The Anatomy Of A Song: Sizzla’s Trust and Love

6 months ago Ricardo Hylton 4

I want you to imagine being 12 or 13 years old. Since birth you have been trotted off to church. You have been told all about God, his jealousy and his wrath. You know that disobeying his commands will result in eternal fire, roasting on a spit like a dead pig. You will beg to die but no one will listen because the wages of sin is not death, but eternal fire.

No White God

You have attended a church that adorns its roof, hallways and pews with the image of a long haired, blue eyed white man that you take to be the living, breathing image of God. No one has ever told you otherwise.

Right! So your 12 or 13 years old ears are intruded and broken into one day on the bus by these lyrics emanating from its speakers:

 

Yow, don’t seduce to reduce mi knowledge

Because I will always break those barriers and break down bondage.

oh LORD GOD ALMIGHTY grant mi all privilege.

Yuh see, I have to overcome all di Wicked.

Dem and dem false tings.

 

 I have no white God don’t teach mi anything wrong

Would di white God save mi from white man oppression?

I have no white God it’s just a BLACK MESSIAH

If a white God a bless how him naw bless sizzla

 

How Blasphemous

My ears ignited and burned bright red. Blasphemy, my mind shouted. How could someone say something like this and be allowed on our airwaves, I wondered? Whoever this was, I decided there and then not to ever let their filth corrupt me. I would self-censure myself from listening this particular artist who I came to know as Sizzla. Sizzla Kalonji! (for you James Bond fanatics).

My self-censorship lasted about a year. My will was much stronger then, you understand. But even in this period my determination was being broken. Whilst he was still a blasphemer in my eyes, he was making some of the best music to ever bless the island of Jamaica. His catalogue in that year was mesmeric and had him flying in the clouds normally reserved for Bob Marley. Praise Ye Jah. Black Woman and Child. Love Is Devine. Give them The Ride. No Time To Gaze. Homeless. No Other Like Jah. Dem A Wonder.

Oh The Lure of Consciousness

I really could list another ten Sizzla songs that had Jamaica on tender hooks in 1997. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing his music blaring out of cars, shops and homes.

Slowly I got dragged in. His message of black upliftment and pride was making sense. It was around this time that I started learning the inner workings of slavery in school. I began to understand that slavery wasn’t merely a series of innocuous events from 200 years ago, but rather a continuing, repetitive process that still mentally strangles the Negro peoples of the world.

I felt hoodwinked. “No White God” shifted from blasphemy to an anthem of affirmation. Sizzla was making serious strides to move past Beenie Man as my childhood favourite. Then in 1998 he dropped the album “Good Ways.” The title track, Azanldo, Suffer if They Don’t Hear, Mockeries and Phrase all received the credit they deserved.

But buried at number 4 was a little track that was neither a single nor one that received much play in the dancehalls. But I didn’t mind. Because when I inserted my cassette in my Walkman on my jogs to the shop or my slow, leisurely walks to school, I was vibing to “Trust and Love.”

Who Is Sizzla?

When I attended the University of the West Indies, I completed a module on Foreign policy. I was the only student in the class to get an A and I always gave Sizzla the credit because on the exam, there was a question on the utility of United Nations peacekeeping forces in Africa. I stole one of his lines to explain my argument:

How can we keep the peace if there’s no peace to keep?

This is who Sizzla is to me: a thinker, a teacher, a preacher of consciousness. Until 2004, in any case.

Miguel Orlando Collins, born 17 April 1976 is a Jamaican reggae superstar. No, he is not light-skinned Shaggy nor Sean Paul singing, “it wasn’t me” or “baby boy.” Sizzla fiercely pronounces, “it was me” when he chants down what he perceives an unjust system both within and Jamaica and in the world more generally.

Sizzla was born to devout Rastafari parents. Like them, he spent several years studying the Rastafari principles in St Thomas at an official Bobo Ashanti Camp. Here, he embraced fully the philosophies of not just Rastafari, but also pan-Africanism, reparations and repatriation to Africa, and cannabis was used as a spiritual sacrament.

As a young passionate and brilliant performer, he broke many boundaries and appealed to those who were looking for music that had more depth.

