Congo Natty⎪ Jungle Revolution⎪ Big Dada ⎪⎪ US Release Date: July 9, 2013
Who is Congo Natty? Fair question. Congo Natty is best known as Rebel MC (Michael West), a UK musician/producer known for developing the ‘jungle’ style. Natty’s jungle style is truly eclectic and ‘electrifying’ fusing elements of reggae, bass, and hip-hop altogether in alluring fashion. Natty’s most recent presentation of this innovative, musical genius is 2013 effort Jungle Revolution, his first album release via Big Dada. Jungle Revolution is nothing short of an intriguing listen. Sure, the sometimes repetitive nature is a mixed blessing (as it is on many electronic efforts), but generally, Jungle Revolution is well conceived and assembled. The album definitely fulfills Natty’s vision – ‘a reboot of reggae for a new century’.
“Jungle Souljah” sets the tone of the effort with plenty of sounds and musical ideas to take in. It opens with a sick percussive groove, before a production switch-up (signaled by “bumbaclaat”) replaces it with hyper-rhythmic drum loops. To confirm his ‘jungle soldiering’, Natty (aka Rebel MC) makes it crystal clear “I don’t care about your f**king charts”. A nonconformist after my own heart.
“UK Allstars” is sorta analogous to a U.S. star-studded rap collaboration… It’s been referenced as a “who’s who of UK soundsystem culture”. Not the least bit short of talent, the album’s juggernaut features Tenor Fly, Top Cat, General Levy, Tippa Irie, Sweetie Irie and Daddy Freddy. Like the opener, “UK Allstars” is superbly produced, chocked full of varying musical ideas. Ultimately, there’s little to knock about the cut, but sometimes the raps are difficult to decipher lyrically. Regardless, while the lyrics are important, the timbre itself almost seems most important to carrying the torch.
“Revolution” is a personal favorite. The record begins on a high note with a thoughtful spoken word intro: “This record is one more attempt to expand the minds of all youth worldwide / Satan is a mental disease / and it’s symptoms are hate, jealous, lack of self respect and lack of discipline / hear these words and strengthen yourself…” Deep stuff right there. To me, ‘the revolution’ seems to be a movement, with this particular track serving as a vehicle. And btw, being the orchestration savvy soul that I am, I can’t lay this track to rest without mention the wonderful brass entrance after the 1:00 mark. Maybe all these things are reasons why Nanci Correia informs us “…it’s Congo Natty time…” on “Get Ready”. “Get Ready” doesn’t quite reach the same heights as “Revolution”, but like the three tracks that proceed it, it is another solid representation for Congo Natty. My biggest gripe? Five and a half minutes may be slightly long contextually compared to more notable tracks.
“Jah Warriors” serves as a “…calling of all jungle warriors…” according to the catchy hook. Much like “UK Allstars”, the raps aren’t always lyrically clear. Still, with its top-notch production and solid, anthemic concept, “Jah Warriors” is yet another ‘treat’. “Nu Beginingz” is the briefest cut of Jungle Revolution, but that doesn’t necessarily place it among the top-echelon. Even so, Sister Mary provides Congo Natty with yet another worthy collaboration which the electronic aspects of the cut stand out in particular. Maybe it’s my ‘dirty’ twenty-something mind, but as I struggle to decipher the lyrics of “Jungle is I and I”, why was it so easy to pick out line “shake your f**king booty”? Yeah… Just being perceptive! Anyways, in all seriousness, UK ‘dancehall queen’ Lady Chann does her thang vocally, while the rhythm continues to lift Natty to higher heights.
“London Dungeons” is an instant hook. Opening with a skit that ends with memorable recurring proclamation “This is my f**king country lady!”, the track latches quickly. It also helps that there’s some wobble bass going on, socially-conscious thematic material (unity, tolerance, etc.), and clear rap vocals. “Rebel” has a tough act to follow, though it does relatively well if not quite exceptionally for itself. While I was pleased with the cut itself, I found myself even more interested on the lesson of the Jamaican term bumbaclaat, which I was aloof of. The track itself describes the context in Jamaica at the onset while explaining its definition and usage at the end. Being the angelic-minded individual I am, I had to do my own research. If nothing more, understanding bumbaclaat made me a more ‘rebellious’ individual. “Micro Chip [Say No]” closes the album solidly, though I felt it took a few seconds longer than expected to ‘take off’. Even so, I can’t knock the thoughtful use of flute and that heavy reggae bass line.
All in all, Jungle Revolution is impressive. The music never disappoints, and the incorporation of rap, spoken word elements, and singing is nice. Sometimes the length is a factor, but for the most part, Jungle Revolution never feels belabored of forced due to its generous track durations Sometimes the mark of a great album occurs question: ‘Will I listen to this album again’? If I were asked this after listening to Jungle Revolution, my answer would an emphatic YES.