Your first impression of These Kingston Times is likely to be that Five Steez is the second coming of a young Nas and it’s hard not to think of Illmatic while listening to the EP. The burgeoning Jamaican rapper even acknowledges his likeness to the hip hop legend on the track “Night Streets”.
The similarity is not a pastiche however; you never get the impression that he’s imitating anyone. His style of rap is very old school and his flow is pure poetry but there is also a modern element to his sound. In fact, a hybrid of Nas and current rap phenom Bishop Nehru with an added Jamaican edge is probably a more vivid description of the rapper’s music.
Despite these comparisons, Five Steez is about as authentic as you can get in today’s rapidly expanding music industry where nothing is completely original. Indie rappers are a dime a dozen-indie anything seems to be the current trend-but Five Steez manages to stand out without the gimmicks or flamboyance that many come to expect from modern musicians. His success rides solely on his talent - something he has in abundance. Some might argue that talent isn’t enough anymore, and the all too ambiguous and often elusive “x-factor” element may or may not be in his possession; his talent however, is undeniable.
“From the Ground Up” seems to sit at the pinnacle of the compilation. The track is short and sweet but the lyrics pack a punch that might just send you reeling. His delivery is consistently faultless and his conscious commentary seems to give life to the phrase “reggae-rap”. The underlying music is also something to relish.
The album is a field of inspiration with each track bearing the stamp of a different producer. Five Steez brings all of these varying sonic perspectives together in a way that makes the transition throughout the EP smooth and coherent.
“The Starting Five” features K. John, Kash Kapri, France Nooks and Nomad Carlos who are all relatively obscure artistes and embody the raw talent that is present on the Jamaican hip hop scene. The five rappers spit fire on the gangsta rap tune, forming a rap train that gets to its destination a bit too soon. You are left wanting more and hopefully this is a demand that the musicians will soon meet. The song’s title also begs the question: Will these five artistes be the ones to propel Jamaican hip hop onto the world stage?
Before they conquer the international arena however the young rappers will have to win over the locals. Jamaica is not entirely averse to rap music and the younger generations seem to share quite an affinity for popular rap artistes currently on the American mainstream circuit. One can only expect their response to their own local rappers to be highly-favourable, especially considering the talent that is present. The music industry can be fickle and unpredictable however, unlike some of its musicians.
The track “Deadly”, opens with a slow grooving reggae intro before dropping an infectious beat to form a reggae/hip hop fusion that is unlikely any other. It could easily be a fan favourite as producer, DJ Crooks, shows just how compatible the two genres are.
The EP’s eight producers did well in capturing Five Steez’s deadly flow and presenting it in a soundscape that reflects hip hop’s American roots while highlighting the musician’s innate Jamaican sound.
These Kingston Times is an ode to Jamaica’s capital city. The image that the artiste
paints is not always a pleasant one but it’s always true. The title track as
well as “Wild West Indies” epitomize this reality; his reality. There is often
a dark and gritty undertone but Five Steez’s own self-affirmation and bravado
presents a bright parallel.
‘These Kingston Times’ will be released on October 14 via Bandcamp, iTunes and other outlets so be sure to keep an eye out!