….In The Making: A review of Freedom Legacy by Queen Omega!
It was a few weeks ago, at the end of January, that we got the news OFFICIALLY that, after a very specific stream of singles, Queen Omega was set to deliver her brand new and first album in a decade and a half, Freedom Legacy. The album would come via the same France based (Paris to be exact, I believe) Lions Flow Productions imprint (in association with Baco Records) (and, specifically, one Florentin Coquelin and Christoph Grossniklaus produce every song on this album and they get help from Julien Reichen on a couple of them as well) that has been responsible for much of the Queen’s recent output (though she has continued to work with a healthy mixture of producers in the last couple of years as well) and FINALLY common sense has prevailed and the world is a much better place because there is a new Queen Omega album in it!
While I do not have a great deal of knowledge of LFP, looking through their catalogue – they have been fairly active within the past half decade or so. Most notably there ‘was’ a pair of riddims in the Switzerland and Zion I Matic, respectively. The former was a GORGEOUS composition which featured some very gifted vocal talents such as Ras Attitude, Fyahstone and two others who we’ll tell you about in just a second (Austin James also had a really beautiful tune on that riddim called Colour of A Man’s Skin). As for the Zion I Matic Riddim it ‘was’…. it actually doesn’t ‘WAS’, it IS — because it shares the same 24th of March release date as Freedom Legacy (WHAT!) (they’ve been busy!) — it also carries some tremendous vocalists including two of personal favourites of mine, the majestic Mark Wonder and [Prince] Theo Nyeemiya (BOOM!), as well as that same duo that I just alluded to being on the Switzerland (and, speaking of favourites, they also worked with Jah Marnyah on an older tune called ‘Life Mission’). Both riddims are lovely and when you combine that with the actual work that they’ve done with Queen Omega and while Lions Flow wouldn’t have been the first label to come to mind as doing the work on whatever the next Queen Omega album was, they have WELL demonstrated themselves more than capable of potentially delivering a magical release with the artistic piece of dynamite they have responsible for the vocal and lyrical duties, on paper and functionally.
For her rather giant part, the Queen has remained in a fantastic form (….. throughout her entire career) and though I would have literally hoped for like FIVE or so albums in the past decade and a half, she also figures to be primed to deliver one of the finest albums of her career. So with such a setting, certainly Freedom Legacy lives up to expectations and proves to be an EXCELLENT set. Right??
Yep. Of course it does. Wonderfully, Freedom Legacy
is built on the strength of combining previously released material with some which will be brand new to listeners. Now I’m a nerd (and probably a rare case) but, when I got a look at the official tracklist for this one, I got SO damn excited and curious in both going in my head and singing the pieces that I had already known and then looking at the new selections (and guests they brought in, in some cases) and trying to imagine what type of song that might be! Like I said, I know I’m not in the majority, but even more than musically, I was already well enjoying the ‘process’ of Freedom Legacy
before I actually dug my claws into it. Well, it’s here now, so I do not have to wonder anymore and neither do you because I’m going to flat out tell you that Queen Omega’s very first full album release in a decade and a half (I turned twenty-seven the year Servant Of Jah Army
reached, I will be FORTY-TWO this year) (DAMN!), Freedom Legacy
, gets going with four of its five previously heard selections, the very first of which, See You Down
is absolutely staggering and the single finest offering on the entire album in my opinion.
Despite its direction (or maybe BECAUSE of its direction, at least in part), the one word that comes to mind when I hear See You Down is POWER. It is a POWERFUL tune from its message of being sure to not only present yourself as an upful and positive person, but to actual BE such an individual; all the way to the way it is displayed. The Queen pushes her disruptively beautiful vocals near their peak at times and the results are thunderous! With this piece she REALLY goes into the idea of finding things and PEOPLE who bring you joy and doing your very best to involve them in your life. It not only soars on this album but, to my opinion, it’s one of the best tunes Queen Omega has ever done and I wasn’t at all surprised that it was chosen as the first chapter of Freedom Legacy.
Not too far behind at all, however, is Fittest, which almost seems to indirectly build upon the core sentiments of the opener. Where See You Down is about not showing your weaknesses and doing what you can to limit them, Fittest is all about completely ridding yourself of them as best as you can because it is NECESSARY. There is such a presence to Fittest and it is EDGY and… grimy! There is something appreciably dramatic and profound behind it and it gets into an area where you consider the importance of something in the music beyond sound and lyrics. Whatever THAT quality is – Fittest BATHES in it.
