Mar 17, 2008

Why Mavado wrote "On the Rock"

No tune has loomed over 2008 for me more than Mavado’s “On the Rock” on Baby G’s “Mission” Rhythm. Now, three months in I’m hardly breaking news on how big this tune is: the tune’s just so incredible I feel the need to publicly declare my total infatuation.

“On the Rock” has many of those qualities and more, and I guess it’s symbolic of a craving I have for more vocal, emotive, colourful music right now.

The backstory to “On the Rock” is that Mavado’s birthday party last year got raided by the Jamaican police and soldiers in helicopters. Angry, he turned to gospel to express his frustration. The result is something even the addition of Jay-Z bars can’t improve.

Call it twilight, magical balance or dynamic tension, I’ve been drawn to Mavado since I first heard ”Amazing Grace” last year. What’s so remarkable about him is the sweetness of his voice and the bitterness of his message. No one else could sing about “[bone] marrow flying” and make it sound so intense.

While I haven’t felt this strong about a dancehall voice since Sizzla’s, in part Mavado reminds me of arguably my favourite house album, Romanthony’s “Romanworld”. Roman too sings with the anguish of someone who the whole world has forsaken, especially on “The Wanderer,” which like “On the Rock” is most spine-tingling when it’s a naked accappella.

Mavado too sounds scorned and forsaken, ripping his heart out and showing it to the world:

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