Protoje & Zion I Kings: In Search of Zion

Review René

It's a bit strange that a Jamaican artist has to turn to musicians outside of Jamaica if he wants roots reggae rhythms. But okay, Jamaica is moving forward – while here in the “West” we conservatively hold on to the legacy of the 1970s. Since we still have some purchasing power here (let's see how long that lasts), Protoje came up with the idea of ​​having his 2020 album "In Seach of Lost Time" "remixed" for our listening tastes and as “In Search of Zion” (RCA Records). Remix here means that the three Zion I Kings producers have actually composed and recorded a completely new roots instrumental album - which, however, only serves as backing for the vocals from Protoje's existing album "In Seach of Lost Time". It's a really crazy concept: just swap out the music to better sell the album to European and North American audiences. Well, it's just business. However, the Zion I Kings were proud enough to release a double album Dub-versions of their productions. And let's listen to it now. What is immediately noticeable: The spectrum ranges stylistically from lovers rock backings to (subdued) roots steppers. I'll now benevolently delete the Lovers Rhythms because I can't do anything with Schlager, no matter what musical form it comes in. The backings of Schlager are not far from elevator music – a product of boredom. What remains are the rootsDubs on the album. But compared to the state of the art, they areDub of the present, incredibly pale and inconspicuous. Where is the power of Roots? Where is the dynamic, where is the rebellious statement? How can a roots album by a great artist come across as so shallow, unoriginal and despondent? The same applies to the Dubmix: Absolutely generic. Unfortunately, “In Search of Zion” is a huge missed opportunity for modern Dub to make it palatable to a broad target group of Protoje fans.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review gtk

Admittedly, I'm more familiar with Protoje - especially in recent years - through casual overhearing: I'm not into hip-hop, I'm not into chanting. Maybe in this case you could call it conscious hip hop, progressive rap, sing-song or whatever; In any case, the music and lyrics leave my auditory nerves pretty unimpressed - even though I have certainly engaged with Protoje's albums, even if not with the usual intensity: In the end, every artist deserves a chance.

For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that in Protoje's oeuvre - or should we say: in the oeuvre of his producers - one can certainly discover successful hooks. You could already find them in the first (internationally released) albums - thanks to producer Don Corleon, who basically wrote the Reggae/Conscious Dancehall/R&B-heavy material at the time, right down to the lyrics, for Protoje. With the albums and singles that followed, Protoje was able to establish itself as a permanent fixture in its ReggaeHipHopR&B hybrid genre with its own label and management and, above all, the support of producer/keyboarder Phillip James. Live a little more roots, in the studio a little more R&B - to each their own. It was only a matter of time before a major label put Protoje in the black and signed him up to a contract. Sony Music or its sub-label RCA Records has more or less controlled Protoje's fortunes since 2020, although he expects "a certain level of creative control" (=> Wikipedia) from the deal. One would like to wish him that, even though one knows that majors are not exactly squeamish when their financial input does not bear the expected fruit.

Two very successful albums on RCA Records later, we are faced with a surprise these days: someone has the (vocal) tapes of the 2021 release "In Search of Lost Time“ handed over to the Zion I Kings team – nothing less than the roots-oriented reggae album “In Search of Zion(RCA Records) (RCA even calls it a “remix album”). Whose idea that was is anyone's guess; it may be Protoje himself to regain some credibility in the reggae community; It may be Sony/RCA Records that also wants the Sunshine Reggae segment to be covered in its roster. The fact that Zion the I Kings was hit may be because of their good reputation or because of their first collaboration on Protoje's last regular release "Third Time's the Charmto be grateful for.

Now we already know what we can expect from the Zion I Kings: flawless craftsmanship, solid arrangements and the finest sound, implemented in classic-looking roots tunes. You really can't complain, it's solid backing that gives every singer room to do their thing. This even works, as in this case, if the singer doesn't sing anything new. Wonderful and maximally enlightening: listening to the original and the reggae version back-to-back, comparing two worlds. Rap like that doesn't work on Roots... but it does. And it sounds good!

