Gentleman – Mad World

by Jan 12, 2023Artist, Reviews

Gentleman - Mad World

Release Info

CD / LP / DR
Street date
December, 2022
Website Artist

1. Defining Love
2. Over The Hills
3. Fight For No Reason
4. Can’t Lock The Dance feat. Stonebwoy
5. Things Will Be Greater
6. What Dem Ago Do?
7. They Don’t Know
8. Mad World
9. Far From The Rage
10. Stick To The Topic
11. Island Breeze feat. Etana
12. Jah Only
Big Man: A review of Mad World by Gentleman

There’s a fairly good chance that the very first time I actually heard Gentleman’s music — knowing that it was his work — was when I’d finally become curious enough to take a listen and it may have just been on what was his second release, 2002’s Journey To Jah. That set was EXCELLENT throughout (and declared a Modern Classic here), but it would be topped IMMEDIATELY on the strength of one of the greatest albums I have ever heard, Confidence, just two years later. Maybe it will say something that when we came up with the idea to do the ‘Modern Classics’ series, it would only take until number four to include Confidence [“Intoxication of a certain kiiiind”]. It is simply one of the finest albums that I have ever heard and it is nearly twenty years old and Gentleman did not call it a career there. I like to look back at Confidence as a point where Gentleman’s career hit the proverbial next level in terms of the entire world taking a greater look and what was to come was more stellar output.

Full ALBUMS worth of work on projects such as Another Intensity, Diversity and New Day Dawn would further keep me interested and while we were away on hiatus the artist, born Otto Tillmann, would continue his substantial works in dropping a number of projects including 2020’s interesting Blaue Stunde, which was an album completely in his native German and 2016’s solid Conversations, a combination project alongside Ky-Mani Marley (a few big tunes on that album but especially Jah Guide Over Us and Red Town).

Now, in late 2022, Gentleman sets forth his latest creation, Mad World. Although it did have just a bit in the way of pre-release hype, I actually don’t recall hearing a great deal about this project just ahead of it materializing, but after it did reach, we’ve heard quite a bit of early response to the surprise of absolutely no one (he did have singles for it but, when they released, I wasn’t under the impression that THIS was forthcoming) (although, in retrospect, I definitely should have been).

At his best, Gentleman makes a very ‘standout-ish’ brand of Reggae music. It is both very easily digestible by newer fans as well as heavy enough for more seasoned listeners. It’s also typically fairly melodic and just pleasing to listen to as well. The full results, as I’ve said, can be sublime and down right CRUCIAL and it is simply what you have come to expect from the now forty-seven year old artist over the course of the past couple of decades or so. I was thinking about that when I started: We’ve been listening to Gentleman’s music for more than TWENTY YEARS now. He’s certainly not alone, but he isn’t usually someone who I look at in the same way as I do others with whom I am SO familiar. Gentleman kind of does his own thing and he does it marvelously as, perhaps, one of the greatest to do ever, PERIOD, as well as being one of the genuine big men of European Reggae music.

So when that individual does…. anything at all, it is a very big deal and his latest set is not an exception. If you’re either a new fan of his or just a Reggae fan, in general, Mad World (like most of Gentleman’s work), will have something for you. As a whole, it very much follows (most) of his previous full efforts in its sound (he will occasionally try different things and mix up the vibes) and, in my opinion, by its end, Mad World definitely ranks amongst his very best. The project comes officially via URBAN, a division of major, Universal, yet another testament to the artist’s popularity.

Should you require even more proof or explanation, check the opener of Gentleman’s latest big creation, Mad World, the AIRY Defining Love. YOU WILL LIKE THIS SONG. That’s it. It requires nothing in the way of conditions, quantifications or qualifications: I am certain you will enjoy it. The track finds Gentleman attempting to implant quite a bit more LOVE in…. pretty much everywhere. This is aided by a SWEET Jugglerz produced vibe (Jugglerz has a hand on virtually all of Mad World) as artist, label and whoever else EASILY puts one of the best feet forward to open the album. Things only rise from there as Over The Hills is an even stronger offering. This previous single (which may’ve been the first tune that I ever heard from what turned out to be Mad World; probably from over the summer) has such wonderful pull to it. It is highly infectious and you won’t get through much of it at all without singing along (probably just until you learn the words).

