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Album Review

Six years passed since Ky-Mani Marley released his sophomore set, Many More Roads, but the Marley name's cachet in the reggae scene hadn't yet dissipated, and with the strength of his previous sets, Radio debuted at the top of the reggae chart. This is quite a feat, since Radio is not a reggae album, with its only link guesting singer Tessanne Chin hot off her hit "Hide Away." None of Marley's half-siblings appears, no veteran reggae musicians wave the black, green, and gold, and there's not even a single dancehall producer to boost Ky-Mani's Jamaican cred. There is, however, "The Hustler," which is obviously aimed at a world audience, and catchy enough to take the clubs and airwaves by storm. But that infectious roots reggae number is the exception to the record's rule of straight-up hip-hop and R&B. But because Marley is a Marley, one can tease out reggae elements, all of which would go unremarked if delivered by any other artist. Radio's atmospheres are overwhelmingly introspective, if not outright brooding, its auras shadowed, at times gloomy, with the bluesy "Breakdown" pushing toward the gothic; the inspiration could be dread roots, but not necessarily. Some of the basslines would work well in a reggae context, a few of the brass passages too, but at this point, one's really stretching. Several of the themes are a better fit, notably the heartfelt plea for Jah's mercy "I Pray" and the militant "The March," wherein Marley girds himself for life and Armageddon. Of course, deceitful women are a universal affliction, but only someone raised in the reggae world would call theirs "Jezebel." And much of the set revolves around relationships, from the slack "Slow Roll" to the fiery "So Hot," and on to such romantic numbers as "Royal Vibes," "Conversation," and "I Got You." But Marley isn't merely a loverman; he's also a "Ghetto Soldier," but one who still feels the need to establish his street cred, as he does on this powerful, part-autobiographical/part-bring-it-on number. That's the toughest of the set, though the defiant and exuberant "I'm Back" runs it a close second, as Marley announces his return with style, with his posse, rappers Young Buck and Louie Rankin, watching his back. It's one of five combo numbers within; others feature guest rappers Maintain and Gail Gotti, and R&B star Mya. All told, Radio is an incredibly potent album, with a great flow, minimalistic in feel but thick with atmosphere, the lyrics personal, often thoughtful, and delivered with all the power and emotion Marley possesses. A hip-hop powerhouse parading as a reggae set, the album will blow your socks off, even if you were expecting a one-drop set.

Biography

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '00s

Following in the legacy of his father's footsteps, Ky-Mani Marley continues on with the pop-reggae sound for which his family is known. Stepping into his Jamaican roots, Marley independently released his debut, The Journey, in 1998. It developed a huge following on the reggae charts as well as some dedication from fans of Bob Marley. The following year, The Journey was eventually re-released...
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Radio, Ky-Mani Marley
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