Fortitude Riddim is the latest compilation by a group of individual artists known collectively as Version City Rockers released by producer-artist King Django through his New Brunswick-based Version City studio on his Stubborn Records label. Django originally created the “fortitude riddim” in 2002 sessions for Version City Rockers’ Darker Roots album. Django then went around the world, collaborating with and capturing 15 other reggae and dub artists with tunes they composed to the fortitude riddim.
While it’s interesting to hear how 16 artists take different melodic and lyrical approaches to the same rhythm, after 16 songs, the collection gets monotonous. The best of the bunch is the Bob Marley-minded opener, “Let There Be Love,” by dancehall great Johnny Osbourne. Also worth downloading is rock-steady master Carl Dawkins’ soulful, sexy dub, “Tranquility;” Django’s philosophical rap, “The More I Learn;” Justin Rothberg’s “God of Abraham,” one of the comp’s two instrumentals; Nigger Kojak’s meditative “Give Ear;” P-Dub’s diversely rhythmic, vocally dynamic mellow jam, “Solitude,” and Drew Daniels’ exotic love song, “Talk about Love.”
What’s even more interesting about Fortitude Riddim is the deeply spiritual approach the majority of the artists take to Rastafarianism and the worship of Jah. Driven by Rastafarian-style Niyabinghi drums, Pampidoo (“Selassie I Rule”), Rocker-T (“Dread Inna Mi Heart”), Little John (“I Feel Good”) and Prophet Adam (“Final Judgment”) join Osbourne and Kojak in a soul parade of love and worship. Others, such as Prince Alla (“We No Want No Bomb”) Jack Ruby Jr. (“Action Time”), and Kapaichie (“One for All”), step up politically to the mic to spew solutions to societal and global ills.
Ironically, after Django wrote the fortitude riddim, he was forced to embrace fortitude in the wake of the 2008 hurricane death of his Jamaican mentor, Bertram Brown of the Freedom Sounds label, who helped launch the Version City subsidiary label in Kingston. Django then got screwed in a bad music business deal, his home and studio got destroyed when a New Brunswick contractor caused a backup of raw sewerage in 2015, and a year later, his father died of cancer.
Yet, despite also suffering from sciatica and a hernia, the Brooklyn-raised Django managed to tough out Fortitude Riddim to share with his large international fan base. The influential, eclectically talented artist’s fiery but fluid rap, “The More I Learn,” makes a nice bridge between his 2014 LP, Anywhere I Roam, and whatever he plans on doing next.
STREAM Johnny Osbourne
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.