Perhaps doomed or cursed, or even gifted, depending on how you look at it, Assassin will forever be linked to Vybz Kartel, his entirely more popular and infamous `classmate'. The two young (although I don't think I'm calling Kartel `young' anymore) DJ's emerged on the scene at relatively the same time, under relatively similar situations (both being the disciples of veteran acts, Kartel of Bounty Killer and Assassin of Spragga Benz) and both were talented to the point where dancehall aficionados almost immediately begin to pair the two together in hopes of seeing who would eventually become the real big man of dancehall. Well, just a few years later and. . . Well we really aren't sure what to make of these two and there is yet another two (Busy Signal and Aidonia) who we are now spending our time considering. From since that time Vybz Kartel has placed himself amongst Jamaica's truly elite dancehall artists. His style of dancehall, an ultra hype, macho, slack and violent brand which he delivers in a style which is his signature tongue twisting and highly unorthodox and nearly demonic rhyming schemes. The lyrics machine from Portmore has also set himself as one of the most controversial dancehall artists in the music's history (and that's saying a lot with allllllllll the characters we've had over the years), engaging in lyrical (and sometimes physical) wars with nearly EVERY prominent dancehall artist on the scene on one level or another (including Assassin) , Kartel's road to his destination in music is VERY different from the road Assassin has taken. Probably the largest piece of controversy attached to Assassin's name over the last few years has been a split from longtime manager/producer Donovan Germain of the legendary Penthouse Studios. Otherwise, besides becoming a young father and making headlines by being chosen for a prominent scholarship to attend a business school in the UK, the first scholar of dancehall has remained relatively out of the bright shining spotlight of dancehall controversies over the past few years. Musically speaking, he has remained sharp, in the two (very brief) years since his long awaited debut album in 2005, Infiltration, Assassin has remained amongst the highest regarded artists in dancehall, and while he has lacked the sick flare of his better known `rival' in Kartel, he has bested Kartel in the one category of consistency which is definitely a rare quality in dancehall. Actually, he has mirrored his mentor, Spragga Benz (who also has a new album out now), in terms of their rise to prominence: Spragga Benz came about in the days of the rise of peers Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Buju Banton, and Mad Cobra and a few more higher profile artists, but it took nothing away from his own skills, for he was truly wicked.
Such is the case for the now seemingly slightly forgotten Assassin. While, during his early career, there was the name Vybz Kartel alongside his, in the past few years where his prolificacy has dipped (although he has still consistently scored hits with his slightly less active recording), several names have emerged as a few have even returned. Names now around, like the seriously wick Aidonia, the tongue twisting Busy Signal and the demonic singer Mavado weren't around when `Sassin emerged. Neither were names like Munga Honourable and dancehall prince Baby Cham, to whom Assassin was so frequently compared was on his break from the business and now there is the young genius Bramma, who is so frequently compared to the `elder' Assassin. Elbow room has become a premium amongst the dancehall elite. There have also been entrances from the elite of other avenues of dancehall music into the artists arena. Soundman Tony Matterhorn is now much in demand as an artist as is dancer turned DJ Ding-Dong and countless others crossing over. The production side of things has changed as well with certain names coming into the game who weren't around when Assassin came up, and luckily, his name being as big as it is, he has managed quite well to have doors open for him which seem reserved to the more active (particularly the younger and more active) names in the business. Assassin's `absence' from the scene has definitely aided these younger artists in it being less crowded at the top and more room for them to gain attention and to gain popularity in much the same fashion as Baby Cham's brief absence aided the young Assassin when he was coming up. Well, as Cham so famously announced on the track which marked his return to the game (fittingly titled The Return) `the break is over' and this time its over for Assassin who returns with his sophomore album, Gully Sit'n: A Dancehall Story. Assassin's first album, the long awaited Infiltration reached in 2005 and was fairly critically acclaimed as it showed the young DJ off as more than someone befitting his stage moniker. Infiltration was a particularly well done album, especially for a dancehall debut, and it went to showoff that despite still being very young, Assassin had developed to the point, where unlike Kartel, he could craft a tune which had topics other than gals, guns or bling. Although Infiltration did contain its fair share of girls and bling (very low on the guns however, if I recall correctly), it went to show on such tunes as the very wicked social commentary Free At Last and Youths Well Cold, a combination with legendary singer Freddie McGregor (the McGregor family has certainly been good to `Sassin). The album also contained the rather clever hit Idiot Thing That which was done in a way which seemingly followed along the lines of any other dancehall track, but to this day I suggest you really go and listen to the lyrics of that song which were definitely not your typical dancehall tune. Ultimately, Assassin's debut album featured a song named Wandering Mind which is amongst his very best and helped show that neither was this your typical DJ.
