I-Octane – I Am Great

by Apr 16, 2022Artist, Reviews

I-Octane - I Am Great

Release Info

Label
Troyton Music/ Conquer The Globe Productions
Format
DR
Street date
March, 2022
Contact
Facebook Artist

Tracklist
1. Rise Above
2. Give Thanks
3. You’re Beautiful
4. No Changes
5. Black Skin
6. Stop
7. Sorry
8. Change My Life
9. Paranoid (feat. Rygin King)
10. Selassie I Work (feat. Troyton & AStyle)
11. Loyalty
12. Greatness
13. Them Suicidal
14. Self Made
15. Just Life
Untracked: A review of I Am Great by I-Octane

It is clicking. Each and every generation finds a way of defining itself, both amongst those belonging to them and those who came before and will come after. If you’ve ever talked to an elder about their childhood, for example (particularly a very intelligent elder), you’re likely to hear about a lifestyle which you may not read about in a history book and that is fine. History will always be open to various perspectives and interpretations. It gives humans something to talk about. In virtually all forms of entertainment that I can think of (hold on, let me think about that for a minute…. yeah, I’m good with this), we’re dependent, historically speaking, on stars. The biggest names carry the weight of representing their entire era to an extent as, years after they’re gone, people will recall their work, first and foremost as being emblematic of the entire timeframe. Music, specifically, also respects STYLE but even within that, if a few of the biggest names of the era begin to adopt a certain type of vibe or action (like the ‘bleaching years’ of Dancehall from awhile back) (and the ‘daggering years’ which no one (and I do mean NO ONE) misses at all), then history will likely latch onto their work, again, placing them in position of particular value. As in virtually all matters, there does exist ‘wiggle room’, however. In this case, two particular things come immediately to mind with the first being of someone who, for one reason or another, becomes so influential or enjoys such an immense level of longevity that we almost start thinking of them less in terms of one era and their name becomes tied to the whole of whatever style they practiced. Definitely the best example of these in terms of what we do around here would be Bounty Killer. Someday someone will sit down and chart it out (if they haven’t already) and discover that the Killer’s musical lineage, in one way or another, has been infused throughout the entire lifespan of Dancehall music following the very first time he picked up a microphone. Bounty Killer is also compelling, historically speaking, because he will be captured for all times right alongside Beenie Man, but as someone who considers Beenie my favourite Dancehall artist of all time and has no problem at all with a bit of competition, when the category goes to inspiring others, Bounty Killer has no equal in the Dancehall. The other case where one might come around and kind of shed any ‘constraints’ (“constraints” is actually a poor word, it’s more like ‘identifier’ or ‘qualifier’, but I wanted to make that point more vivid) [note: That’s an edit that I usually take out, but I’m leaving it in today!] that time may place on them is if they were to bring forth some type of unusual sound that lends itself in so many different directions that we begin to see said artists as so uniquely of their own creation and not much at all a product of their times.

At just thirty-seven years old, he has an incredibly long way to go, but I’m thinking that, when he’s done, I-Octane might be that type of artist who we have great difficulty in categorizing in terms of his generation… because there will be no ONE to compare him to and he wouldn’t have had a base type of sound to his output. Yes, he is very much a Reggae artist and one entirely of the modern day but where we typically have individuals who either make Roots Reggae music or Dancehall (or, as so many do, both distinctly separate times), I-Octane is someone who, rather easily does both at the same time AND, in retrospect, was an artist in the very early days to adopt a more of hybrid style created in the second half of the 2010’s and first of the 2020’s. I-Octane is a RENAISSANCE ARTIST. You come up with another person who can sound like both Tarrus Riley and Tommy Lee Sparta within the same tune and have it not be one big ass, awkward mess. That’s what he can do and I can remember hearing him very early on and knowing that, regardless of what direction he ultimately chose to go in (and he never chose one) (or did he choose them all????), I-Octane was someone to keep an eye and an ear on.

