Art expressed in its various forms represents a story, a journey of sorts that sees the creator, taking us the audience, through their experiences as they happen. Such is the most recent album released from Protoje entitled Ancient Future produced by Winta James. By name, the project released March 10TH, 2015, emphatically implies a merger of styles and sounds from the 80’s era, melting into the present which will, in a way, pave the way for the future.
The Ancient Future experience opens with “Protection”, a track that sets the tone for this musical journey we are about to take. This solemn but solid song features the haunting and raspy vocals of Mortimer backed by semi heavy bass and xylophone accompaniments. The story begins explaining the jungle life, which comes with growing fame and notoriety and clearly states Protoje’s intention to go out for his own.
Scratching his seven year itch and some time now since the 8th year affair, I feel like Protoje lets us into the challenges he faces as king on his throne, a man with a legacy building. Despite these challenges and those who seek to destroy the roots of the youth’s unity, he cautions and calls for vigilance among associations and reminds that the “lion nuh turn when dog barking”. He expresses commitment to the trod, establishing the roots of movement and its resulting impact on the youth.
“I RATHER MARCH ALONE THAN FI MARCH BACK HOME
TELL ME QUEEN SAY ME LOST THE THRONE, NO
THIS WAS BUILT ON THE POWER OF THE TRUTH
DISCOVERING THE COWARDS AND EMPOWERING THE YOUTH”
He will not accept defeat with the power of truth as his sure foundation. He expounds, “Enemies in disguise wanna see my demise, …cause I see that in life you achieve supmn nice, but achieve sumen twice is a problem” to those who would devour the fruit and “chop the root”. We see exactly the pickle in which he now resides when he considers how his progression appears to be stumbling block to many looking on at his steady rise. Protoje comes back from this dilemma stating his sharp lyrical resilience and indeed reaffirming the “clarity weh speak”, through his words and indeed that we receive from his works. He closes by sending “strength out to the wise and protection for the meek”. Mortimer seals the warning with the following wise words:
“CAUSE OUT HERE IN THIS JUNGLE WE ROAM
EVERY KING HAS HIS THRONE
AND IF YOU ENTER MY ZONE
I VOW TO PROTECT MY OWN, PROTECT MY OWN
I WILL PROTECT MY OWN, PROTECT MY OWN”
Introductions complete, we enter the realms of the Ancient Future. Moving to the upbeat and catchy “Criminal”, Protoje delivers a straight sharp arrow to those who he feels are responsible for some atrocities. Sampling and updating “General” by InI Kamoze. He summarizes the crisis which involves certain key events representing the pinnacle of injustices against Ras Tafari, the harassment and death of Leonard Howell, Peter Tosh and Free I. He repeats “oh dem a criminal, watch it dem criminal, whole a dem a criminal” but a we follow Jah Law... see dem a fraud wid dem tra la la la…” Regardless of all these acts “we nuh retreat we jus gone to the east”. Emphatically, Protoje chants:
“THAT COULDN’T STOP THE MESSAGE THIS A SELASSIE PLACE”
Ras Tafari faces no defeat because “Jah a the main shield and the eye dem stay peeled”. With this confidence and vigilance, Protoje segues into “Who Knows” accompanied by Chronixx easing some of the heavy discussion already had but still maintaining and staying with the topic at hand.
He expounds on the simple provisions of rural life which makes one thankful, no doubt reflecting close to real life experiences in the breadbasket parish. He closes with the ultimate goal and mission succinctly stated in the lyrics:
“AFRICA INNA WE SOUL
BUT A JAH INNA WE HEART
IT IS OF IMPORTANCE FI I&I GATHER
IF WE CANNOT SHOW NOW A BALANCE AT WE YARD
HOW DO WE PROPOSE THEN TO CARRY IT ABROAD
CANNOT GO TO ETHIOPIA AND YOU NUH HAVE A PLAN
THE BUILDING OF A NATION A HAND A HELP A HAND
EVERYONE ONE A LOVE A ONE
A MAN IS JUST A MAN
IT SHALL BE A CORONATION WHEN WE LAND”
To get to the goal, “All will have to Change” this next track emphasizes the role of each man in his destiny. Each must change in his own way and do his own thing. The movement is as collective as it is individual. Protoje comments that though we speak of revolution, we must also speak of the evolution of mind. After all what is the revolution but the consciousness of the individuals who revolute.
Ancient Future’s tone changes with “Stylin” and so begins the story of love spoiling. It is now more personal and intimate perspectives. One other change that must happen is letting things go that cannot be changed. Protoje makes no bones about it, the love affair has ended, the “quart pan full”.
The love left behind because of the stylin’ transitions to “Love Gone Cold”. This one features the clean and passionate vocals of Sevana against electric guitar. An upbeat tale of moving on and finally closing the chapter, the chorus summarizes the state of the over love affair.