Micro Chip may be the most familiar track on Freedom Legacy, as it originally appeared a few years back (never when I first heard it would I have imagined that it was leading up to something I’d been looking forward to for…. over a dozen years or so at that point). When you really dig into it, though you will hear songs like it, Micro Chip is one of the finest dealing with the topic of not getting lost or ran over in the digital age.
Babylon dem trick mi!
Dem waan microchip wi!
YOU NO SI DEM CRAZY, DI WHOLE A DEM GONE INSANE!
Though di road is slippery-
Yah children have the victory!
I know The Almighty Father’s works never go in vain
Nobody pon di streetside ah walk
Quarantine: Caan leave ya house after dark
Social-distancing tearing us apart
No greeting with a hug, everybody wearing masks
Conspiracies and lies – it break di people heart
Countless dead, but look at di aftermath
The universe is saddened
The Father, Him ah wrath
Economy – it’s broken, wi haffi restart
Replan, rethink, take time to reflect
Each one, teach one – there’s no time to neglect
Put di differences aside, spiritually connect
To di source of life, to di one who blow breath
Under His wings wi abide and rest
No one no bigger than Yah, Vatican no ready yet!
The world is changing, we’re looking for the best!
Queen Omega also sounds absolutely amazing during Micro Chip. It is one of the strongest vocal demonstrations you will hear on this album and, again, it too ranks alongside the very best that Freedom Legacy has to offer.
is the very first (of four) combinations that you will encounter here and, for what it is, you almost have to call it LANDMARK. Wise Queens
features a pair of extremely gifted female artists in Jalifa and Kushite (who I alluded to previously as being present on LFP’s previous riddims), who are also from out of Trinidad. The background setting here is tremendous and all colours of fascinating and materializes from those circumstances is PRECISELY of the quality one might expect. The mixture of the styles is so interesting with the battering ram that is Jalifa on one end and the softer and more malleable Kushite on the other [“And is yah fyah no normal. A CONFUSING FYAH, LEFT DEM LOOKING FOR GRAVEL”], with the Queen bringing them both together from somewhere in between [“Jalifa, Kushite, Queen Omega – fyah caan extinguish.
Three empresses, so divine and distinguished. If you no royal in yuh heart, you caan sing this! Lava pon di wicked government, dem cannot win this. Satta massagana that is I & I English! Truths and rights, I ah live and ah speak this”]. They also made a video for it bringing together dozens of upful and wonderfully displayed Trinidadian women, befitting of what a powerfully DIVERSE land it is. Wise Queens is MOMENT music. You do not forget things like this coming together in such a nice way (and I’m thinking that somewhere in Trinidad there’re a whole heap of younger women who are coming up and hearing this song who, in a few years’ time, I will be sitting right here writing about as well, having been inspired by a track like Wise Queens).
Lioness is the most recent featured drop from Freedom Legacy and it is another offering built on the idea of importance of uplifting and RESPECTING women in society. What I really enjoy from Lioness is how it isn’t the kind of stereotypical ‘mama song’. It does have those elements to it, particularly early on, but what it subsequently develops into is…. something so fully encapsulating of qualities shared by great women and not just focusing exclusively on their biology (meaning their ability to give birth). Lioness goes much deeper [coincidentally, Queen Omega has another recent tune by the name of Real Lioness with Massive Dub Corporation which, at least as far as I can tell, is unrelated to this one, but is also DEFINITELY worth checking out because it is also beautiful].
Sticking with that line of thinking, there’re two new offerings on Freedom Legacy
which well come to mind. The first is the album’s closer, Win
, which I was SO much looking forward to. This piece is interesting because its central theme isn’t about empowering women (although it does do that a bit), but what it does do actually, is to link up Queen Omega with another of the most curiously gifted female artists that Reggae has ever seen. If you’ve never heard Soom T before, I’d struggle to describe her and would, instead, likely just tell you to go and have a listen (my personal favourite is probably a song she did years ago called Na Na Na
, for Necessary Mayhem) and figure it out for yourself.
