At the time of writing, it has been exactly one week since Macka B announced the release of his new album, “Health Is Wealth” on his YouTube channel. It was his first since 2015’s “Never Played A 45” and overall his twenty-fourth album since 1986’s “Sign Of The Times.” Of course, not to be confused with Prince’s legendary opus from the following year. Still, you can’t say that both he and the purple one are not prolific. So, err…. where do we go from there, then? Oh, I know, the review! All righty then, let’s do this!:
Health Is Wealth: Macka B is a vegan, so he’s encouraging all of his listeners to take care of themselves and to try eating a little healthier. The harmonies sound good in the chorus, which is quite catchy. It even features a Rasta Principle: “Ital is Vital.” And yes, of course, there’s a reference to Macka B’s favourite herb, which is the first thing he mentions in the song. It’s not for everybody, but if it works for him it’s all good.
Gangster: “I don’t wanna be a gangster, I don’t wanna kill no one.” Macka is bringing forth another Ital message, informing us that we don’t have to be violent and go around killing each other. Most of these gangsters have good hearts, which is also the message he’s conveying. Although, at the very same, he warns us that if “a boy violate me,” he’s… basically not gonna take it… like Twisted Sister. Somewhat of a contradictory message, but a great song regardless.
Wha Me Eat (Remix): By the sounds of it, this song was written after Macka B encountered so many people who were baffled by his choice of diet, which is strictly no animal products. Macka lists all of the things he eats in a Dance Hall style and he’s even set up a YouTube channel where he has a running series of “Wha Me Eat” videos that go completely viral.
Natural Herb: Macka B has decided to go a bit more modern on this next tune, which is clearly a dedication to marijuana. No reggae album would be complete without it, right? It’s incomprehensible to this reviewer why so many artists are using that siren sound affect these days and furthermore, it’s very annoying!! Much like this song is! NEXT!!!
Legendary Reggae Icons: Macka B’s tribute to everyone from Freddie McGregor to Marcia Griffiths to Lee “Scratch” Perry to the Congos. Perhaps he was going for a very distinctive type of sound, hence his lead vocals sound somewhat distant, or… like they were recorded in a cave or on a laptop or something. Not saying it’s bad song though. The song concludes with him informing us that he’s going to do the ‘70s in the next version, which then brings us to….
70’s Legendary Reggae Icons: So who’s next on the cards? Barrington Levy, Third World, Black Uhuru, Eek A Mouse, Gladiators, Sly & Robbie, Junior Reid, Steel Pulse and Dean Fraser among many others. Both versions feature Macka doing a DJ chant, but this one has more of a Dance Hall type of beat. He says he “might” do the eighties next, while his backing singers plead him to do so. Unfortunately the next song on the album is completely different.
Cucumba: Really? He’s put this on the album? Strange. For those who follow Macka B on his YouTube channel, this was the first video that went viral, so he decided to actually make a beat and create a whole song out of it. He chants about the benefits of cucumbers, of all things and he even suggests we, “Put it in a jug of water overnight. Cucumber water instead of soda.” Well, he must have done something right because I tried this myself. Cucumber water is not bad. Still, it’s a baffling inclusion.
Speaker Pon Fire: “Can’t just listen in ya earphones always,” says Macka B at the beginning of this next tune, which is again very modern sounding, with the vocoder on his voice and of course the very electronic sounding beat. Essentially he’s encouraging us to play music very loudly, which is all fine & dandy… but be prepared to hear this in the process: “MACKA B, TURN IT DOWN!!”
Jah Jah Children (feat. Maxi Priest): Maxi Priest originally released this song as the closer of his last album, “Easy To Love” and he asked Macka B to jump on the remix, which actually begins with some backwards vocals from Maxi Priest. The chorus harks back to Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.” Macka B just added some Dance Hall chanting to the track, along with an announcement that the two have collaborated and of course, a call for JAH to lead Macka B through his life.
Our Story: Reggae is the appropriate backdrop for this next jam, in which Macka encourages all Africans to tell stories about their history so that they can inform the rest of the world of what they have been through. There always was quite a significant African connection in reggae music and this song is no different. Definitely another Ital message.
Lyrical Chef: One of the many songs from the album that’s been around for a while and indeed, posted on his official YouTube channel. It’s a very cleverly written tune, in which he uses food as a metaphor for the way he writes his songs. He adds humour, integrity and honesty, but discourages us from overcooking the food and destroying the enzymes. Brilliant!
Excess Baggage: Basically, this song is about losing weight and how we should do other things like walk to the shops instead of drive or take up sports and lift weights and do boxing, which is exactly what you see him doing in the video. Although it’s an encouraging message, he also comes off a bit like a preachy health nut.
Nah Go Back There: Macka B is recounting a conversation he had with his fellow man who vowed to never go back to Jamaica because it’s full of violence and poverty. He then informs his friend that he still has plenty of relatives over there and after he tries the old, “Never say never” trick, the man suddenly has a change of heart. See? Macka B is good at reasoning.
See Them From Far: Just a word of caution and wisdom from Macka B, who in this particular tune, tells us to avoid any interactions with anybody who brings forth any bad or negative vibes. Tell them to MOVE! Or, if you do speak Patois, you can do like Ruff Scott and “Tell ‘Em Fi Gwaan!” At any rate, he’s telling us to use our intuition in those situations. Very good.
Mama Africa: Macka B might speak with a heavy Jamaican accent, but he was actually born in England, where he always felt like he was an outsider, or that something in his life was actually missing. But then one day he found his true identity, which was of course, AFRICAN. He makes mention of travelling to Africa itself and being welcomed home by the passport officer. Definitely an eye-opener for Macka B.
My King: One more tune to take us out. This one’s very much an A Capella piece, which is also quite a heartfelt, spiritual dedication to Emperor Selassie I, commonly referred to as “Jah Rastafari,” especially in the world of reggae music. What more needs to be said? It rounds out the album very nicely and yes, of course, it sounds very African.
Verdict: At the end of the day, we all have our own personal opinions. Some may feel like this was a strong album from beginning to end, others may feel like it should’ve been cut down to at least 13 tracks and things like “Natural Herb,” “Wha Me Eat” and “Cucmba” should’ve been left off. And that right there is exactly where I, personally stand on this album. Apart from that, not a bad effort from Macka B.