If you look at rapso as a rap-soca mix by a new, hip-hop-influenced generation of Trinidad youth, the title of this compilation is misleading. There are roughly equal numbers of new-school artists and soca veterans doing their take on the new sound by adding rapped vocals to stay up-to-date, sorta like the phase when R&B veterans included a guest rapper on an album track or two. But D Rapso Nation is a very well-selected and sequenced compilation that paints a broad portrait of the state of the Trinidad music nation when rapso first arrived on the scene.
Brother Resistance’s “Ring De Bell” was rapso’s breakthrough call to arms, and deservedly so — the pointed, positive, and militant lyrics take dead aim on the powers-that-be over a slowed-down rhythm with steel pan melody and a very rowdy (and very good) guitar by soca standards. David Rudder is a veteran, but he’s a case unto himself, and his beautifully constructed “Kojak” is a provocative look at cultural imperialism via television.
Among the graybeards, only Ronnie McIntosh smells like a trend jumper seeking teen spirit and the youth audience with an electronic arrangement and closing house-diva wail. Shadow’s rap critique of a neighborhood gossip boasts a punchy, stabbing keyboard and bass riff, and session veteran André Tanker’s rap vocals are so-so, but “Wild Indian Band” boasts a vibrant soca track to celebrate Trinidad’s wild Indians during Carnival time (close relatives of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indians).
The new-school shows very strongly and more varied than expected. Kindred’s “Doh Stop” sports a compelling electronic hook that creates a strong undertow, while Karega Mandela’s “Never Surrender” is classic soca, with horns and steel pan (probably via a synth), and Rasta lyrical references. Ataklan & Karen’s vocals drift lazily over an elongated, familiar melody with trumpets, and Chantwell works well over a melancholy piano lick.
3 Canal goes for hard funk hip-hop with Gap Band synth sounds and a go-go beat augmented by turntable scratches. Brother Resistance returns to link up with old-timer Lord Pretender on a light, old-school calypso and “Rapso Nation” is one of those tag team collective-declaration-of-principles songs by the whole new-school crew, with a punch hook and steel pan touches.
Those last two tracks represent the thrust of this rapso nation. The unifying element is a pride in Trinidad culture that goes beyond the usual carnival shout-outs (although there are several of those), and back to roots elements like steel drums and pre-Mighty Sparrow calypso sounds. It’s geared to consciousness, much like the Afro-centric school in hip-hop, and with the soca veterans added to the mix, D Rapso Nation serves as an excellent first step into the most recent stage of Trinidad music. – Don Snowden
Ring De BellArtist: Brother Resistance
EntArtist: Ronnie McIntosh
Doh ShopArtist: Kindred
KojackArtist: David Rudder
Never SurrrenderArtist: Karega Mandela
Spanish FlyArtist: Ataklan
Woi Woi (Feelings)Artist: Black Lyrics
On With D ShowArtist: 3 Canal
Ring Di BingArtist: Rhoma Spencer
Wild Indian BandArtist: Andre Tanker
Never Ever WorryArtist: Brother Resistance
Morning GroundArtist: Chantwell
JouvertArtist: Laventille Rhythm Section
Rapso NationArtist: Rapso All Stars