Specializing often in a more old school form of Dancehall, the Scotland based Soom T has a very youthful delivery so what will happen is you will inevitably find yourself wondering exactly whose daughter is….. absolutely SHREDDING some riddim. She delivers words in streams and torrents generally only seen amongst the true masters of the spoken word (I’m sitting here working on this review with a Bunji Garlin video playing in the background. Bunji Garlin would be a fan of Soom T, if he isn’t already). Win is a blast! It is so much fun to listen to with these two going on what appears to be a LOVELY take on the Bam Bam Riddim to my ears. The song, itself, is just about overcoming obstacles and gaining successes, big and small, in life. It also demonstrates the true versatility of the Queen as though she does not completely match Soom T, she delivers in a style which both shows her ability to do that (or something like it. Unless your name is Soom T, you’re probably not doing EXACTLY what that woman is doing. DAMN!) but also makes use of the natural resonance of her voice. BOOM!
The other song that Lioness brought to my mind here is Love Your Way, because though it also strikes on an ultra-familiar topic, it does so in a very ‘fresh’ way. Love Your Way is track that you’ve heard from many a male artist singing about women and a few women singing about themselves, but I haven’t heard many women singing such material about men (the one that does come to mind is Avocado, from the walking institution of higher learning that is Jah9) (and I’m sure that I’m forgetting some, but my point is that it isn’t a type that you hear very often. I wouldn’t even call it a love song, it’s more of a ‘song of admiration’ in my opinion). The word that Queen Omega says here that really sticks out to my ears is “hygiene”. Again, you’ll hear so many songs about women taking care of themselves and the importance of being clean, but she throws it back to the men. EVERYONE needs to be clean and healthy and then, of course, she goes onto other things such as setting a proper example for (and being present for) the youths. These are things that she clearly is not only attracted to but also admires in people, in general.
Male child, bout you mi haffi sing
From yuh to yuh feet, I just love everything
Yuh physically fit, yuh working out in di gym
Yuh take care of yuhself, man yuh win, win, win
Can’t forget to give di ratings to yuh Empress
Cuz mi know she have an input on how yuh look best
Yes, Queen, you must biggup yuh chest
You a di perfect match
Confidence level right up to di sky
Great success inna anyting yuh try
Highly intellect, book smart and streetwise
No competition, cause you win di prize
Big man ting, yuh stay cast for dat, you a true born king!
Self respect, self elating and disciplined
Full up a wisdom and understanding!
Should you be on the look out for a more (“more”, not entirely) stereotypical but GORGEOUS love song, Queen Omega also has you covered in a couple of different ways. Agape Love which features an impressive vocalist from out of New Caledonia, Marcus Gad. It isn’t completely a ‘oh baby I love you’ type of an effort and it is HEAVY! The riddim tracking Agape Love has to be one of the, if not THE, finest on the whole of Freedom Legacy and the duo make the most of it by delivering one SWEET vibe centering around love. This “love” is, at least at times, one that can be given to a partner or a FRIEND who just does nice things for you. The Queen talks about things like him teaching her how to fix her car if it breaks down and her teaching him how to cook. You don’t have to be married or madly in love with someone for that to happen, so I definitely appreciate the more broad approach here. THAT type of love song does come later on but even it roams a bit from the center.
Someone dropped a BOMB on Queen Omega, she LOVED it and she’s going to tell you all about it on Dynamite. Given what she says, it almost comes off as more of a young love [“… and like a little girl, you make this big woman blush”] (where that person that you’re interested in can literally do no wrong. They can literally pick their nose, you even think that is kinda cute); she’s infatuated, she knows it and she enjoys it. The sound on Dynamite also kind of matches that tone. It’s a free vibe and relatively simple, but the FORCE she puts on it takes it somewhere else. This one probably took three or four listens, but I came to REALLY enjoy it and it is one of my favourites on this set and I’m thinking I rarely say that about love songs anymore.
Where Agape Love
deal with an outward love of others, the SOARING Extraordinary
is more about the inward affection you have for yourself. This song is about self-confidence and esteem and APPRECIATING YOURSELF. There’s probably a very thin line somewhere between confidence and conceit, but there is not a damn thing wrong for giving yourself credit and treating yourself well for doing good things and being a good person (if you think about it, you do it for others virtually all the time.
When your dog does what you want it to, what do you say to it???) (there’s nothing wrong with doing that for yourself). Extraordinary also comes with a bit of a hidden feature in being the album’s longest composition by seventeen seconds, so its final moments give the listener a delightful moment to appreciate the beautiful riddim behind it. I love songs like this because they can hit you both in a broad way — don’t be so damn hard on yourself — or specifically — you did good today, go have some fun — and it will likely hit so many people in so many different enlighteningly impactful ways.
