With the release of his third studio album Order of Distinction, New York spit-kicker Jahdan Blakkamoore calls upon the inimitable skills of Zion I Kings, one of the most influential production collectives to emerge in reggae over the past decade. The crew’s work with the Virgin Islands reggae contingent, especially their innovative collaborations with St. Croix’s Midnite, has ushered in the most inventive and transformational period for roots reggae in more than thirty years.
This unique brand of modern roots reggae – commonly known as the “I-Grade sound” – is characterized by an authentic and profound spiritual intensity, overtly Rastafarian and Pan-Africanist lyrical themes, and multi-layered percussive and horns-driven soundscapes which give the sound a deeply reverential and ceremonial feel. It is a sound that has clearly influenced an entire generation of aspiring roots reggae artists and is largely responsible for the resurgence in popularity of socially conscious roots reggae throughout the world. Jamaica’s so-called “reggae revival” isn’t as much a spontaneous, homegrown, grassroots movement among like-minded socially conscious reggae artists, as it is Jamaica’s answer to Midnite, the “I-Grade sound,” and the global influence of the entire Virgin Islands reggae contingent.
Order of Distinction is a diverse album which oscillates between ragga, roots, hip-hop, gully and dancehall. Blakkamoore, best known for his work with Noble Society, Dead Prez, and the NYC sound system scene, showcases his dynamic vocal talents as a deejay, rhyme sayer, chanter and singer over solid production from Zion I Kings and Paper Stars. Zion I Kings is the holy trinity of modern roots reggae production – a seriously heavy production collective which includes Lustre Kings Productions (Corrin Haskell, Andrew ‘Moon’ Bain), Zion High Productions (David “Jah David” Goldfine, Ras Elliott, Quashi) and I-Grade Records (Laurent “Tippy” Alfred). Paper Stars is the production and writing duo forged between Jahdan Blakkamoore and Andrew “Moon” Bain.
The high-powered “World Needs Love” opens the album like a cannon shot with driving horns and a skanked out riddim reminiscent of one of reggae’s great album openers – “Chant A Psalm” from Steel Pulse’s ‘True Democracy.’ The album features strong guest appearances from Kabaka Pyramid (“For The Children”), Pressure Busspipe (“Cycles of Life”), and Lady Leshurr with Melodic Yoza (“Ting Tun Up”).
Blakkamoore teams up with Lutan Fyah on “Cold World,” one of the best tracks on the album and one on which both artists display their vocal talents. Another highlight of the album is the soulful “Smood Blakk Skin,” an unmistakable Zion I Kings sound featuring bustling, rhythmic percussion and Blakkamore “inna chant and sing stylee.” It is a tune which showcases Blakkamoore’s truest talent – a finely tuned, highly agile, unpredictable and unrivaled vocal prowess. The album closes as brilliantly as it opens with the enduring positivity of “Best In Life,” a brilliantly written tune and an exuberant performance by Blakkamoore that makes for the album’s most solid tune.
On Order of Distinction, Jahdan Blakkamoore proves yet again that he is truly one of the most exceptional vocal talents in contemporary reggae. His extraordinary ability to transition seamlessly from dancehall barker to ragga chanter to roots singer all within the same tune is something that must be heard to be truly appreciated. Big production from Zion I Kings and Paper Stars makes for an incredibly diverse set that entertains from start to finish.