Murda She Wrote: July 2020 

Summer heats up with new music by Koffee, Chronixx, Tessellated & Crayon and Aluna, Princess Nokia & Jada Kingdom.

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Image of Koffee by Fernando F. Hevia.

Social distancing has been a fact of life for months now. But how are we supposed to adjust when the temperature’s rising? Summer used to be about choosing between block parties or rooftop functions — now we just want to know where are we going to be able to go? Who are we going to be able to see? What do we do when it’s too damn hot? So many questions keep our minds in a constant state of limbo. Meanwhile, our bodies just want to do what comes naturally.

We might not be able to check out a live gig anytime soon, but your favorite DJ’s set can be as close as your phone. One way or another, music is always going to be part of our lives, by all means necessary. As Jah Cure once said, “We don’t need no visa to come through your speakers.” Even in the midst of this long, hot, crazy summer, we all need to raise our musical thermometer. These tunes are guaranteed to do the trick.

Koffee
“Lockdown”

Koffee made history in January as the first female artist — and the youngest — to win a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with her debut project, Rapture. When I last spoke to the Jamaican artist, she was about to turn 19 and was thinking about stopping by some street dances to celebrate. But as we’ve spent most of 2020 locked down, parties and social gatherings have pretty much come to a halt. 

In her latest song, “Lockdown,” Koffee asks the question that’s on everyone’s mind as we enter the eighth month of this year like no other: “Where will we go?” But this particular tune deals with much more than fantasizing about “When di quarantine ting done and everybody touch road.” It’s about a young artist discovering her voice and tapping into her passion, and our universal need for human connection.

If you had “Toast” in rotation for most of last year, then prepare for the next Koffee wave. This new banger is another catchy tune that will have you wanting to hear it on repeat. There’s something magical about this song. Koffee’s feeling the vibe, and her vocal delivery makes us feel it too. She’s ready to be out there again, and so are we. Her new jam will leave you refreshed and ready for the next chapter. “That was actually a very spur-of-the-moment song,” says Koffee, who was working at Popcaan’s studio in Kingston when she met producer Dane Ray, who gave her the instrumental. 

The lockdown era has changed so many lives, and even in the midst of tragedy the pandemic has brought us closer together. We’re speaking with friends and family more than before and getting more sleep; some of us are cooking more. Some relationships are thriving and others are falling apart due to so much time spent with each other.

When she sings, “Me give yuh me heart beg yuh take it from me,” it sounds like Koffee is ready to take things seriously. If the lockdown has taught us anything at all, it’s served as a timely reminder that life is too short — and if you’ve been holding out on commitment then it might be time to get your mind right. “Nah badda with the bagga long talking,” Koffee deejays.

“Yo, that was so serious,” Koffee told me in an exclusive chat yesterday. “I swear. Me nah go answer no question about who and the speculations. But I’m tellin’ you that song was so real.” Love can’t stay locked down forever. Free up!

Chronixx
“Cool as the Breeze/Friday”

By all indications the next project from Grammy-nominated Spanish Town singer Chronixx will be a game-changer. Each single we’ve heard from his highly anticipated new project Dela Splash has given us a flavor of what’s to come and shown us something fresh and exciting. The first single, “Dela Move,” kicked off the project with a whole new rhyming style — rapid-fire triplets that sounded like a roots-reggae trap flow. “Same Prayer,” featuring Kabaka Pyramid, took a prayerful Niyabinghi vibe and stripped it down to its essentials, then built it back up to an inspirational anthem. The latest single, “Cool as the Breeze/Friday,” may be the freshest sound yet. Produced by Pantha, a.k.a. Aaron Cowan, the synth-driven groove sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Chronixx catches the spirit and delivers a sound that builds on his typical style but takes it to a new place.

Though he’s known for touring the world with his Zincfence Redemption band, Chronixx is creating a new sound here that harkens back to his days as a producer and his love of dancehall music. “Nuttin to me like my Shabba Ranks and my Super Cat,” he once told me. After all, his father was the artist Chronicle — whom he calls “the original dancehall daddy” — famous for his sound-system dubplates. Creating something new isn’t easy, but Chronixx seems to make it flow like a breeze, as the song says. “Welcome to Kingston, every day is a summer,” he sings. “Every night feel like a Friday.” Catch the energy.

Tessellated ft. Crayon
“No Ansa”

The Jamaican artist Tessellated began playing drums at an early age and expanded to guitar, steel pan and piano. In 2017 he collaborated with Amindi K. Fro$t and Valleyz to create “Pine & Ginger.” The song has racked up tens of millions of streams, putting the singer/producer/musician on the map. Since then he’s created the genre-bending track “I Learnt Some Jazz Today,” which topped Billboard’s Jazz Digital Song Sales chart and was used in an Apple AirPods commercial that was recently nominated for an Emmy. “Jah know I got nominated for an Emmy from doing the music I love even when people never understand. Nuh follow nobody,” Tessellated tweeted on July 31. He also produced the eclectic dancehall groove “Freeza,” featuring the vocal talents of dancehall star Shenseea alongside Jamaican rapper Zac Jone$.

Known for creating music without boundaries or limitations, Tessellated has described his music as a “delicate balance” of Jamaican rhythms and international elements like jazz and R&B. His latest release, “No Ansa,” finds him collaborating with rising Afrobeats star Crayon. “The process was a smooth, collaborative effort,” the artist told The Gleaner. “From the initial session with Footsteps & Bayo in the U.K. to sending over to Crayon in Nigeria for a verse, it was a project that flowed from step to step.” The song is all about a girl who “Bruk off di waist when she whine like monsta,” but just don’t try to ring her number. “Lock off di phone when she call — no ansa.” As Tessellated continues to build an innovative new sound, winning fans like Diplo and Camila Cabello, his phone is sure to be ringing off the hook.

Aluna, Princess Nokia & Jada Kingdom
“Get Paid”

Getting paid for your work as an artist is an unfortunate challenge. Way too often we hear about people getting ripped off or underpaid for stuff they create. There are many impersonators but few originators, and a lot of times there can be gray areas where getting your props and due respect relies on rubbing shoulders with the “right people.” Worse still, there are others who’ll take the credit for your work and the money you’re owed for it.

Just ask Aluna, the British-born vocalist who was formerly a member of the duo AlunaGeorge and is now preparing to drop her solo debut, Renaissance, on the Mad Decent label. “‘Get Paid’ is an aspirational celebration about Black women and women of color getting paid, in opposition of the reality that we are consistently undervalued for our work,” she explained in a statement. “On the other hand, this is a song about believing we deserve to get paid because as society keeps telling us we are worthless, we internalize that notion, which is almost more damaging because it stops us from advocating for ourselves.”

This track is for all the hard-working people who simply put in the hours and deserve to get the bag. Basically, it’s time to get paid. “We don’t work for free,” sings Jamaican dancehall girl Jada Kingdom on the track, which draws melodic inspiration from “Heads High,” the classic ’90s dancehall cut by Mr. Vegas. “We nuh really care if they wan’ chat we,” she adds without apology. “As long as dem pay dem fee.” Nuyorican rapper Princess Nokia joins in the Outernational action, emphasizing the point that “I work, I work, I work, I work hard for my gravy.” The message couldn’t be simpler, but somehow it always needs to be repeated. As RiRi said, “Bitch better have my money!”

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