Sunday, 11 March 2012

FRAME OF MIND: Konshens gives listeners a reality check

HIT MAKER: The dancehall star shines on new CD.

If there’s one thing that has always stood about dancehall’s reigning juggernaut, known to fans as Konshens, it’s that while his music is locally crafted, his outlook is decidedly and consistently global. His interests span a wide range – from relationships, sex and wealth to the beauty and importance of family and humanity.

To wit, the deejay opens his long-awaited new album, Mental Maintenance, with the eternally idealistic “World Citizen,” on which he pleads for equality and universal harmony in a kind of “We Are the World” fashion. The result is a standout single that gives you pause and is sure to impress newcomers to the entertainer’s winning mix of hard-hitting dancehall and riveting reggae.

The same can be said for the overall album itself, which is a frequently superb 17-track collection that envelopes its spirited riddims and occasionally soulful harmonies in a tight packaging that, importantly, boasts international appeal. In repeated interviews, the 27-year-old star warned us that in crafting the album he made the deliberate decision to make it a study in moods, genres and textures. As such, the highlights here the run the gamut from message-oriented anthems to throwback grooves to tunes wholly dedicated to the wiles and fantasy-inducing appeal of the female form.
Above all, even when the album hits a momentary lull, the deejay’s self-assurance and deep-rooted conviction in his material beams through. And that even applies to the occasions where he tries to sweet-talk his way into a girl’s heart – and panties – on tracks like “Simple Song” and “Bounce.”

He enlists first-rate collaborators like Tarrus Riley and Sizzla (“Rasta Imposter”) and Bounty Killer (“The Realest Song”), but it becomes evident that Konshens could hold it down all on his own. Almost devoid of lowlights, the album delivers popular radio hits like “Do Sumn” and “Represent” but also treats listeners to new stuff like the Wailers-invoking “Pop in my Headphones”; the seventies-tinged “Homewrecker”; and the one-drop splendour of “Leave Your Side,” a personal favourite.

The sole (minor) disappointment is the absence of career-launching hits like “Winner,” which could have been included even as a bonus track. Still, Mental Maintenance is a triumph in every sense, offering compelling testimony of Konshens’ larger-than-life talent, just how much he’s grown as an artist within the space of the last five years, and why he continues to defy easy classification. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

BEST TRACKS: The meditative “Only Jah”; the slow-and-steady “Leave Your Side”; and the street anthem “Do Sumn”

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