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Reviewed by Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson

Christmas day, 2012.

Despite the background noise of the latest trends or commodified fads generated by marketing agencies and record labels to persuade us what’s current and relevant, the classics, foundation music and performers always rise to the top.

Veteran reggae artist Macka B - who released his first album Sign of the Times in 1986 – fits perfectly into the the oral tradition of Black culture and music. After 25 years of solid achievement in the business, his 21st album Change The World continues the journey. So appropriate respect is due to both his craft and longevity.

The Wolverhampton, England-born lyrics machine acknowledges iconic reggae figures such as the Godfather Daddy U-Roy, I-Roy, Prince Far-I and Big Youth as influences, but in truth his style is part of an equally significant rich seam of talent born in mid 1980s Britain and embodied by MCs associated with Saxon Studio Sound - Papa Levi, Tippa Irie, Daddy Colonel and others, as well as fellow Midlands mic chanters such as Pato Banton.

The inspirational cover art by Akil Designs depicts Macka B overlooking contrasting worlds of pollution, greed, environmental waste, vanity and war, mirrored by its opposite where peace, love, knowledge and unity prevail. The vision is complemented by a thematic suite of 16 tracks mostly produced by the Midlands based entertainer himself, with assistance from producers Peckings and Iron Fist.

Recalling Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On or Marley’s Survival, Uprising and Confrontation trilogy Change The World is not a mere compilation of nursery rhyme level lyrics and random tracks.

With 16 songs his distinctive baritone is still powerful – equally important he builds his lyrics methodically, meticulously constructing intelligent narratives for his subjects. A reflective and thoughtful storyteller and narrative builder he wraps it all up in his distinctive MC style. The voice is important with Macka B and it’s as resonant as ever, and nor have the lyrics lost any potency.

The versatile entertainer covers a whole heap of subjects. Make A Claim uses the usually trivialised compensation culture to demand reparations for the crimes of colonialism and the enslavement Africans.

Post Code War stands out for its message of defiance and frustration in the face of recent internecine warfare amongst our Youths, comparing how Black people were united by opposition to racism and oppression - captured poignantly with the phrase ‘we knew who and what we were fighting for’.

Nuclear War develops the environmental theme by disparaging this form of power and promoting natural sources of energy.

You Could Be Wrong denounces the death penalty, paying homage to Troy Davis another African American recently executed in dubious circumstances.

And it’s strengthened by the music. Drawing from the deep well of classic reggae, with real not digital instruments, the collective of seasoned musicians providing the backdrop create an organic and calm atmosphere, rather than a frenetic and anarchic one. It’s a theme Macka B takes up on the track Reggae Daddy which surveys contemporary genres - grime, dubstep, house, garage – indebted to reggae music.
Connoisseurs are sure to enjoy searching their record boxes for collaborations with Peckings [Never Played a 45, Medical Marijuana and I Return] on old school rhythm tracks.

Drawing on his Jamaican heritage the well-travelled lyricist has worked with producers such as Mad Professor and Black Scorpion, and toured with reggae legends The Wailers, U Roy, Burning Spear and Lee Scratch Perry. The experience has come in handy because Change The World is released on his own Chinelo Records Label. Joined by veterans Earl 16 and Chinna Smith and hitmaker Lloyd Brown he’s not at all overawed. Far from it. He’s paid his dues, first developing his skills on Exodus and Wassifa Sound systems and on Never Played a 45 he reviews this period nostalgically taking a look at the days of music on vinyl and sound system culture.

Nostalgia doesn’t mean relic though – or museum piece - and Macka B proves he still has plenty to say.

See the trailer for the album on You Tube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQD97Lp1xy0

Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson is The New Black Magazine's arts editor and a London-based freelance journalist.



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