Review: Skillinjah – Emergency Spliff

Review: Skillinjah – Emergency Spliff

SkillinJah – Emergency Spliff
Track Listing:
1. Emergency Spliff
2. Ms. Light Brown
3. Bad Man
4. Miss Bell
5. Backbiter
6. Book of life
7. Central Booking (Same Thing Part 2)
8. Bullshit
9. Ready For Them
10. Badman (Richard Faught Mix)
11. Backbiter (Richard Faught Mix)
12. Emergency Spliff (Richard Faught Mix)

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: Aug 16th, 2011
Record Label: Ganjah Records
Official Website: Skillinjah Website

Group Background:
The album was entirely co-written by SkillinJah & his former Jah Roots band mate, Josh Heinrichs, during a recent summer get together while SkillinJah had returned to his home state of Missouri to visit family and friends. SkillinJah who normally resides in NYC where he divides his time between raising his own family and playing in the band 45 Shootout as well as voicing riddims for different producers. SkillinJah has voiced for labels and producers from Jamaica to Europe, several of which have been released on VP Records internationally under SkillinJah’s alias name; Baddaflexx.

This album finds SkillinJah in a more natural & organic acoustic setting, than the dancehall riddims he is normally heard on but he still maintains that great DJ style, just this time over more rootsie style riddims .

Album Review:
Former band mates SkillinJah and Josh Heinrichs reunited in western Missouri to release their first collaborative album since their time together with Jah Roots. The album contains nine acoustically driven reggae tracks and three electronically-reproduced riddims by friend and fellow musician Richard Faught. All of the songs are in a loosely knit acoustic setting besides Faught’s pieces. The time on the mic is split almost down the middle between the unmistakable voice of Josh Heinrichs and SkillinJah with his rudeboy accent that ever-so-many reggae acts have naturally and superficially mastered in the past and present.

Throughout the time I spent listening to this album on a few long car rides through a decent stereo and through my headphones I had a hard time deciding whether I enjoyed the remixes or the acoustic tracks better. The twosome sings about multiple issues including marijuana, being an unsung hero, and family love. I found that some songs are too similarly structured and in effect are missing the punch line or something to persuade me with. The rhythms are out of balance with what they tried doing. From their past with Jah Roots and other projects it is evident that the two love writing reggae music. But dwelling upon an acoustic guitar for a reggae album doesn’t always work very well. A bass line and a drum kit would have complimented the lonely skanking rhythm that Emergency Spliff dwells upon. I believe if a group or person is going to release an acoustic album, different rhythms, progressions, or musical qualities should be incorporated to complement each other and to create more compelling harmonies.

However, I found it easy to get over that hunch for a number of songs. In Badman, SkillinJah sings about a topic peculiar to some of the early reggae phenoms. He refers to himself as a society-claimed “bad-man”, singing that he will, ”Steal from the rich and give it back to the poor.” Josh Heinrich’s voice bounces off a number of different notes accurately and within the segments of even a single word. His voice scales up and down different octaves while SkillinJah’s puts you at ease and sounds like it belongs in a UB40 song. Another appealing track is Emergency Spliff, the album title. It is about his love and addiction to the joys of smoking weed singing “Smoke until the whole bag is empty”.

Miss Bell is a song that shines love through a not so common scheme in music. SkillinJah’s message of love traveled from father to daughter rather than between a domestic couple. The major chord progressions create a sense of enjoyment to accompany such a unique and positive message of love in the family.

Richard Faught, a keyboardist for 77 Jefferson who also hails from the Midwest, remixed three of the songs featured on the album. The acoustic version of the song Backbiter was wonderfully redone, and the vocals flow just as accurate and indulged with emotion over his Faught’s reggae riddim including a bouncy keyboard progression and an electronic beat.

Skillinjah’s debut solo album is presented with a sense of social awareness and loaded with some of reggaes most classic messages. Whether it is firing up a joint or serving the people of the nation and world, SkillinJah and Josh Heinrich’s lyrics frame some of life’s most personal issues to all people. However, I would like to hear more within the woodwork of the songs.

Written & Reviewed by: Matt Emodi

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer, expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, not the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]