“LOVE GONE COLD
GAVE YOU ALL I HAD YES I PLAYED MY ROLE
CANNOT GIVE YOU MORE THAN THAT
I LOVE YOU BUT I’M NOT COMING BACK”
“Suddent Flight” drops gritty on the scene appropriately accompanied by Jesse Royal and Sevana in her second feature. Protoje declares the objective of this one to “warn the ghetto yutes about the choice wah dem a make”. He poignantly presents the ills of being trapped in political partisan plots with the examples of betrayal of those like, Jim Brown and Christopher “Dudus” Coke. He encourages instead and presents the antithesis if one wants to represent delivering the following lyrics:
“SO BREDDA BREDDA IF YOU WAR TONIGHT
CARRY THE SCARS OF A GARVEYITE
CARRY THE FIRE OF A MELCHEZIDECK
MENTALLY GET UNCHAINED
A ONE GOAL A ONE AIM A THE SAME WHA YOU SAYING”
Sevana soulfully further encourages one “…to stay true to the things you know are right, nothing worth the gain, you attain by sudden flight, brother keep your goals in sight, even in the darkest night, have faith in the father in the Father the one who shines light”.
Jesse Royal seals the deal with his rebel lyrical delivery, calling for the brothers to “straight up, wake up, lay down their arms, real tools you fi take up”. I can only hope the brothers are listening and “stay up way up” recognize their power and show “the cowards what we’re made of”.
“Bubblin” is the ode to herb on the album, extolling the healing properties and ital nature of the green. Protoje gives permission to “get lifted” as he gives various accounts of the communal use of herb for meditation. The song also comments on the hot topic of ganja legalization more specifically in Jamaica. Its purpose is fully served, providing for some additional highlighting of the matter as a solution for many ills now plaguing the people.
“RUFFER PON THE GOVERNMENT FREE UP ECONOMY
…. SLAVE OWNER LAW COME TELL ME YOU NUH SEE IT SO
GET UP OUT YOU SEAT AND DO SOMETHING FOR THE PEOPLE”
In and of itself the use of herb is not even being glorified but is an accepted way of life.
“Answer to Your Name” takes us back into time to the era of ska, telling the story of a surprise visit to a lover in a distant land. The story telling methodology heavy in this one creates the most perfect scenes. Truthfully, as I listened this song more carefully and looked at the lyrics, I thought how cleverly this was delivered. The mental picture was painted so well that I could imagine the dance, the circumstances and while it was a slightly serious situation, in true Diggy style Protoje remained calm and turned the situation on its head asking his lover who refuses to acknowledge him, “Girl why don’t you answer to your name”. This was playful and enjoyable to say the least and would do well with accompanying visuals.
“Who Can you Call?” slows the pace down and brings us back to the journey of the growing legacy. In this one, Protoje confesses to getting caught up in the game, after all he is human and becomes even more relatable as we see his story as something that befalls so many before. He however, cautions that “money it is not all, cause when the dough ends, who can you call?” The supporting female background vocals provide a proper prick to the conscience. I think on this track he cleanses his conscience of the struggles he has faced and leaves the listener to really reflect on the realities of life in the money chase. He posits for close consideration
“AND DO YOU THINK THAT WITH THE LAST BREATH THAT YOU TAKE
YOU’LL BE SITTING THINKING BOUT THE MONEY THAT YOU MADE
HOUSES THAT YOU LIVED IN CARS YOU DROVE THE BILLS YOU PAID
AND YET IT IS THE FOCUS WHAT WE DO AND WHAT WE SAY
WHAT WE GIVE WE ENERGY
SO YOU SPEND YOUR LIFE A WORK
ACTING LIKE THE MONEY WILL BE WITH YOU IN THE HEARSE”
It is rightly so that we need this refocus button to reset the priorities if you will. We must assess ourselves to see what life in the living of it is really all about. It is appropriate that “The Flame” opens thus:
“FOREVER THE SAME
IS ONLY JAH LOVE WILL REMAIN
FOREVER THE SAME
NEVER THE FORTUNE NOR THE FAME”
This one seals up Ancient Future with a feature by Kabaka Pyramid. It is always a pleasure to have these two meet. Two lyrically potent of Jah army, warriors in their individual rights. Protoje reiterates his commitment to the cause “Babylon shall fall to knees and cyaan out the flame” stating thus:
“HAND COULDA TIRED BUT THE BANNER HAFFI FLY”
I believe my favourite part of this album is the final delivery from Protoje. Somehow once he echoes the final words, I am already so taken by the content of the last verse, I haven’t even realized the song has ended till I hear the silence. Seems my mind just catches up with my emotions and while I listen for more I realize alas it’s over and my appetite burns within. Deliberately and carefully done to inspire the looking forward for the next chapter, I am sure.
What I enjoyed most about Protoje's Ancient Future is his artful sharing of his journey. Inherent in it is his ability to pay homage to the past, while remaining present and preparing you for a greater feast to come. It almost feels like a melting pot experience. A smorgasbord of pleasurable sounds which is so refreshing to the ear.
His lyrical word play never ceases to amaze and the content always leaves the listener with something to learn or peruse more deeply. Of course they represent the thoughts of the man and where he is on his journey.
Ancient Future is a contemporary masterpiece and history will tell this, the work “becomes less about the tune them wah a spin…, but knowing the work was the best it coulda been”. Protoje is a growing master of his craft and as a music lover, I am excited to see where he will take us all next. Brilliant! Fullgratulations Protoje, Winta James and the entire Team who contributed to the complete work.
Blessings from this Sistren.