(Reality Shock, 2019)

After a decade of recording – with albums out on Reality Shock Records plus 7” and 10” out on the likes of Moonshine Recordings, Scotch Bonnet, Partial Records, Conscious Sounds, Jahtari, and Police In Helicopter – Solo Banton still has plenty of wisdom to impart. The word-wielding chanter brings some choice guests with him on Old Raggamuffin, his third full-length, but ultimately it’s his eloquent talent that makes this such a crucial release.

The title track rolls in triumphantly, horns blazing, while Solo B makes it clear who he is over a rollicking riddim. Ignoring trends, with barely a moment to breathe between lines, this is a prime start without a doubt.

“Take Aim” addresses Rastafarianism, and how some seek to silence those who speak of such – they can’t ‘extinguish the eternal flame’ and need to be exposed.

Demanding that the people wake up – while chiding producers, record labels, and radio DJs for “Sleepwalking” – Solo Banton turns his concerns about GMOs, capitalism, and the art of reggae into a catchy tune, complete with nice harmonies and engaging instrumentation. A big tune – the lead single – ensues, a combination cut with Macka B: “Edutainment.” Focused on the need to entertain and educate simultaneously, the two veteran MCs decry slackness and badness in the dance. ‘Conscious lyrics some time is hard to find, never mind a good rhyme.’

Mellowing the vibes out a bit, “Drag Foot” and “Transitions & Changes” are both still strong tracks, and also the most vintage. Sounding like 1970-something, it’s primarily the vocal tones and stylings that date the tracks properly – and that’s definitely a positive.

Next, “Wickedness Trending” pushes things to the present day, as Solo Banton and Mikey General combine forces to offer a fresh take on injustice. The middle verse in particular goes in, a fast-chat indictment of capitalism. All this begs the question: ‘wickedness trending, what kind of message them sending?’ Revisiting a 2016 release, this version of “First World Problem” is stripped down, allowing the vocal to shine clearly.

Earl Sixteen is the final guest of the album, joining for “Universal Language.” Smooth yet tough, this inches towards laid back conscious hip-hop in style.  Then “Awkward” sails in, instantly captivating courtesy of the supporting vocals. A direct celebration of blackness, yet subtly veiled in apology, this is far more than a review of ‘historical facts.’

With the low-end a touch crunchy and the guitar teasing through, “Smile Every Day” is a celebration of optimism, right down to the health benefits. “Rolling Stone” concludes this thoroughly enjoyable LP, by twisting the expected theme into the most stream-of-consciousness track on the whole album.

Whether you’re a Solo B fan, or you’re about to be, give this the proper listen it deserves. Available on CD, USB, and digital download via Bandcamp.

More info:
Solo Banton Facebook
Old Raggamuffin on Bandcamp
Reality Shock Records Facebook

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