I’ve got to find me some peace of mind
Over the hills and valleys mi ah climb
All where rules are clearly defined, by Nature

Si wanna be inna di hills a where di birds dem singing
Tired of di city, where di gunshots ringing
Hype after hype a weh di artists flinging
Mi ready fi di walk, ready fi clean up mi thought
Back inna mi medi, leave di poison dart
Everybody round ya act so wise and smart
So woman mek wi pack up wi things and gwaan
And plant some trees pon di farm
Come mek wi pack our things and gwaan
Calm after storm

The song finds our star… really just needing a break from everything and some time to refocus (and maybe write a few new songs). I can imagine the type of trip (whether physical or mental) Gentleman took on to come up with this tune; whatever it was, the results were surely successful on a genuine highlight from Mad World. We get an early spot of fire next up via another single, Fight For No Reason. It sounds absolutely nothing like it at all, but for some reason this piece reminds me of Leave Us Alone from the aforementioned Journey To Jah set [“Some boy mussi sick inna dem head – burn down bridges and build walls instead”].

That song was a bit on the heavier side and, while this one does have its moments, it’s almost more of a Hip-Hoppish type of pulse at its core. However you wish to describe it, I found a nice place of substance with this one on a smaller, more specific, level. On the grand scale you take this one to VIOLENCE or WAR, I suppose, with a more political outlook. For me, however, I took it more definitively. Do you know anyone who just likes to argue and pick fights with people? Or maybe more than one who’re just…. constantly bitching at one another (and I don’t mean that delightful old couple you know who is always yelling at each other)? Fight For No Reason, AT LEAST FOR ME, also rings true for them. You do not want to be that nasty, judgmental creature who always has something negative to say and Gentleman wants you to know that you don’t have to be him or her and he’s right.

Rounding out the first lot of tunes is the very fun and colourful Can’t Lock The Dance. Because he is contractually obligated to appear on every single album that I listen to ever, this tune features the inescapable Stonebwoy (I don’t know how true this is, but it must be nearing ten albums that we’ve reviewed from our hiatus which has featured the Afrikan star. The actual music here won’t change life anywhere, but it just might lighten up a dark night or time that you’re going through….. which means that it just might “change life”; but for what it is, Can’t Lock The Dance is very nice and not with a complete lack of ‘heart’ at all [“Government ah try push it down, no matta where wi go. Dem waan keep wi mono, but wi need di stereo. Bun di marijuana and play a round of domino – a so wi go”].
It is during its middle portion where Mad World REALLY begins to shine, as it not only features what is my choice as the album’s single finest moment, but a couple of other tunes which rank amongst its top class as well. Also found here is the eponymous selection from this release which is actually one which I do not love although it has grown on me just a bit since I heard it initially. It is derivative of an older tune of the same name, made popular by American singer, Gary Jules, and it has a kind of…. ‘quick’ sound to it?? That’s probably not the best way of putting it, but there is something about Mad World which failed to entirely grip me and still does. It never seems to settle into any groove and, at just one hundred and fifty seconds long, it doesn’t really have that opportunity to do so. It isn’t bad AT ALL, however, I just needed more time for a tune like this to get comfortable with me before sending me on my way (I think it’s that melody that I don’t enjoy).
For the sake of comparison, check the space just ahead of it, They Don’t Know. Though two seconds shorter than the title track, it does seem to find and maintain its footing a bit better and, in doing so, shows itself to be a nearly HUGE composition. Here, Gentleman, speaks on the importance of identity and self-awareness. He uses train of thought as a source of a variety of different things, with probably the most resounding being general MOTIVATION [“Get up and find a solution. Go find a solution”]. They Don’t Know is a song (DUHHHHHHHHHHH!) and it has everything around that one would expect from one, but it also has this open conversation-like vibes to it where it seems like he’s just…. sitting there, giving his opinion on a few things in a delightfully melodic way. And then there’s the BOOM! The single finest moment that I’ve found within this mad world is track #6, the downright stunning What Them a Go Do.
When strangers come knocking at your door
Rearrangers don’t want you to feel secure
Dem seh dem rich, but wi know dem poor
Get up, stand up and move cah there is no time to play
When you fi feel di groove you gone upon a holiday
Get it all, remember, don’t delay

Wah dem ahgo do?
When wi start bun di fyah
Heathen ahgo run go seek di prayer
Wah dem ahgo do?
When dem caan quench dem desire
No matta wah you do, wi get higher

Why can’t it be like it once was before
When di youths dem took it easy, never gwan so hardcore
Everybody wanna be safe and secure
Dem caan take di blood ah run no more
Seh you are a toppa top –
And you gotta lotta glock
Seh you buss a lotta shot
Wait til di atta clap
Wi no deal wid rat-ta-tat

