On June 23, 2015 Damian Marley and Ghetto Youths International released ‘Various Artists – On the Corner Riddim,’ a tightly-wound set featuring Ghetto Youths’ finest lyricists rhyming truth and rights over a stupendous riddim. It is a refreshing, worthwhile endeavor that outshines the all of the countless “riddim” albums dropped so far this year, each one less inspiring and more forgettable than the next.
It is the Marley-produced riddim that bumps under Wayne Marshall’s rhyme on his single “On the Corner” from his Tru Colors album.The only thing that hits as hard as Marshall’s lyric is the underlying riddim, a high energy, stripped-to-the-bone head-knocka that bubbles like crude and flows like the River Jordan. Kabaka Pyramid came strong as well with his brilliantly-written single “Well Done,” which took aim at Jamaican politricks and politricksters in Marley-esque fashion – straight boom shot, no chaser.
‘Various Artists – On The Corner Riddim’ is not just sound, but substance. While the riddim is a top notch production it is the songwriting that is most impressive. This is not a surprise when the set includes songs by the likes of Chronixx, Wayne Marshall, Kabaka Pyramid, Iba Mahr, Jesse Royal, Tydal Kamau, and Black-Am-I. On the sure shot “Lemme Go” Julian Marley, who is readying his fourth solo album for release later this year, hails up his legendary father in fine lyrical style: “Looking for a bellyful/Got kids to feed/Grow some marijuana/To fulfill the need/Dem a go lock me up/Throw away the key/When dem used to pull us over/Now they gotta set me free/Roadblock used to be a big crisis/Now when me sight de police dem a niceness.”
However, ‘selectah mus’ press rewind when Wayne Marshall ‘come fi mash up de place.’ “On The Corner” is Marshall’s re-imagination of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” and it is one of the finest pieces of writing I’ve heard in years from a reggae artist. “That’s me in de school yard/And that’s you in de school fight/Trying to please your ego/Always trying to prove a point/Hanging out with de wrong crowd/Drinking and smoking joints/I’m focused on my subjects/Trying to make my future bright/That’s me in de studio/And that’s you on de crack pipe/Looking for de answers/And still hiding from the light/Now we’re contemplating/Another junction in life/You live with your decisions/It all comes down to choice.” This tune is pure lyrical genius.
Damian Marley and Ghetto Youths International have constructed an outstanding set around the “On the Corner” riddim. Any serious fan of quality, conscious, thoughtful reggae must check this one soon.