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Benga released "Diary Of An Afro Warrior" in 2008. It was the first official album from the man who many accredit to being one of the most influential people in the mergence of the Electronica sub-genre, Dubstep, which took on the characteristics of the production in House, Grime and 4X4 Garage to come out one of the biggest underground sound in the UK today. He is a London producer, and the sounds can be heard throughout the country since emerging around 2006.
1. "Zero M2"
Starting the album off, yopu have a track which has him apparently attempting to sum up what this album is about what what yuo tend to encounter in Dubstep sa he comes with a mix of bongo rhythms and deep bass, but in comparison to how other parts of the album go, it's not all that good.
This is the most successful tune from Benga, and it has him in a collaboration with Coki. Together, you have thme doing one which seems to have them not really going for the typical style of Dubstep, and doing one which appeals more to the Funk House fans as it has them intermix some gentle synth drops with excited bongo jams.
3. "B4 The Dual"
With instrumental music, picking the title is important in setting the scene, and you cannot argue that Benga is able to capture this as the thing begins, however as you get into a it, it seems to fade, and the tension and anxiety which you feel as you begin seems to fade, as it would with any tune which lasts for nearly five and a half minutes. The beats are able to give you this impression, but then if you aren't fully engaed give across a mellowing vibe.
4. "E Trips"
I found that with this one, the more you listen to it, the better it sounds, and you seem to be able to accept the feel of the heavy bass a lot easier than upon an initial listen to it as the drop will catch you by surprise each time, and make you feel even better about is with each time it happens.
5. "Someone 20"
The way that this one winds up in the starting moments of it is a defining feature, and although you soon forget this as you feel him going for some deep, trancey House sounds for this one, you still find yourself being drawn in to the way it begins as you start it in each individual listening. It is one of the better ones on the album, and is highly varied in what is found within it.
6. "Light Bulb"
For this one you have him seemingl taking some of the key components of his biggest hit, "Night" as he comes with a similar-sounding arrangement of the percussion, and it seems as though he was able to do new things with it. I wouldn't say that its is anywhere near as good, but you will probably like it, should you enjoy the hit recording.
7. "Crunked Up"
This was the first single off the album, and it is the biggest track off the album, in my opinion, as you find him doing a track which has him come with some really gritty drops to show that he knows what the people want to hear when they listen to Dubstep, and it isn't the softer beats. He appeals to this and provides just what is said in the title as he gets Crunk and makes a heavy bass drop to base this track around.
8. "Go Tell Them"
This one is largely built upon the use of synth breaks broken down into their foundations. For this reason it will appeal to many people without being able to put a finger on what it is which makes you feel this way, but I felt as if this was spolied with the robotic voices as they didn't suit the general feel of what is a decent tunes from the Afro Warrior, Benga.
9. "The Cut"
With such a title as the one given, I would have expected a lot more than what I found in it with him doing somethin fairly typical of him with a tune which has him doing something experimental as he chooses to do one with lots of funky percussion, and support it with a variety of little sound effects to fill it up.
By this point in the album, the way he goes about making this one just seems too repetitive, and in this one it is completely empty as he comes with come of the most plain beat in the album as a whole, and there is just nothing too it. At this stage you have heard it all before, and you won't want to have any more of it.
11. "3 Minutes"
Here you have him getting into the type of thing which I felt to be absent for the remainder of the thing as you hear him putting a little Garage into it, and the effects of it make it seem a lot more energetic and lively than many of the Deep house tunes which drown you in the rest of the record with the monotony of it.
This is one of the few times on the album where you actaully hear vocals in this thing, I don't think that they really have much of a place in it, especially when it seems to turn things more into a kind of clubland thing, and this isn't where he wants to be going with it, but beats are quite nice and get him trying out more new things.
13. "26 Basslines"
Before the album clomes to a close, you have him making sure that you remember that he is capable of doing the big tunes for the underground club, as well as the more typical House sounds, and he does this with a tune packed out with some heavy bass drops to appeal to this crowd. It is a killer one, and those who liked "Crunked Up" are bound to feel this one too.
14. "Loose Synths"
Ending the album off, you have a tune which has him living things up with a recording which has him using some summery synth, however the way he places it in with all the same sorts of things which had been heard at each and every other stage in the album means that you are bound to get bored of it. I did however enjoy the changes towards the end as he attempts to incorporate some jazzy keyboarding into it, but overall it has little going for it.
I wouldn't recommend this album, as the majority of it doesn't appeal to me as the type of Dubstep I would typically listen to. This is much more mainstream material, and has him attempt the types of thigns which I find annoying with some Deep House and Trance being used more than the dark, dirty, and grimey bass which is much more exciting to me.
