Sound the big ting dem! - Busy Signal album - 'Step Out'

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busyalbumcover.jpgArguably one of the better dancehall albums to be released this year, Busy Signal's debut album, 'Step Out', is being watched closely by the industry because it may be paving the way for other artistes who want to go the tough route of attempting an independent release.

The album, released on the artiste's own Network Records, is unapologetically 'gully', accessibly dancehall and true to its roots. This is Busy coming to you straight from the garrisons and that explains why there is no track 2, instead, there is a track 1A. If we have to explain why, you should stop reading this article and get your a*s to another website.

My favourite track is 'Full Clip' feat. Mavado which is preceded by an interlude where a man makes an overture to the deejay of exchanging guns for dubs, a decidedly ancient system of barter, but effective nonetheless because it works in this instance because (surprise surprise) the going rate on a Busy dub is 'a one K, two mattic, and the one spin-barrel'.

After this interlude, Mavado's haunting lyrics, 'A boy inform...', and Busy blows p all over the simple dancehall beat with some hardcore gangster lyrics that promise dismemberment and death coming to a location near you.

One has to enjoy his lyrical gymnastics on singles such as 'That Bad' where he gives mad props to the other artistes in the business whose music he enjoys. But arguably one of the best tracks is 'I Love Yuh' featuring Alaine. Over a bouncy beat, Alaine's pop-friendly sonics soar while Busy Signal tones down his usually delivery to deliver some silly-silly wordplay for the females.

Later, he teams up with his alter ego, Reanno Gordon, on 'Love Me Not?', a whiny plaintive introspective song on the end of a relationship. Busy shows a surprising range of emotions for a hardcore dancehall artiste with the Ava Interlude, and his tribute to his mom, 'Mammy', on a playful laid-back one-drop rhythm.

Busy's heavyweight friends show up on tracks such as 'Do the Maths' with mentor Bounty Killer. This track, delivered over a stripped-down beat that is almost cinematic in its intensity, uses clever wordplay that marinates in gangsterism to deliver its message: '20 plus 8, 40 plus five, nah stay alive, .357 magnum create a landslide...K lef yu body inna bin' . The only problem is that this track is way too short, only 2:29 minutes, but great while it lasted.

Later, he again teams up with fellow Alliance member, Mavado, for 'Badman Place'

with its hi-hats all over the place. It is a track that is perhaps intentionally inelegant

'Born and Grow' which samples Eric Donaldson's 'Land of My Birth' is a patriotic nod to his native land, and shows the deejay's unique ability to find great sing-along hooks that reflect garrison life on the rock.

There is some fast-forward material such as the (ho-hum, yawn) track, 'Since U Been Away' with Kris Kelly and 'Bare Tings' where he again shows off his penchant for repeating phrases he has fallen in love with. And of course, the super-disposable 'Everybody Busy' never should have made it to the album. Here it seems that Reanno has fallen in love with his alter ego just a bit too much and he deejays: 'Everybody busy, Jamaica, busy, America, busy, Canada, busy, Londonese, busy, Japanese, busy...the garrison, busy, uptown, downtown, everybody busy. Are you still with me? Pop quiz time. What is the defining theme of this song? You guessed it. Everybody busy. This tune should have died a horrible death on the studio's cutting room floor. But then, that's my opinion, I could be wrong.

I enjoyed tracks such as the 'Ava Interlude' which features a conversation between Busy and his daughter, Avonique, where they have a chat (with the phone giving the low battery beeping warning) that ends with "Daddy luv yu, yu hear ba-...', and then Busy's voice chips in "Jah know, ah dead it dead, mi love mi lickle dawta..." Nice. Real nice.

The album also contains his biggest local hit to date, 'Not Going Down', which interestingly is the final song on the album. Perhaps it's a statement of intent, or just a coincidence, but whatever it is, one thing is certain. Busy Signal is going to be around the dancehall game for a while. You can bet your house on it.

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