I got lucky. I was right for a change. Following a damn strong early surge to prominence which would include scores such as Lose a Friend, Guns Rise with Teflon, Mama You Alone, the downright STUNNING Run Yet, personal favourite of mine, No Conscience [I ah fulfill what I was told: Conquer di globe] and a literally endless line of others (which would net him our own Artist of The Year distinction for 2010), the Clarendon native born Byiome Muir, would begin releasing albums with 2012’s extremely well-received Crying For The Nation for longtime Shaggy collaborator, Robert Livingston. A couple of years on, Octane would return with another winner in his sophomore set, My Journey with DJ Frass, before venturing out on his own with 2018’s effort, Love & Life for his own Conquer The Globe imprint. Those first three albums, in retrospect, represent some of the absolute finest work from anyone around the time and I-Octane would see the fruits of his labour, enjoying a relatively constant raise in profile around the time as well (few controversies as well, which come with the territory). Just last year the artist would deliver his fourth album, Moods which would see a significant shift from the first three releases, as its title might’ve suggested. For the most part…. Moods was fourteen tunes and eight interludes spread across an hour and seven-ish minutes about vagina. That’s what it was. I can’t describe it any better than that. It most surely wasn’t his best work but clearly it represented a project that was important to him at the time (you’re laughing now, aren’t you?), but despite what it was, Moods wasn’t horrible (still laughing) and, musically speaking — as far as the sound at least — it wasn’t such a grand deviation from the three drops ahead of it and it did have its moments (or at least one of them in Cyan Cook). But if Moods did leave a bad taste in your mouth, it’s early 2022 and I-Octane is giving you a dose of Listerine with his fifth studio album and he’s given it the very modest and unassuming name, I Am Great. This latest creation also comes via Conquer The Globe Productions, in association with Troy Hinds of Troyton Music (and digitally (I guess I don’t need to say “digitally” because that’s the only platform that I think it’s is on) via our old friends at Zojak Worldwide). I Am Great represents a return to (his typically unusual) form for I-Octane not only in terms of music, but quality as well. I’m going to say something about this album that I have said in the past about others, but very infrequently and not always in the case of releases which I find even better altogether: I Am Great is INTELLIGENT. It is a very SMART album and, by its end I found myself feeling not as if I had just attended a class of some sort or read a book, but as if I had….. just had a very, VERY informative conversation with someone who really had their proverbial ‘shit’ together. Also, I-Octane’s music typically comes with quite a bit of emotion — the man literally sounds like he is throwing himself into much of his work at times — and that element is still present throughout I Am Great, but along with that, as I said, is this ever-present sense of a grand intelligence bubbling. What results ranks amongst the finest work of the artist’s already outstanding career.
One of the project’s biggest shots comes at its head as, getting us started is the LOVELY Rise Above. If you want a prime example of a tune where Octane’s heart and mind meet on equal footing, take a listen to Rise Above where he makes a monumental effort in telling us all the importance of perseverance in life [Rise above obstacles. Cah when di burden nuff and di stress triple, still ah rise above obstacles]. There is not a damn thing missing from this one, it INSTANTLY became one of the finest pieces of work that I’ve heard in this young year and one of the best I’ve ever heard from I-Octane altogether as well; and one of the best things that I can say about I Am Great is that Rise Above is not its best song! After we rise above, I-Octane takes a moment to Give Thanks with another big winner. As I have said in the past, pieces like this always attract me because what they do is to break things down to a very minimal and simple level to show that, no matter where you may be in life, you still have SOMETHING to be thankful for, even if it is just life itself and the sun rising in the morning.

Life a di greatest gift yah man

Give thanks when you rise and si di sun

Yeah wi haffi give praises

Words of The Most High amazing

And when mi nah’ve no money nor di savings – still ah seh di same thing

It isn’t about achieving a certain level or status [SOME SEH DEM TOO RICH FI AH GIVE PRAISE, BUT A DAT A DEM MISTAKE], you can be thankful from the concrete! This one hit me mightily with its message, but also in the sonics. Give Praise has this almost overwhelming vibes to it, making it damn hard to forget. Sometimes you (YOU, not me) just need to hear that someone thinks that You’re Beautiful (you aight!) and Octane has you on that with the third song from I Am Great. This one, is aimed at women in particular (but you knew that already) (biggup Moods) mostly dealing with matters like self esteem and self respect, so they can really apply to anyone, but songs like this one are crucial because do they speak to a person, they speak to the rest of us in regards to how we treat them as well and You’re Beautiful is one of the better of its kind that I’ve heard in a while. Speaking of crucial, next we have another of my favourites here, No Changes which was a downright brilliant (and brutal) social commentary. The piece deals with the harder aspects of living in poorer societies and Octane really dives in certain areas as he paints a picture which, at least for me, definitely taps into COMMON SENSE. When you hear some of the things he says [No changes, minimum pay a wi wages, Mosquitos from di trenches, give malaria to di babies] it goes above and beyond thinking that people need help and just goes to a point where you wonder how is something NOT being done. It’s not even a matter of going through more typical or ‘official’ routes to enact those changes…. we just need to do something about it. RIGHT NOW. A piece of genius was that tune and an effective one, hopefully. And the final track of our first third continues the set extremely high route of I Am Great, Black Skin. An all-encompassing composition, Black Skin deals with the historical and more current atrocities committed against people of African blood and the African Diaspora and Octane also manages to infuse PRIDE into the song as well, making certain that all is not bleak on yet another BRILLIANT selection.

