plentiful positive vibes, crucial guests, and an exciting balance between confidence and passion. Titled and driven by the Rastafarian’s 2007 relocation to Shashamane, Ethiopia, this is a joyful journey from the veteran, out now via Irie Ites.

Over a minimalist relick of the Murderer riddim, where the keys shimmer quite nicely, “Money Could A Buy” weighs the proverbial price to be paid – is it worth the woes? Switching gears, “Gwaan” celebrates dance halls and King Kong’s own role chanting them down, on the first of several riddims from New Zealand production duo Naram and Art.

Their solid, tough production work is found again on “Pree The Money,” a well-crafted dark 80s-esque riddim. This cut finds King Kong hitting his stride, ‘bubble a bubble, we a bubble to the top’. The hooks and verses are entrancing, demanding justice and condemning the inequalities of capitalism.

What follows, a deceptively light stomper, tells his personal story of “Repatriation” while admonishing others neither to forget the words of Marcus Garvey nor to speak highly of Ethiopia without journeying there. The ensuing “Change” unleashes a heavier rhythm section, summoning those sound system vibes for a positive message: ‘peace and love be the way, each and every day.’

The first guest spot is actually a suitably “Old School” pairing – Burro Banton and Pinchers – who take turns scorching the mic in their respective rugged and smooth deliveries. Respect due for this one, a definite standout. Then “Just A Grow” switches from the celebratory to the forward-thinking; there’s personal growth to be gained on even the rockiest of roads, utilizing a different tree metaphor than the typical reggae tune.

Revisiting an equally old-school theme, Eek A Mouse joins in for “Wake Up The Town,” a boastful collaboration in a classic style, all about the arrival of a champion sound. One must presume they’ve put the teasing “Taller Than King Kong” behind them? Then “Rootsman Skanking” slows down the vibe just a bit for the mellowest moment of the whole album, an exhortation of Rastas in the dance.

Amidst some catchy horns, “Dancehall Teacher” is as rollicking as reggae gets, pure energy to move feet. In contrast, “Licky Licky” is weightier, both in style and fashion. The only track that is not radio-friendly, it condemns greed, murder, and a gravilicious brother in no uncertain terms.

Wrapping up the even dozen tracks is “After Midnight,” a sendoff into the evening (or a welcoming of the night?) when dubplates strike fear into the hearts of soundbwoys. An appropriate ending indeed for an album that exudes quality from start to finish. Also, make sure and check out Reggaeville’s excellent interview with King Kong, which delves into his evolution as an artist as well as the making of this album.

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