CD Review: Tanya Stephens: The Poet of the Dancehall
Just about 2 and a half years ago Tanya Stephens returned from her self-imposed musical 'exile' to Sweden to drop the finest album of her career, Gangsta Blues. GB caught many people by surprise and set Stephens in rare air as a complete female dancehall artist, who had yet to crossover, but could still sell albums. For a dancehall album, on an indie label (VP), Gangsta Blues did amazing, reportedly selling over 100,000 copies.
The now eagerly awaited Rebelution has caught no one by surprise, and it more than lives up to the sickly high standards set by GB. Rebelution is very similar to Gangsta Blues in terms of the vibe, with the only main difference being that Rebelution takes a more cultural vibe in its duration, however, musically the two are very similar. Stephens and her manager/producer, the brilliant Andrew Henton work the boards and the minimalist production here makes Stephens' greatest talent, the real star of the album.
Tanya Stephens has a very different style for reggae. She is somewhat in the same veign of Lieutenant Stitchie or Papa San (minus the fast chat) in that she is a pure story teller. All of her songs are about SOMETHING, there is a message to be found in each one of her verses and while she isn't as active as some of her peers, her fans would seemingly have no problem in waiting longer for her to craft such gems of music.
The best song on Rebelution is probably the wicked wicked first US single, These Streets. These Streets an admonishment to her lover who spends much time which rides a slightly revamped version of Marley's No Woman, No Cry riddim. Instead of going out again, she suggests he "keep your lips pon me like your marijuana". The song is lyrically BRILLIANT and its not the only one here. You also check the wicked Do You Still Care a tune about acceptance and discrimination (and I would suggest those of you who are going to flock to Beenie Man or Vybz Kartel's latest cd to talk about homophobia to flock to this one to talk about Anti-homophobia), the way that song is put together: From a white racist dying of liver failure being saved by the liver of a Black man to a homophobic ghetto youth being saved by a gay passerby after being shot.
(See how easy it is to review a 20 track cd when all of the songs are about SOMETHING).
Also check Come A Long Way, an ode to Black leaders of the past. Come a Long Way is one of the main tune which emphasizes the differences between between Rebelution and Gangsta Blues. Also check the opener, Welcome to the Rebelution, a spoken word style piece which NO ONE in dancehall could have written besides Tanya Stephens and it sets the album off on the right foot.
Then you get to the other side of Stephens. Both Put it On You and Don't Play are 2 of the smartest sexual tunes you will ever hear. And she is a lady, so she doesn't just come out and say things (usually!) but she uses metaphors such as in Put it On You when she says, "Mi dun book a room ova di Hilton, like Paris mi nah get embarrassed so yu free fi bring di still cam!". Don't Play is my 2nd favorite tune on the album as it follows much the same vibe as the excellent Boom Wuk from the Gangsta Blues album. Also check the wicked Who Is Tanya, which is also quite similar to Wi a Lead from GB.
VP has spared no expense in producing Rebelution. The wonderful packaged disc comes inside a holder which is wrapped and then the case underneath is still wrapped like a typical cd. Also, in the package is a (now becomming more and more common in reggae) dvd. The DVD includes videos from the big hit from Gangsta Blues, Its a Pity and the first JA single Warm Dem. It also includes a private performance Tanya held in NYC for several of the tracks from the album; However, most interestingly, it includes interviews in the studio with Tanya and others. Perhaps the most interesting being when her own producer, Andrew Henton and the producer who discovered her Barry O'Hare discuss her lyrical ability, with Henton summing it up best as "we figured if you make music with no point, then whats the point of making the music?"
Overall, this is one of the best releases of the year, nearly all of the 20 tracks (including the interludes, Sunday Morning is MASSIVE, and Saturday Morning aint that bad either!)are winners, even the ones I didn't mention, Cherry Brandy (combined with Saturday morning) a story about (trying to) overcoming alcohol; The Truth, talking about how hard it is to get over an old lover; Home Alone, squite similar to These Streets in the same vibe, but lyrically maybe even stronger. They're all top notch, the album is top notch. AMAZING! GO GET IT!
Bramoi for Trini Jungle Juice
01. Welcome To The Rebelution
02. Who Is Tanya
03. Put It On You
04. Still A Go Lose
05. To The Rescue
06. Spilled Milk
07. Truth, The
08. Saturday Morning
09. Cherry Brandy
10. Keep Looking Up
11. Do You Care
13. Warn Dem
14. To The Limit
15. These Streets
16. Don't Play