Kings Highway cover

After dropping three quality albums in quick succession, and following on from the success of their Country Living riddim, Reality Chant are set to take things to even higher heights with the release of their latest offering, Kings Highway.

The album boasts contributions from reggae legends Luciano, Mikey General, Lutan Fyah and Jah Mason, and turns in impressive performances from up and comers Natty King and Hi Kee. Messenjah and Confucius man the control tower production-wise, calling on support from some of the countries most well known players of instruments: Did someone say super-group?

Kings Highway is an ear-opening journey through militant minor key steppers, uplifting one-drop gospel, arresting lovers-roots and tough digi-swing, voiced across the previously released Country Living and Fyah Bed riddims plus three new burnished offerings.

Standards are high throughout, with each of the riddims unique enough to keep interest levels up. That said, check out Melburnite Mista Savona’s Warn the Nation LP, which keeps things fresh by relicking several of the riddim cuts on new, album-only instrumentals.

Highlights include album opener and title track Kings Highway, which sees Natty King and David Levi trading chapter and verse over some rough and ready rockers repartee, and shows off the crew’s knack at dropping dramatic key changes mid-song to uplift the mood. I’m not always feeling his staccato flows, but David Levi is sounding hungry here, particularly for a man who just dropped his debut. Warriors of Ethiopia is a welcomed change from the sorry state of local lyricism, and proves his bagalyrics is showing no signs of emptying any time soon.

Unsurprisingly, Jah Mason and Lutan Fyah burn brightest on the previously unreleased Nah Bow Down riddim, while Luciano reigns supreme with Work Hard. If voicing the big guns seems a no-brainer go check out the other lacklustre collabs Luciano recorded while here on tour.

Hi Kee, Porina and Raggadon all put in work on the playful I Call riddim, which winds the clock back to the 90s with its synth bass and swing beats, though the slightly out-of-tune chime makes Zareb’s contribution a little uneasy.

Speaking of Porina, her intricate, lightly feathered backing vocals dove-tailed across the majority of the tracks really shine through, lending the album a sense of continuity and unity. Even the artwork impresses: Red gold and green teamed with portrait collages has been done to death, but the layering of symbolism, image and icon give the cover art a depth and complexity which takes a while to sink in.

Kings Highway is more than just a mix of hot riddims and righteous lyrics, it’s a watershed in New Zealand’s reggae history, representing the first truly world standard modern dancehall reggae album ever produced in this country. It’s real simple: If you love reggae music, go buy this album.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

More info:
Reality Chant Myspace

Miso aka Tiopira McDowell is one half of Auckland-based dancehall production duo High Stakes Records, and is currently working on singles with Perfect, Konshens, Zamunda and Singing Sweet.