Dem hate us

Still praise wi

Dem no like wi

Still imitate wi

Dem use mi grandmother breast feed dem baby

But the journey crazy

The first five from I Am Great (now that I’m sitting here putting them into a complete package) represent as strong as opening lot that I’ve come across in a VERY long time and all of them deserve multiple and multiple spins before you really get to their cores. So definitely spin quite a bit of your time there.

And the rest of the album too! The first single (I think) from I Am Great is found in the next batch (biggup Batch), the wholly MASSIVE Sorry. I had a situation where I did something fucked up to someone, maybe fifteen years ago now and I had a conversation with this person feebly trying to explain myself and they didn’t want to hear and it and spent the majority of that talk ripping into me and I deserved it then and if they found a way to get in touch with me right now and wanted to continue doing it, that would be fine. I deserve it. I never got around apologizing to this person — never actually said the words — and IT BOTHERS THE HELL OUT OF ME; and unless I find myself near the end of my life with some type of mind altering condition, it will likely bother me for the rest of my days and, again, I deserve it. So a song like Sorry, literally, turns me into a fucking puddle (have I mentioned that I deserve it???). This is about maturing and HUMBLING yourself when you see that you’ve done something wrong. Buju Banton had one like this years ago on the Rasta Got Soul album called A Little Bit of Sorry [A little bit of sorry, that never caused no strife. ANYHOW YOU THINK YOU’RE BIGGER THAN SAYING YOU’RE SORRY, THEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM IN LIFE], which was excellent (and I just dug it up and it still is), but this song is far better than that was. It’s about making mistakes and accepting responsibility for it and, also, you could make the point that it is about FORGIVENESS as well. I’d go even further: I’m Sorry is about mental health. It’s about progressing as a human being and doing your part to make the world a better place and, trust me, not having carry one giant fucking self-inflicted burden. Last year (while still promoting the aforementioned Moods, actually) I-Octane dropped the very well-received Stop, a scathing social-political critique [People hungry, waan food, and dem no share di menu. Dem stop di hustlin, dem lock down every venue]. Here, the artist focused largely on the masses placing their faith (and money sometimes) in politicians and their broken promises ….even as they fully KNOW they will not be living up to what they say in many cases. Again, it is a very WISE and unique presentation of a message that we’ve heard countless times in Roots Reggae – it’s just never sounded quite like Octane gives it to us here: Not to be missed. Another different approach is taken on Change My Life.

Money might change my ride and it change my clothes-

But it can’t change my mind from those-

Who babylon ah fuss ovah di most

Life a nah rose, dem close too much doors

You no si di game, di aim: Haffi tun di people dem inna zombie

GOD ALONE MI PRAISE, SO MI NO CARE WHO DEM MAN BE

Fireball bun up di dutty system, dat plan deh

Nah free di people dem, a dat mek mi angry

Help mi reach, di people dem wise up one day

Cah dem set it fi family to fight family

DEM SEH MI RICH ALREADY, A WHY MI AH COMPLAIN

BUT A GHETTO BLOOD A IT AH RUN INNA MI VEIN!

I-Octane has been very successful in his young life and he’s certainly enjoying himself in many aspects (or at least I hope is), but he wants the rest of us to be there with him! I really like the direction on this one because it almost seems as if he’s saying that not DESPITE everything that he’s accumulated, but BECAUSE of what he has, it’s even more important for him to see conditions and circumstances improved for others. He seems to be saying almost that because of where he is in life, his responsibility to us all has increased and, clearly, he welcomes it. This middle portion of songs on I Am Great wraps up with Paranoid and Selassie I Work, respectively, with the former being the album’s sole vocal combination. The almost R&B-ish Paranoid, features up and comer Rygin King and after a spin or two through, it started to grow on me. Though I alluded to it possibly being one of the bigger factors behind Sorry, mental health plays a clearer role in Paranoid, THE clearest, at least in my opinion [Tell mi if mi sane or mi mad. NAH KNOW WHEN MI HAPPY FROM DI DAYS WHEN MI SAD]. It is about losing oneself in the harsh world and not even realizing that you’re gone. I also took from it that the duo was really trying to point out the EXHAUSTION poor surroundings can bring and mental fatigue which can ultimately lead to a broken apathy. The gorgeous and SMOOTH Selassie I Work features helping hand of Astyle Alive and Alive Enterprise. It is the word “WORK” that stands out most vividly here as Octane speaks on people who may portray themselves in one way but not actually DO a damn thing in walking that walk [NUFF YAH THINK A LION. DEM A TIGERS. Dem seh dem love humanity. Dem a liars] and, going further, sometimes they do things directly against what they say who they are. Selassie I Work, on every surface, is one of the best songs on I Am Great, without question.

