Koffee – Gifted
Promised Land Recordings
LP / CD / DR / CASS
March 25, 2022
06. Run Away
07. Where I’m From
08. West Indies
09. Pull Up
Next. There is a wonderful term, “GLOBALIZATION”, that we generally use around here to signify growth and development of a particular sound. We say things like Reggae and Soca have been globalized and what I mean is that the music has grown to a level, like more ‘mainstream’ genres, where it is being heard and embraced by people all over the world. On top of that, you’re seeing people from every country, culture and speaking every tongue actually PERFORMING the music as well, which is probably music’s ‘response’ to the grand ways of technology leaping forward: It’s taking much longer, but it is advancing as well. Speaking specifically for us, I’ll go back to definitely one of the coolest and most interesting individuals that we’ve encountered through the history of these pages, Ras Muhammad. Before you even get into the man’s work, you take the construction of his name – combining INSTANTLY two different paths of life — Rastafari and Islam — signifying the heritage of the Roots Reggae music he makes with the heritage of his native Indonesia. Artists like Ras Muhammad and dozens of others we’ve encountered throughout the years (and producers and promoters alike) from, literally, every corner of the world (I’ve always enjoyed just how popular it seems to have grown in Scandinavian countries) show just how powerful this wonderful music, which is often still considered ‘niche’, has become. It’s hit a certain level and now, you can be sure that as long as we exist, AS A SPECIES, someone somewhere will be making Reggae music. That spreading across the globe is one form of globalization and today we’re going to be taking a look at another form of it, arguably just as important, consistently. When Reggae originally came to the cusp of global attention, it immediately had an identifiable figure with whom to associate it. It was an impassioned, dreadlocked singer with a guitar (….who was named Bob Marley). And although that has changed slightly throughout the years (sometimes he wears a turban, sometimes he has a spliff, sometimes there’re Red, Gold and Green colours around him), that archetype of ROOTS REGGAE MUSIC exists to this very day (and it will exist tomorrow and the day after that as well). ‘He’ also still EVOLVES and promotes the music as, just as a generation fell in love with him, their children and grandchildren are now doing the same and their kids will do the same. That is the way that it has been from the inception of the genre and while we can look at something like Dancehall (which never really had such a figure and, instead, has relied more on the emergence of stars to do its greatest damage) (symbols in Dancehall would be Beenie, Bounty, Buju… etc.) which has seen a far more frequent level of change in the outward sense, Roots Reggae (fittingly, I suppose) has stayed the course and many of the stars who have followed the King, have done so in a similar fashion.
Nah exaggerate nor try animate
When mi do talk, it’s straight
All dem police you run to ah cop off yuh face
Run di race, hold di pace
Big bro hold di faith
Jesus, gimme di pillow, beg yuh hold di case
Mi ah plead, youths ah bleed from dem heart and dem face
AND I SURE ALL DEM TEARS WILL NOT GO TO WASTE
I read a piece of an interview where Koffee said she worked in some way with US hip-hopper Kendrick Lamar on ‘Defend’ (which is why she mentions his name I suppose) and while I know very little about Lamar, full credit to him, Koffee and whoever else spent time on this one because, for what it is (a downright brilliant interlude of sorts), ‘Defend’ is all kinds of excellent. She follows up with, fittingly, with the latest single from ”Gifted”, ‘Shine’. From the way it begins [“Sun’s out. It’s a siren. Gun violence – tiring”] this song is almost building on ‘Defend’ from just ahead of it, but ‘Shine’ isn’t a direct ‘descendant’ (well it is, but… you know what I mean) and, instead, it’s more of like its coming out of the darkness of ‘Defend’. Things haven’t gotten completely perfect and there remains much work to be done, but with ‘Shine’, we’re on the right track. Next in is the title track and when I first heard this one, it made me SMILE! The vibes on ‘Gifted’ are immediately very strong and really put a good feeling into the listener. The actual song behind the vibes is impressive as well as Koffee somewhat builds upon the theme of the opener. Here, we find her extremely GRATEFUL in acknowledging her lot in life [Killin dem ‘bumaye’. All these blessings weh ah come my way. Pray to The Father, say ‘kumbaya’. FULL UP MI PLATE AND BRUK MY TRAY] and about as far away from bragging as a successful person could possibly be. The very interesting riddim behind her — produced by one Frank Dukes — also deserves a mention as it sounds like people talking behind Koffee in a very creative style. So biggup Mr. Dukes (that thing is NICE!).
