JahSayDo finds Akae Beka (Vaughn Benjamin) teaming up with the Uhuru Boys production team for an album that will surprise many Midnite/Akae Beka fans. The only word I can come up with which best describes JahSayDo is “eclectic.” Unlike Benjamin’s previous three albums (Homage To The Land, Portals, and Livicated), which lie comfortably within the roots reggae/modern roots domain, JahSayDo is an album which refuses to be restricted to a single genre as its sound contains elements of RnB, jazz, hip-hop, dancehall and more.
Lyrically, Benjamin is in top form as he weaves his web of knowledge, platitudes, and conspiracy theories. His distinctive vocal delivery remains unchanged – a monotone and matter-of-fact stream-of-conscious style which has made him the most remarkable, prolific and influential chanter since Burning Spear. Like previous Akae Beka/Midnite albums, there are no backing vocals, no female singers, no guest artists – just Brother Vaughn blessing the mic, raw and unshackled. He is an artist with a seemingly endless arsenal of knowledge from which he crafts the most original and unique songs in the world of reggae. Akae Beka is a giant among men, a genius the likes of which we have not seen in reggae for decades.
JahSayDo is not an easy listen for fans of Benjamin’s extensive catalogue. Most reggae fans will not feel this album upon a first listen, and some may not vibe with the album at all. However, there are some real treasures within the album’s fifteen-song track list. My favorite track on the album is the melodically sublime “Platune” which finds Benjamin vocalizing over a breezy Uhuru Boys roots instrumental. The tune is vintage Vaughn Benjamin and just may be one of my favorite tunes he has recorded as Akae Beka. Modern roots fans must also check the brilliantly-produced “Urgency,” “Elixir,” and the rollicking “Aloudallowed.”
As someone who absolutely loathes dancehall and everything it has done to devalue reggae’s brand the world over, I am not a fan of Benjamin experimenting with speedy, over-produced riddims that do nothing but under-deliver. Unfortunately he strays down this path on JahSayDo with entirely unimpressive tracks like “Kingdom FreeUp” and “Double.”
JahSayDo is truly an album with something for everyone. Akae Beka continues to experiment with his sound and Uhuru Boys bring the goods with original and unique-sounding productions. Vaughn Benjamin is the only artist in reggae courageous enough to push the limits of the established reggae sound and he is unapologetic about the choices he makes. As far as I’m concerned he is the only reggae artist that deals in 100% original material – no relicks, no cover versions, no re-translations – just new and unique material every time. No other reggae artist in the world today can make that same claim. JahSayDo is an album that grows more accessible with every listen. The fact is that there are ’nuff crucial tracks on the album to make it one of the finest reggae albums of 2017.