I was very interested in listening to Them Suicidal and seeing, exactly, what was going on there. Despite its title what does end up happening here isn’t another composition dedicated to preserving one’s mental health (not directly at least) and, instead, it is one about taking a SPECIAL amount of care in who your surround yourself with. Spending one’s time around the wrong individuals, as Octane puts it, is akin to making an attempt on your own life!

Yuh mussi suicidal

Ah waan sink inna some dry sand

Cah who yuh think dem vital-

MI TELL YUH SEH DEM WORSER THAN YUH RIVAL

Yuh betta pree survival

NUFF WHO YUH THINK A COLUMN, DEM A DRY-WALL

Summa dem a germs of yuh Lysol

Like clock, dem ah tick, dem a timebomb

Check the somewhat strange closer, Just Life. The delivery on Just Life caught me by surprise it is a…. Tommy Lee/Alkaline squeak at times and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it…. it’s not anything I would have expected in a piece named Just Life on a Reggae album, but leave it to I-Octane to intentionally change things up. The song isn’t at all a bad one and I wouldn’t be shocked if ended up doing a bit of damage (particularly with younger people) and I’ll tell you that, despite that odd cadence, it’ll be to your detriment if you don’t listen to the lyrics (as hard as it may be for you to hear at times) because Octane serves up some gems on Just Life (as he does on the other fourteen drops). Loyalty could be seen as the opposite end of Them Suicidal as, here, Octane talks about remaining faithful to those in your life who’ve demonstrated that their intentions are in looking out for what is the best for you. Apart from having loyalty to these people, he also talks about APPRECIATING the time you spend with them and just how valuable and therapeutic it can be [If you have a root then it lined with stem]. Technically, I suppose, Greatness would be our title track and it does well stand out. Though, at times, it has a kind of a frenzied vibes to it, Greatness hit me as being fairly straight-forward. It is an inspirational piece about trying to do your best in all situations and you also have undertones of being confident in yourself as well. As to how it sounds, like I said, Greatness is not lacking in energy AT ALL. Once it picks up to speed, I-Octane puts on a dazzling delivery. And lastly, I saved Self Made, whose quality nearly rivals that of the dominating Sorry on I Am Great to my opinion. You be careful with Self Made as its hook sticks out SO much that you will well listen to it once or twice and find yourself hearing it over and over and over again in your head for the rest of the day. Hard work and individuality linked up and Self Made is the GENIUS result of that pairing.

No second and third, myself come first

Self-confident, gimme self comfort

Go pon di net fi miself and search

AND GOOGLE MYSELF, SI MISELF NET WORTH

Why you think mi don’t duplicate?

Mi just be mi self

And mi no si nobody, only si miself

Why you think mi go so hard fi miself?

Cah di best thing inna life mi waan fi miself

Stress mi no carry

Dem yah summn, mi no gi miself

The message threatens to be overwhelmed by the vibes of the song (which happens more than a couple of times throughout I Am Great, actually), but you’ve been warned now, so no excuses. Self Made is HUGE!

Overall, the entire time I’m writing this review, in the back of my head I’m kind of trying to place I Am Great in comparison to I-Octane’s previous work and while we can take Moods out of that equation (I think the artist, himself, may even do that as it was just a very specific project and I’m also thinking about how soon he followed up on it as well)…. maybe I Am Great is his “greatest” work to date??? Both My Journey and Crying To The Nation were downright pristine in retrospect and Love & Life wasn’t very far behind at all (incidentally, Tad’s Records has also released two or three pretty big EP’s by Octane, which’re pretty good as well, albeit somewhat similar to one another in some aspects) and though this release may not be as refined as SET as either of the first two, its freer and often livelier pieces arguably pushes it to an even higher level. There’s also something that I mentioned much earlier that I’m going back to now: I Am Great is VERY SMART and that is most often shown lyrically. You can take a snapshot pretty much anywhere on this album and hear Octane saying SOMETHING mightily impressive and usually in an equally splendid style. Ultimately, for me, I Am Great stands as, PERHAPS, the most significant exhibition of a style which is truly one of a kind. If he stopped right now and never voiced another song in his entire life, I-Octane would have a decent spot in history, however, if he keeps going (and he will) and he serves up more material like I Am Great (and he will), well then I-Octane’s place figures to become as wonderfully unusual as the his music and TRULY one of a kind.

A brilliant set.

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