Reggaeville reviews IN A DI RED
by Justine Amadori Ketola
Cocoa Tea carries the banner of the true reggae singer. Over the years he has always been the “ranking'” – the bonafide singer to set the standards. He does not stray from cultural messages, positive themes, conscious lyrics and giving praises to Emperor Haile Selassie. He is as comfortable interspersing prayers in with humor, never takes himself too seriously, a realist and a true griot, telling the tales of the community with grace. We haven’t heard much from him since the 2008 triumph, Barack Obama single which gained him a great deal of attention.
Now he comes with a new set of tunes created in collaboration with Roaring Lions Records and produced by Cocoa Tea and the crew at Roaring Lion studios. The crew opens the release with A Love Like Yours and Mine a ’50’s crooner type of love song set to a reggae beat.
Then on Beat U Drums he comes with Nyabinghi-style judgement, linking the lack of progress in the Jamaican ghettos to the decline in the adherence to African culture tradition. Cocoa Tea says, “Beat your drum and get out a di slum, beat your drum, lay down your gun.”
On Crazy Crazy he continues on the romance path in a modern ska style, speaking to a particularly crazy relationship, and then he mentions all of the nationalities of ladies that he is crazy about; Jamaican, American, Japanese, English, German and etcetera. Continuing on the truths and rights mission, he addresses the media and issues of censorship and control on Press Freedom, set to a sultry one-drop riddim. On A Single Step Cocoa Tea makes a pledge to his love to never let her down now that he has found true love.
One of the more intriguing riddims is found on Sufferation which uses Hammond B3 style organ sounds, prominent shaker percussion and vocal effects on the support vocals. The message is that many countries around the world have people who find themselves in tribulation and sufferation. He points at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for “drinking all of the gas out of the poor people’s tank,” his unique falsetto selling the issues sweetly.
His use of metaphor is a large part of his gift, and when it is combined with current-day issues, the combination is magic. On White Squall he refers to the dangerous violent windstorms which create problems on the sea for smaller craft. The issues of poverty from the Jamaican perspective are detailed with vibrant examples. Reference to the “sisters on the street dressing lewd, that tell you they are defending their food” and the fall of Cash Plus, the Ponzi scheme that collapsed a few years back, taxation, all paint a picture of the issues everyday Jamaicans face.
Cocoa Tea is joined by the great female deejay Lady G to play out the issues of a gold digger type of female or the tendencies of a kept woman. Cocoa Tea brings the real in his unique reggae vocal style, going up and down the scale in just one phrase, singing “man have them brain in a dem penis, you know them have a weakness for sweetness.” He also calls out the girls with piercings every where, false hair and high heels while Lady G takes the role of the gold digger singing, “no romance, before finance.”
The title tune In A Di Red, a metaphor for being in a bit of trouble features a jealous husband that is out to get the subject. He begs for his innocence and pleads for his life to the tune of an uplifting groove. He points out that every man thinks he is taking away their gal and blaming him because of the song Tek Weh Yu Gal – a hit single he had over a decade ago!
For Poverty Line his trademark chorus writing ability combines with legitimate concerns of the people, “25% are gone below the poverty line, politicians you better look out that’s a serious sign.” Cocoa Tea is joined by D’Angel former wife of Beenie Man, for the DJ portion of the tune. This is a true duet with the artist addressing the guest artist directly in the lyrics and she in turn commenting at the right parts during Cocoa Tea’s portions.
On So Long Cocoa Tea outlines all of the time it took for him to get in touch with this particular female, delineating a plethora of contact information that we now possess in the 21st Century as in BBM number, Skype address, Facebook address – all of which he worked to get. The groove on this tune has live drums, rich harmonies that caress the hopes that the artist has to get with this love interest despite the concerns her family and friends have for him as a Rasta and possibly “moving as a gangster.”
Back in the crooning mode, Tonight borrows from Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” in the melody and lyrical style to build a playful case against a sound system which is destined for death. Preparing for dubplate sessions has taken on a new meaning with an artist actually writing a song focused squarely on the clash setting. As the set closes, Woman is Cocoa Tea reiterating that “‘Woman is essential to I-man” and flexing the “behind every successful man is a good woman” vibe.
Cocoa Tea is a veteran in the industry, he exemplifies the tendency for artists to maintain their own unique style and originality that was prevalent in early reggae. Here he stays true to form based on the proven formulas for successful songwriting and performance over the past 30 years.