The best written tune on the album as well as one of the finest listens, What Dem A Go Do not only rises to the top of Mad World, but it’s probably destined to go down as one of my favourite Gentleman songs…. like EVER. Things Will Be Greater is also exceptional and comes armed with a HEAVY Jugglerz creation behind it. When you combine the nice message it carries — which, for me at least, is really about maturity and PATIENCE and how both so succinctly work together (when you’re younger, your perspective is one which is much more immediate and FAST; but when you get a little older, you learn to slow things down) — with CLEARLY one of the nicest musical performances that you will find here, you have a very easy winner of a tune and legitimate highlight from Mad World.
The final lot of songs on the album feature songs which have moved for me just a bit. Originally I wasn’t crazy about three of them (one of them is a joy and always has been), but a couple of those’re probably better than I originally gave them credit for being. That one which is certain to leap out at you is Island Breeze, the album’s second official combination, this one featuring Jamaican superstar and one of the greatest voices the genre has ever produced in Etana (incidentally, Etana also receives a writer credit for Defining Love as does loooooooooooong time Gentleman collaborator, Daddy Rings, who receives the same observance for every other song on the album, including Island Breeze). This song is precisely what you’re thinking that it is and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, but with these two – I’d DEFINITELY like to see them work again together at some point (…maybe on her next project. That’d be nice).
Far From The Rage is a song steered in a similar direction to Over The Hillsto a degree (although, to its credit, it is further-reaching). The vibes here are sublime. It SOUNDS excellent and the sonic appeal certainly isn’t wasted in this instance as, again, Far From The Rage is a piece about taking a moment for yourself and maybe taking a detour away from the stresses of everyday life and finding some level of personal enjoyment for yourself (the song does really pick up, to its credit, as the final verse is probably one of the finest on the entire album [“Supposed to answer a hundred emails, but I’m not. Where di time did go, I missed di deadline fi di dub. Yeah, today mi lazy and mi nah feel to get up. Tarrus sing ‘gimme a likkle one drop’ “]. I still prefer Over The Hills slightly but I will admit that the margin has shrunk from the when I began listening for the sake of this review.
The biggest tune later on in the album for me is the BITE that is Stick To The Topic. Gentleman serves up some well welcomed Dancehall on the drop which I would presume was largely created on the spur of the moment. It VERY MUCH sounds like a well organized freestyle and, as a giant demonstration of his immense talents, it works as one of the best songs that you will find here and, again, a most appreciated changeup. Lastly is a tune song which isn’t bad at all but it didn’t really resonate with me much outside of a sweet melody (and it is sugary. It will give your ears CAVITIES!), Jah Only. I would say that when you go through the tracklist of Mad World, had a selection such as this one not been here, you would have thought something was missing and it’s here and it is a decent piece and a solid way of wrapping things up.
What is wrong with Mad World??? That’s easy. A dozen tunes at about thirty-three and a half minutes, that’s less than three minutes a song and some of them (even some really good ones), don’t have enough time to really develop much. That’s fine in something like Dancehall, but there were moments here where I feel like I’m really starting to get into things and… it starts to fade out. That being said, having read an interview of Gentleman in regards to the new project (biggup Da Ville!), it almost seems as if Mad World was just kind of put together when Universal called him up and, essentially, said ‘hey, you should make an album!’. He agreed with them and thus the road to Mad World was paved. I know I’m simplifying things (and probably greatly), but given those set of circumstances, I’m not surprised by the lack of a longer set and, for what it is, there is nothing BAD or even AVERAGE, really, about Mad World…. I just wish this planet was a little bigger (especially considering some of the monstrous releases he’s had in his career).
Overall, brevity notwithstanding, Mad World, in its sound is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Gentleman throughout his career. As I said many many moons ago, if you enjoy Reggae and are at virtually any stage of being a fan of the genre, something here will reach you. I’m even more sure of that in this case than I am on some albums that I hold in considerably higher esteem (check any great album from Vaughn Benjamin, for example). His style is simultaneously SO open and genuine at the same time that the most hardened Reggae & Dub head is capable of appreciating it the same that the kid who’s recently found a Bob Marley track that he likes (and if that kid is lucky, it’s ‘Natural Mystic’ or ‘War’).

Two decades ago Gentleman demonstrated something to me that has made the subsequent time not all that shocking; and after all of these years, while they have passed somewhat quietly at times, it’s still there on Mad World from someone who has led one of THE most remarkable careers in recent times.


Where to get it

Buy @ Apple Music

More Gentleman Music

Buy @ Apple Music