Diary of An Afro Warrior is definitely one of the most influential debut albums i have heard in a long time. Benga is one of London's most promising young talents and has more than exceeded the high expectations of Dubstep aficionados worldwide. For those unfamiliar with the rapidly expanding Dubstep genres, it is one of the freshest and most exciting musical fusions to have emerged since Drum 'n Bass twenty years ago. It is a carefully balanced mix of dark basslines and syncopated and experimental beats. In this debut, Benga has produced an album that the genre can be proud of. Here is a more in-depth analysis of each song:
1. Zero M2 - 3:53
This track begins slowly with a plucked and syncopated double bass, and gradually layers in a melody, followed by a rhythm section, and eventually the trademark Dubstep bass that we all know and love. This song bears similarity with Roni Size's "Brown Paper Bag", which is from one of the most popular Drum & Bass albums to date.
2. Night (Featuring Coki) - 5:57
This has become one of Dubstep's most recognisable songs, with the mesmerizingly addictive chorus and hook. "Night" is possibly one of the greatest songs in the Electronic genre, and is a killer when played live. This is a song that nobody can help but fall in love with.
3. B4 the Dual - 5:29
Here we have a true example of the definition of Dubstep. The opening is a dreamy saxophone duet with a powerful beat kicking in after 30 seconds. Then suddenly after a minute or so the song drops into a more lively beat and is coupled with the saxophones and electronic sound effects. Halfway in to the song everything changes completely and has heavy resonating bass has your body pulsing before you know it.
4. E Trips - 4:39
The opening to this song is a wonderfully syncopated melody that is accompanied by a fat bassline. It gradually builds up to only the bassline and drums, at which point the suspense is immense. This is a song that is lively yet strangely mellow. Well worth a listen.
5. Someone 20 - 4:16
Unlike most of the other tracks on the album, this song is in straight 4/4 time and is very on-the-beat. It's one of the more ambiental pieces and lacks the heavy basses or jazz influences typical of a Dubstep track. That said, it is still a decent song.
6. Lightbulb - 4:20
Similarly, this song is much more mellow than songs like "Night", and has less musical variety than some of the other songs. It is also more thinly layered than others - further adding to the ambiental and dreamy mood it creates. Still, this is a track that you could easily find played on the dancefloor.
7. Crank It Up - 3:39
This is one of my absolute favourites on the album. The bassline is quite literally groundbreaking, and is perfectly blended in with the rhythm section. "Crank It Up" is both haunting and
danceable - the textbook description of a great Dubstep tune.
8. Go Tell Them - 4:08
The beginning of this track follows perfectly from "Crank It Up", and is in the same tempo. The bassline is consistently strong as ever, but the thing that strikes you about this song is the robotic voice that works surprisingly well with the song. This is definitely one of the best produced tracks on the album, and amongst my favourites.
9. The Cut - 4:46
Definitely one of the more lively tracks on the album, "The Cut" uses much harsher basses and sub-basses that slice through you like butter. There is also a distinct African influence in the rhythm section for this album, which i found refreshing and different to the standard 4/4 beat that is overused in the electronic genre these days. This track is just another example of masterful production skills on Benga's behalf, and as is the case with almost all the other tracks, "The Cut" manages to be almost spooky and lively at the same time. Brilliant.
10. Emotions - 5:33
This track is based more around the melody than the bass-line, which is unusual in comparison to the rest of the songs. That said, I do not think that this takes anything away from the track. It is undoubtedly one of the most laid back on the album, but as the name suggests, it is a perfect track if you're in a pensive or reflective mood.
11. 3 Minutes - 2:54
Unfortunately, this is one of the weaker songs on the album, with not much really going on musically. For that reason, i won't complain about the fact that it is 6 seconds too short!
12. Pleasure - 5:15
Without a doubt this is one of the best tracks on the album, and if you are new to the Dubstep genre, this might be the best track to get you hooked. It has a female voice saying only "Pleasure, give me pleasure", and I can definitely see this being played on the dancefloor. I couldn't fault this track's catchy melody or booming basslines even if i tried.
13. 26 Basslines - 5:02
If you're not on your feet dancing within the first 10 seconds of this song, then you have no musical taste whatsoever. It doesn't quite have 26 basslines (it has only 3 or 4) yet it never seems to get repetitive. This is a song to be played at top volume on your most expensive speakers. You'd be mad not to listen to this.
14. Loose Synths - 4:08
The final track of the album is much slower and jazz influenced. The bass is much more subdued whilst the melody may as well be written by Miles Davis himself. What a great way to finish the album.
As you can see, this album has roots in several different genres, and is suitable for endless amounts of moods or emotions. Strangely, i find that this record can be played both in the sitting room as background music, and it can also be played at full blast in a club. No wonder Dubstep is gaining so much rapid popularity. Mark my words - watch this space.
© copyright 2008 Bruno Crosier
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Zero M2
2 Night - Benga & Coki
3 B4 The Dual
4 E Trips
5 Someone 20
6 Light Bulb
7 Crunked Up
8 Go Tell Them
11 3 Minutes
13 26 Basslines
14 Loose Synths