Chuck Fenda (born Leshorn Whitehead, in Brooklyn) first came to prominence in Jamaica when recording with King Jammy in the late 90s. At the start of the new century he embraced Rastafarianism and aligned with 5th Element records, who released his debut Better Days in 2004.
The harsh-voiced deejay’s third album, Fulfilment, is a somewhat mellower affair than 2007’s The Living Fire. But with the 2009 world economy still reeling, the Poor People Defenda’s messages of spirituality and social justice are more powerful and pertinent than ever.
The Living Fire contained controversial single Gash Dem an Lite Dem, which despite radio bans (for allegedly inciting vigilantism) was a huge success. His coarse vocals (not dissimilar to Sizzla in pitch) and crude yet effective imagery will be an acquired taste for more refined ears, but this new effort is a solid grower of a record that benefits from a single producer’s touch.
This record’s comparative mellowness is mainly the result of the rhythms, supplied almost entirely by producer Kemar McGregor. McGregor’s take on the one-drop is considerably slicker and less bass-heavy than fans of bygone eras of roots reggae will be used to. Yet it is this contrast between his catchy, lovingly-created backings and Fenda’s brash, pained invective that helps the album succeed.
Chuck opens with mission statement I Am for the Poor on McGregor’s new Ghetto rhythm. The sufferers’ themes continue with Heights (using the ’83 rhythm) and Survivor (on the Rocksteady) before a switch to horticulture for Herbalist Farmer (over the Drop It).
Shane Brown, who worked on The Living Fire, contributes his synth-string-driven Nylon rhythm for It’s Getting Serious. Other guests include the angelic I Wayne on the ballad Thin Line; the deep voiced Bushman on Tough Time; and basic dancehall veteran Sammy Dread with a recut of his hit M16, renamed Bad Boy.
For the final act Fenda shows his tender side. The set’s only love song, Girl You Make Me Cry, is made all the more poignant by his strained delivery. Two prayer pieces, Why Should I and Our Father, conclude a rewarding listen.
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