Continuing with that theme, in a way, is Natural Melody which is a love song of a certain kind (biggup Gentleman) – this time Queen Omega espouses on the smaller things in life which can bring joy and don’t necessarily put you back much, if at all [“Appreciating the rainfall, the shelter under the trees. Ain’t nothing better than the natural melodies”]. She also branches out on things like having a good attitude and, again, being confident in yourself. Natural Melody almost has an R&B-ish sound to it which, for the ‘nature’ of what it is, works quite well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Queen Omega wrote the song and sang it and a riddim was made to back her, as it works so well; and you simply cannot miss rapping (not deejaying, RAPPING) near the end of one SWEET selection.
Oneness may just be the biggest standout on Freedom Legacy on paper; as it features Queen Omega alongside French veteran Yaniss Odua (originally from out of Madinina) and Bob’s son, Julian Marley (who releases an EP, Colors Of Royal, on the same day as Freedom Legacy). If you’ve followed Queen Omega’s career, you know that, including those appearing here, she’s worked alongside some of the genre’s biggest names such as Sizzla, Capleton (both of them on the same tune, Warning, on her debut album), Anthony B, Mark Wonder (both of those were also on that same album although, oddly, Wonder was credited as ‘Archie Wonder’) (biggup one of my readers who told me that years ago), Buju Banton, the aforementioned Gentleman and even Ninja Man [WHAT!], but I saw the lineup on this one and I just thought it to be such an interesting trio and wondered where Oneness might go. Where it does head, ultimately, isn’t very unexpected – Oneness is about unity. It’s about bringing together people and ideas in the name of positivity and good causes. The sound here is VERY straight-forward and I mean that in a good way and the musical common ground that all three find, when at its best, can be downright intoxicating (particularly in its latter stages). Check the monstrous Goodness.
Do you hear that? I mean REALLY, DO YOU HEAR THAT? What a great song! I came across this one and I had to seriously reconsider my choice for the finest moment on Freedom Legacy
– it is THAT good. Goodness
is another heaping serving of positivity and affirmation and… damn does it sound so nice! What happens musically here with a vibe which seems to consistently develop throughout its duration is downright intoxicating to the point where, Queen Omega says she wants some , “sweetness, sugar and spice”, and you will find it in this song – like A LOT of it!
Finally is Ask, another title that had me very curious about its course when I originally saw the tracklist.
When you ask, you shall receive
Knock and the door will be open
If you seek, you shall find
When you ask, you shall receive
Knock and the door will be open
If you seek, you shall find
Sweeten yourself with some positive vibes
You’ve gotta hold the faith if you want to survive
In this baggawire, inna di giddeon time
Only di strongest and di fittest will survive
THE LION HAFFI WALK WITH THE PRIDE
Love for humanity, love for mankind
Respect one another, peaceful inclined
Look at tomorrow, di future is bright
Lay your burdens by di river side!
You have nothing to lose, you decide!
Sometimes in life (many times, actually) you will find yourself needing a helping hand and that is the notion behind
Ask, which is also a motivational type of song just in case you’ve gone a bit stagnant. Again, something here that is inescapable is the dynamic vibes around it. Ask
is going to definitely feed your brain and your spirit, but it’s also going to make you move a little bit! You know what, looking back on it, I could very well say the same thing for a significant percentage of the songs on Freedom Legacy
: They will nourish you in many different ways.
Overall, I’m partial as hell, I’ll admit. I absolutely love Queen Omega (once upon a time, she even sang a jingle for my blog!) and had I not enjoyed Freedom Legacy as much as I did, it would have been a MASSIVE disappointment, but there were absolutely no concerns with the quality of this release based on the previously released works. They were outstanding and what I hadn’t heard quickly showed itself to be on the same very high level. In retrospect, the build-up to the album was perfect. We can now look back and see the fruits of what turned out to be about two or three YEARS worth of work with Lions Flow Productions and while I have no idea at what point the idea went from just making some songs to making a full collection (or if that was the intent in the first place), seeing the progression into something that I HAVE BEEN WAITING ON FOR FIFTEEN YEARS, is a joy. Hopefully I will not have to wait until my mid fifties for a follow-up but for what it is, Freedom Legacy is another check of greatness for one of the greatest to ever do it. RIGHT NOW! QUEEN OMEGA IS ONE OF THE BEST OF ALL TIME! Flawless.