Scotch Bonnet (2015)

As frequent partners on sound systems and in the studio, Mungo’s Hi Fi & Charlie P‘s You See Me Star is a celebratory tour through riddims and across styles. Technically it’s the former featuring the latter, but in reality this album allows the comforts of collaboration to show, with the well-regarded Scottish crew bringing ten varied cuts to showcase the young UK vocalist.

Kick-started by the title track’s Answer re-lick, the familiar bassline pulsates beneath Charlie P’s boastful yet laid-back entrance. Switching flows at will, he name-checks Mr. Williamz before announcing ‘you can’t test with the heavyweight rhymer.’

This rootsy opening ends with a solid ride on the instrumental, and then “Musical Politics” switches to a grimier digital sound. The elements are arranged to allow the bass-led main groove to stand strong amidst the key stabs and drum fills, while Charlie P laments the realities of his trade: ‘in this reggae thing we’re all supposed to be one big family, but if I chat on one sound then another sound is mad at me, I myself there’s no one else there’s only one Charlie P, and I will do what I want to do why can’t we live in harmony?’

“Traveller” [originally featured on Mungo’s Serious Time LP] is an autobiographical tale of borders / marijuana / no drama. Over a thick rubadub riddim, the verses cover Charlie P’s origins: from being a youth in the dance to evolving into a teenaged conscious lyricist; to his development as an artist: training in the Dub Bunker to working across Europe with the likes of Iration Steppas, O.B.F, and Dubateers; to his recent adventures alongside Mungo’s and Part2Style.

Haunting rootstep, “Society” brings the heaviest bass yet for a thundering condemnation of both promoters and performers: ‘To me it’s about the riddim, yeah to me it’s about the vibes, to them it’s about the money and say what is the price?’, and later ‘that is the problem, the youth of today have no beginning, for me it was singing, to them it’s about whose crew they big in.’

Recycling the 80s-infused (as in Axel F) riddim from Serious Time‘s “Thousand Style” (with Mr. Williamz on the mic), Charlie P – hopefully at least slightly tongue-in-cheek in regards to the riddim – calls out those whose lyrics are derivative. This tune is far from that though, alternating rapid-fire verses and sing-song choruses. Like many cuts there’s a solid outro, which lays down the melody atop pounding drums.

“Alphabet,” unfortunately, seems like a slight misstep due to both the quirky synth sounds and the rather rote approach as brought about by the title. Charlie P manages to squeeze in some clever rhymes, and Mungo’s still bring a solid rubadub vibe, but…

In sharp contrast, “Nice It Up” [also off Serious Time] is powerful, engaging, and clearly designed to fire up the floor. The shuffling theme and heavy low-end are indeed for ‘all the ravers, all the dancers,’ as Charlie P toasts during the intro. His fast chat suits the weight of the riddim during the verses, which lets the party attitude of the chorus shine that much stronger as drinks and spliffs are (doubtlessly) raised.

Battling against Babylon, “The System” is lighter in tone than many other cuts here. However, that creates a nice sense of balance between the keys and vocals, presenting a more relaxed mic approach despite the sufferer’s lyrical content.

Continuing to slowly wind the album down, “Life Is What You Make It” follows a similar vibe, relaxed with more space in the riddim. Charlie P’s never afraid to speak his mind, even on personal issues, which by this point makes You See Me Star a definite statement of artistic purpose.

The closing “Back To My Roots” highlights the importance of roots and culture in the dancehall, regardless of one’s position in life. An appropriate ending to an exploration of numerous incarnations of contemporary reggae stylings!

Album available on vinyl from Scotch Bonnet, or digital via ReggaeRecord.

The Groove Thief
ClockenDUB: The Groove Thief & Loki Dolo ft. LëKSs Live @ Clockenflap Festival 2014 *
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