A FEW weeks ago I received a WhatsApp message asking If I had checked out Tarrus Riley’s new EP, B.L.E.M. The message further read, ‘It’s the baddest ting and mi nah hype.’
The sender of this message was Shane Brown, whose credentials as a producer, engineer and manager to some heavy names past and present made me pay even more attention than the average message.
To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of it, but I knew of a single called G.Y.A.L that featured Tarrus and dancehall-influenced Afrobeats star Stonebwoy. This had the signature sound of the much in demand Izzy Beats, the same, ‘Izy, are you killing me?’ that you hear in the intro of Koffee’s Toast.
Throughout the year I had been in contact with Tarrus as I had recorded a live session with him in Jamaica. At the time he was getting ready to release an album that featured the current single Guess Who featuring Mykal ‘Grammy’ Rose. Obviously plans had changed which now explains why he asked for another link up when I was on the island in March.
Tarrus was in town a few weeks ago and I was lucky enough to sit down with this finished project with the man himself.
He explained: “Things changed for the better. The album is on the way, but before the album you have a [little] EP. Six songs produced by Izy Beats, I’m just giving more music just like how the phones are giving you more apps!”
B.L.E.M. (Blending lives Experiences Musically) is a mash up of different sounds and vibes each with its own uniqueness with a solid body of Dancehall and reggae and the under current of Afrobeats all the way through supplied by Izy.
He described the whole process being very experimental that continued to grow into something different each session. Tarrus has always been an adventurous artist which he proved alongside Ellie Gould- ing for Powerful. But you cannot pigeonhole him even though he is one of our leading lights under the Reggae One Drop banner.
Let’s not get it twisted, though. We have seen this side of Tarrus with some of his harder releases with top tier Jamaican dancehall producers Chimney Records. I was surprised that Jordan and Hizzle from the yellow building in Kingston were not responsible for this project.
Tarrus laughs at my presumptuous nature and tells me: “Mi and Jordan ah fren, he saw me and said, ‘Mhmm look how you give away our project’, but it was all fun and jokes.” B.L.E.M. certainly tackles many of life’s experiences in six songs as described in the title. Subject matters range the weak- ness for women in Kryptonite or the deeper Trust Issues that starts with the lines,‘She nuh have no room for trust, she nuh have no room love, Looking like she’s given up, I can tell she’s had enough.’
One of the standout moments on B.L.E.M. has to be Dangerous Waters that features Lila Ike who is one of the many females that are making their presence felt in the industry right now. It’s the typical boy /girl that shouldn’t be together, but fall deeper into unknown territory.
Lila, from Protoje’s Indignation camp has shown that she can handle loves songs like this. Just check out her Second Chance on the Dennis Brown’s Promise Land riddim for proof. During our playback of the EP, Tarrus tells me: “You know the coolest ting about Lila? It’s her spirit. She just has presence.” At this point he tries to mimic her with the soft delivery I know from Lila: “Yo, wha gwan.”
Tarrus is very aware that some of his reggae purist fans may not understand when he switches lanes for a moment. He tells me: “More time Dean (Fraser) would get nuff slack it! Is whe your bwoy agwan wid, him switch [and say], ‘You nuh her whe him a sing’. Dean would answer, ‘Is whe him a sing? Boss leave him alone, him a youth’.
Tarrus can hardly hold back the laughs when he tells me the story with Dean Fraser OD sitting in the corner staring into his phone not giving nothing away. “Dean is a purist, too, but him mind still open. So if it sound good it just sound good!” he tells me with more laughs. I ask Dean if he’s tired of the problems. I get a simple: “Yep.”
Troublesome Tarrus then proudly admits to the trouble he causes in his camp: “Imagine, I have an album with someone that is amazing that when it drop the world mash up. I have my own album with so many tracks that we have to pick, choose and refuse. But then come with this EP and say put out this. Everyone was like, ‘What you talkin’ bout?!’”
All that being said, the son of reggae legend Jimmy Riley made it very clear to me when I asked if we would ever see Tarrus doing a complete album away from reggae.
“No! Why would I do that? I’m not detaching from my roots, I’m just giving you more – like the apps!”
Make sure you download away…just like those apps…