By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
By Karli Evans
By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
The accelerated release date of Damian Marley's third CD is owed to the tremendous response his "Welcome to Jamrock" single has received on urban radio. However, nothing about this CD sounds hurried. The nimble production by Damian's older brother Stephen audaciously weaves hip-hop, R&B, and even rock and roll beats with sampled speeches, sound effects, and Damian's most confident and diversified vocals yet. The result is one of 2005's finest releases.
"Confrontation" kicks things off with a stirring, sparse military drumbeat beneath interspersed speeches from Haile Selassie I and Marcus Garvey. Against this militantly idealistic backdrop Marley drops denunciations of the bureaucracies that perpetuate war ("Institute of the church in war/Preaching and rehearsing war"). Acerbic commentary also abounds in "In 2 Deep" ("If you're over ten and watch CNN/And believe what you see, you're in 2 deep") and continues through the CD's title cut, in which Damian's depiction of Jamaica is as menacing as Robbie Shakespeare's sampled bass line: "Welcome to Jamdown/Poor people dead at random/Political violence, can't done!/Di thugs dem wi' do what them got to/And won't think twice to shot you...."
But Damian also displays an engagingly playful side on the rollicking reggae/rock and roll romp "All Night," with Steven providing the sung chorus. "Beautiful" boasts a searing sax solo with a soulful hook by reality-TV star (and sometime singer) Bobby Brown.
Also featured are two covers of Bob Marley classics: "Move," a reconfiguration of "Exodus" with a segment of the original rhythm looped under Damian's rapid-fire rhymes; and the hip-hop-infused "Pimpa's Paradise," which features Black Thought from The Roots. Yet the inclusion of their father's songs wasn't necessary: The sonic sophistication Damian and Stephen display throughout Welcome to Jamrock brilliantly channels Bob's revolutionary spirit into their 21st-century musical vernacular.