Reggae music is the product of a process that has been evolving—arguably a slow moving one—since the ’60s. Today’s reggae—or sub genres ragga or dancehall—is both a far throw from Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley and no stranger to electronic music. Though Smoov Ras bridges reggae, electronic sounds and hip-hop, he’s a rocket blast away from anything coming out of Jamaica today.
Originally from New Roads but now residing in Lafayette, Smoov is a dynamic artist who has managed to make something new out of something borrowed on Son of Calypso. It doesn’t hurt that it has ultra-clean production.
The record starts out with the incredible “Never Meant to Be.” With its beeps and blips, quick snares and lyrics scattering all over, it is definitely not something that Marley could have envisioned, yet it will get its hooks into any Tuff Gong fan. This record is more modern hip-hop—with a sing-song style vocal performance and delivery somewhere between a slightly nasal KRS-One and Smokey Robinson. The track stands out not just because it is a rap song with a very small touch of reggae feel, but because it is interesting and fresh, bridging modern hip-hop electro sounds with lyrics that are not written at a third grade vocabulary and reading level. In other words, it’s not “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).”
After the first track, Smoov starts to make his way back to the core of reggae. It’s a slow process that finds the two genres slowly becoming one, then drifting apart. Songs turn to islands, smoke and Babylon. Smoov slows down and gives a Jamaican version of a love ballad, then throws out a heavy bass number called “Outer Spacin.” “Radio” has shades of the Roots and a chorus that might owe a little to the Notorious B.I.G., but sung like Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s better-sounding cousin. “Higher” has a slight rock edge, calling up some of the crossover sounds of Cypress Hill’s Skull & Bones.
Though some songs are scattered in their lyric structure, the album holds the listener’s attention. No matter your political leanings, “Gun From”—probably the most reggae track on the record—will get stuck in your head. And no matter which end—or right in the middle—of the hip-hop/reggae spectrum Smoov is in, there is always a modern edge and bounce.