I-Octane – I Am Great
Troyton Music/ Conquer The Globe Productions
2. Give Thanks
3. You’re Beautiful
4. No Changes
5. Black Skin
8. Change My Life
9. Paranoid (feat. Rygin King)
10. Selassie I Work (feat. Troyton & AStyle)
13. Them Suicidal
14. Self Made
15. Just Life
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.
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.
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 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
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!
A brilliant set.