Listen mi, Koffee: Di Visionary
Picture mi visually, get a picture-delivery
You know seh mi criss from mi mama did Christen mi
And then mi full up of precision, that’s why you fi prefer mi
And when you look upon mi wrist and mi pocket, you si money
And then mi run up on di streets, wake di town, tell everybody
Seh from mi step up in di place, then it hot like seh it sunny
Do this fi mi bredda, mi grannie and mi mommy!
BOOM! DAMN WOMAN! You don’t expect such passages on a song like ‘Lonely’, otherwise, but Koffee definitely puts her own, one-of-a-kind stamp on it, which hopefully is appreciated by the masses (DAMN!).Oh and, before I forget (and I was about to), the composition on ‘Lonely’ is absolute GOLD. It is BEAUTIFUL! There almost R&B-ish ‘Run Away’ is a love song in the more traditional way of thinking, but even it isn’t such a song EXACTLY. It would help, I’m sure, but I don’t have to love you to find some nice place to run away with you for a little while and while ‘Run Away’ does have a time or two when it does, for the most part it isn’t what I would call a ‘romantic’ tune necessarily. Regardless of its foundation, it is another big winner from the album, this time on a very CHILLED level. Next was a pair of similarly steered selections in ‘Where I’m From’ and ‘West Indies’. Both are celebrations of Koffee’s background and both, wonderfully, give the listener two different styles. The former has a bit more flames to it and it comes off as more personal to Koffee as she directly deals with things such as her family, friends [When wi ah step, wi no ordinary. Air Force white cuz a God inna wi. Mommy proud of mi. Mi proud of mommy. She seh ‘Koffee just go fi di Grammy] and experiences; while the GOLDEN latter, which is, EASILY, one of her biggest tunes (“biggest” meaning one of her most popular as well as one of her finest) is more all-encompassing and general, but no less impactful at all, lifting up the most beautiful place and people in the world. ‘West Indies’ begins a run to close out “Gifted” which features some of Koffee’s more recognizable material to date and it is followed by the recent single, ‘Pull Up’. This one is just FUN and I just cut out this long ass sentence where I attempted to put it into some type of scope, but a song like this one is just to be appreciated for what it is and a credit goes to the player of saxophone for, initially, making their presence known, here and there, before taking it into a higher gear to close us out. And speaking of closing us out, giant hit ‘Lockdown’ takes those honours for “Gifted”. The very clever ‘Lockdown’ is another one that blurs the edges between being a love song and something else (in this instance, a celebration of life and FREEDOM to an extent) and it does so brilliantly. We’ve all had to deal with certain things and make adjustments for life these days and ‘Lockdown’ is Koffee’s ideal vision of just how she would like things to be once we get COMPLETELY back to normal. It was very unique and probably my single favourite tune on the entire album.
Overall, taking it for what it is, “Gifted” is one of the best Reggae debut albums that we’ve seen in a very long time. If you just hold it to the level of being a debut album for a very young artist, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do: It introduces Koffee to the masses by mixing in some of her established hits with some others that may (will) go on to become hits and it puts her in a very strong position to succeed with everything going on behind it in terms of its presentation and publicity. For her part, Koffee also does what she is supposed to do. She clearly embraces the moment and, when it comes to the newer songs, she shows that what we have heard up until now is just who she is as an artist and not a matter of someone being in an all-time form. Given her age, perhaps it is wise for us to temper our expectations as far as just how far Koffee can go, but for a twenty-two year old person to do what she did with “Rapture” and now “Gifted” – well, if she continues along in this way, a century from now, that Reggae symbol of a dreadlocked man may just have a sister.