There is no denying that Sizzla had the ability to combine passionate lyrics with simple rhythms which covers different genres from roots reggae to dancehall and surprisingly to commercial soul and R&B music.

On “Trust and love” we find him at his most pressing. His most appealing. His most sincere.

Reggae Quotable

Well, listen now people wake up from your dream

‘Round about you got the evil hitch up inna your scheme

Pretty smiles and charm yet still dem no clean

Couldn’t trick me them come like weevil inna corn meal

After a relaxed chorus, assorting the link between Trust and Love, Sizzla gets down to business. His first verse is so urgent, so critical, so exigent, so crucial, so vital, so insistent, so burning that I always repeat it at least once. It’s like a call to action that makes me want to go and work at a soup kitchen; it makes me want to go feed the poor, heal the sick, fix this sad, sad world.

When he sings:

Well, listen now people wake up from your dream

He speaks of the walking dead; the unconscious among us who fail to see the world as it is. People like me in 1997. How could a voice that melodic be that caustic? How often do we stumble into work, go through the motions, go home only to do it again? This is not living. it is mere existence. With eyes and minds wide open is the only way to true actualisation.

Pretty smiles and charm yet still dem no clean

I love this line so much. Rewind material time and time again. Nothing I hate more that a hypocrite. My mama was one of those people who would taste food in a restaurant and ask for the cook, just to let them know some more salt on the oxtail would be much appreciated. I now inhabit a society of pretty smiles, with machetes concealed behind backs.

I believe in sincerity in our relations with others and Sizzla hits that point oh so sweetly here. But of course, being truly conscious means that you are able to see beyond the inauthentic smiles. I pride myself on this:

Couldn’t trick me them come like weevil inna corn meal

Real Talk!

Reggae Quotable

Mi nuh trust the Prime Minister and the things him ah reveal

Neither opposition leader black wealth dem ah steal

Them nah teach no principle nah buss no seal

The road whey dem ah trod it is so slippery to dem heel

 

Jamaica, since independence in 1962, has been riddled with an internecine warfare, egged on by a bitter colonial legacy and the two political parties. Here, Sizzla makes it clear that neither party has the interest of the black masses at heart. The rise of the career politician means that politicians are mostly there, not on principle, but rather are on the next rung of their career ladder. They lack a guiding principle or ideology. They blow with the wind. They do not fool Sizzla, and they don’t fool us.

 

Reggae Quotable

Mi help mi black sister Sizzla couldn’t conceal

While helpin’ your brother some ah gi you raw deal

Mi meditation ah fire, Jah heart ah mi shield

Ghetto youths we nah put no shoulder to no wheel

Them caan crush me out nor roll me like wheel

Rasta ah no orange fi dem run come peel

Uno tell mi if uno ever check how people feel

Work every day and yet dem nah get no meal

 

Here Sizzla settles into a menacing groove. When he speaks of helping his black sister, I applaud. That is personal to me and touches a raw nerve. The raw statistics show that black women have it harder across a range of indicators in this society. In Jamaica, my blood sister, is underemployed. She did what they told her. Get a degree; work hard and your future will be secure. Yet she toils for the minimum. Nonetheless:

Them caan crush me out nor roll me like wheel

Rasta ah no orange fi dem run come peel

Love it! Stand up for something! What do you believe in? No really, what do you believe in? Are you truly willing to stand up for that thing? This is crucial. Rasta ah no orange fi dem run come peel. It is important that we understand that a job or a house or a car will never be able to replace your dignity. Stand up for something they say, or fall for anything.

Uno tell mi if uno ever check how people feel

Work every day and yet dem nah get no meal

 

Think about this for a second. There are people in Britain, America, Jamaica, Africa, Asia who go to work like the capitalists say they should. They are, however, shackled by levels of inequality unseen in recorded human history. Zero Hours contracts, getting paid a few dollars a day by wealthy multinational corporations; being a nurse in the UK who hasn’t received a pay rise since 2009. All this while we have millionaires and billionaires actually thinking of ways not to pay their taxes; all this whilst these wealthy people really think they “deserve” their grossly iniquitous wealth. This is the world we live in. This is the world we’ve accepted. But it doesn’t have to be so. Have a look inside your heart, then examine your head and tell me this is fair. We need to change how we think. And Now!

Big Tune Kalonji!