As an unexpected bonus, Protoje/RCA Records/Zion I Kings also give us this Dub-Tracks of these reggae versions recorded two years ago. The Zion I Kings can do that too, as they did with the Dub-Albums under his own name have proven - especially with the Vol. 1 of theirs Dub-Series, with which they pay an excellent tribute to Style Scott. Now we know - and have already discussed it here - that you shouldn't expect any crazy innovations from the men around Laurent Alfred - they boom accordingly Dubs bass-heavy from the speakers; The effects are used with appropriate precision and never oversteer. Nothing new under the Virgin Islands sun – “just” the usual reliability with quality.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

7 replies to “Protoje & Zion I Kings: In Search of Zion”

Not bad either ! Here you can read two very different reviews. I'm sorry gtk but as in my short comment
can be read in the radar, I agree 100% with René's perception. Sagging DubThat's it! Also for my taste. I also like to admit that it does me a lot of good when my opinion or impression is confirmed so precisely. That makes me feel much stronger ;-) …..
On the other hand, I actually think the vocal tunes with both the Zion I Kings and his “Indignitians” (?) are quite okay. But it wasn't enough for me to buy one or even both albums.
All right! Then I'm conservative, even though I still much prefer listening to the fat reggae tunes from the 70s and 80s than the version of reggae that has become more and more softened over the years Dub (especially the computersDubs from Jamaica). The music was really progressive at the time and for me it always will be.
Especially the records by BLACK UHURU (Michael Rose, Puma Jones, Ducky Simpson, Sly and Robbie and The Taxi Gang and no one else) are for me the definition of progressiveness, the likes of which have never been seen again. This is not “just” reggae, but
It was the time when powerful “aggro” reggae could still achieve worldwide fame. The listeners weren't so soft-spoken yet and were longing for it. Where have we arrived today? Here with us, for example, there is a quota for Tim Bendsko music.
German heavy-hitting music with slightly critical lyrics, so you don't immediately notice that they're basically just hits.
Protoje would certainly like to make a lot more good, powerful reggae, but the “kids” of today only want to listen to flabby hip-hop. LaberMusic. It's all about text text text. The music, the groove no longer plays a role. Jamaica is “moving forward”!?!
Mmmmh, now I have to subtract at least one percent from my agreement with René. Maybe I've been disappointed and turned my back on Jamaican music for too long and am no longer up to speed, but the only thing that stuck with me is that Jamaica - just like before the ska - rocksteady - and reggae - era is lagging behind the American market and even doesn't avoid musical accidents like trap. All flabby rum without any taste! Mind you! That's how it affects me! The fact that many people see it differently and even celebrate the shit is maybe okay, but for me it's a big, if not the big part, of the problem. And so the musicians who want to or even have to make a living from music are really in trouble, because progressive music is no longer popular. Everything is softened in the usual conservative way and that's why you don't have to be surprised if "marble and iron breaks".

Ok, it could well be that I went a little over the mark again, but I just had a bit of momentum again.

How long ……………………. lemmi

“German heavy-hitting music with slightly critical lyrics, so you don’t immediately notice that they’re basically just hits.”

I agree with you 99% on that, lemmi. The missing 1% concerns the words “even only”. I would like to add that melodies and lyrics of concern are being created that previously would not have even been considered as verse melodies. Always the same minor key *yawn*.

Butbutbut: The success of this music shows that a lot of people like it and there is a big market for it. So it can't be that bad - for me, however, these are musical platitudes, i.e. pure boredom. For reggae – dare I say it – this also applies, at least lyrically, I think.

Yes, gtk, with everything I say here it must always be clear that of course I do it with a big one DubLook at the glasses and also comment. Maybe I have what reggae and Dub even affects the James Webb telescope sitting on the nose. I am not and do not want to be objective and certainly not reasonable. I also have, for example, “Happiness is like a butterfly” by Nana Mouskouri in one of my playlists.
“One good thing about music is, when it hits, you feel no pain” This of course applies to all music, even if I find it difficult to believe. But sisso.
But when music really grabs me or hits me, then I no longer want to be rational, objective and or even sensible. No ! Then I want to freak out and appear like a crazy person to everyone else because of me. It doesn't matter to me because I don't feel any pain.
Until now I always had the impression that here in... DubI'm allowed to blog, or you have enough tolerance (ability to suffer) for my enthusiasm, which sometimes goes a bit overboard.
I would definitely be out of place in a “SchlagerBlog”.
I can't really say much about the lyrics. The text isn't really important to me either. I can always relate very well to what I have experienced in reggae. I can understand every ganja hymn very well - even if it's the 2510th one - and when Babylon is verbally torched again, I'm happy to be there too. Otherwise, the only thing that matters to me is how people sing or toast. To be honest, I don't give a damn. And when someone sings about a Beautiful Woman as crazy as Toots Hibbert and the whole thing comes over such a fat riddim, then I just say, "even if I don't understand every word, from the way it sounds he can only be right ;-)"

Until ………………… .. lemmi

“Burn down the disco
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music that they constantly play
it says nothing to me about my life”
(© Morrissey / The Smiths)

The lyrics have always been very important to me, but there are topics - especially in reggae - that I have absolutely nothing to do with, i.e. that I can't connect with at all. Furthermore, it seems impossible to intentionally “not hear” texts. If that becomes a problem... it is Dub the solution!

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