Now, a rather long two years later we get the follow up to Infiltration, Assassin's sophomore album, Gully Sit'n. Named after the ridiculously wicked tune which became his signature track in between albums, Gully Sit'n is a very strong dancehall album, while it does suffer ever so slightly from the sophomore jinx and doesn't quite reach the stratosphere set by the Infiltration album. The vibe here is much more of the typical dancehall album, but, as I mentioned, when you are truly wicked, you can pretty much do anything and still be solid. If you have never heard Assassin I typically refer to his style of DELIVERY as a mixture between Baby Cham and mentor Spragga Benz. He's not the baritone, rock and chisel voiced DJ as Cham is at his best, nor is he as free flowing as Spragga was in his younger days, but somewhere directly in the middle. Lyrically, he definitely doesn't resemble young Spragga whose major talent was turning some of the craziest and slackest tunes that you'll ever hear in the dancehall (which is seriously saying A LOT), he much more closely reminds you of Baby Cham in that he tackles a variety of topics and tackles them equally well (remember young Cham with tunes like Desperate Measures and Ghetto Pledge and of course more recent with nearly all of his major hits being of the social commentary variety). I'll also say this about Assassin, although definitely naturally gifted, he has been one of the very few artists who have developed over the time spent in the game, again, much like Baby Cham (and this isn't just me, dancehall genius Dave Kelly rarely ever adds a new name to the camp and the one young DJ not signed to his Madhouse labels who is afforded Dave Kelly riddims is Assassin).
Gully Sit'n the album checks in at a well stacked twenty tracks and it is for the serious dancehall head only. The album begins with the Count Up Intro which is seriously one of the coolest tunes on the album, pretty much a straight freestyle and almost completely expected, I still enjoyed it and it gets the album off on a nice foot. Then it gets funny. As has unfortunately been VP's style over the past year or two (check Gyptian`s album and Turbulence`s Notorious album), Gully Sit'n the tune has been re-recorded and while its still enjoyable, having heard the original, it is a full step down (if you haven't heard the original seek out the well available video) and that was a flat out disappointment, VP needs to deliver the song in the method it was made popular and not in a spruced up, and downright less `gully' version. That was the one real disappointment (I had one more I'll tell you in a minute), other than that Gully Sit'n is just what you would expect, Assassin's take on most of the newer and popular riddims, with a few twists. The one serious twist is the track The Pain. The Pain is a very moving track in tribute to Assassin's mother who passed away after the release of his debut album. it's the type of track I would have probably declared him unable to produce just as recent as a few years ago as it comes off as just him pouring out his heart over a minimal riddim and he's basically talking and accompanied by the occasional (yet still very beautiful) female backing singer who compliments The Pain very well, giving it an angelic vibe, definitely need to check that one out! Perhaps the best part about being an artist at the forefront of the dancehall scene is the virtual line of top producers you have to choose from and Gully Sit'n takes full advantage. Names like not only today's `usual suspects' in Don Corleone, Stephen McGregor and Lenky (who has also apparently linked Assassin as one of his favorite DJ's to use on his riddims) but he is also afforded BOTH the legendary Kelly brothers, Dave and Tony. One of the more interesting tracks here is definitely Girls Alone Wi Want over Lenky's downright ODD Swazi riddim. The tune has that odd addictive vibe to it that most of Lenky's productions have. `Sassin has his take on McGregor's ridiculous Tremor riddim and quietly pushes one of the best tracks on the loaded riddim with his We Love the Girls. And for one of the wickedest pieces on Gully Sit'n check Assassin militaristic take on Corleone's Artillery riddim, current hit Don't Mek Wi Hold You, probably the single biggest hit on the album; he also gets his take on the brilliant Silver Screen riddim from Vendetta with his seriously MASSIVE Dem a Sissy, probably my choice for the album's second best tune overall, complete with its hilarious intro. Also nicely included are previous hits Anywhere We Go and Good Over Evil for Dave Kelly's Eighty Five and Stage Show riddims, respectively. And you need check no further than one of the best tunes on the album, Don't Dis No Man from last year over Tony Kelly and Danny Champagne's old school vibed VIP riddim.
My choice for the best track on Gully Sit'n however, is definitely the criminally wicked Dem Pop Down. Dem Pop Down shows off everything I got in listening to the Infiltration album, it would have been tunes like this from this album which would have been completely at home on that album. The tune has an old school vibe and is `camouflaged' as a typical dancehall tune, but listen carefully to this one as it makes a rather interesting point to those seeking the finer and more material possessions in life. And per his style at his best, `Sassin absolutely locks it off and hypnotizes with the lyrics on that one. Other tracks to check out definitely include the odd Fiesta riddim sounding Rail Up. Rail Up is seriously one of the best tracks here, very addictive, probably the biggest sing-a-long style tune on the album and its quite easy to go along with and one of the more slack tunes on Gully. Check the sick No Boring Gal over Birch's ultra hype Stage Time riddim one of the stronger tracks here. And lastly two MASSIVE shots from later in the album check the overkill Gun Bag, by this time in the album you've well gotten into the dancehall vibe and Gun Bag is just good old fashion dancehall guilty pleasure! The album ends with Beep Out, `Sassin take on the current large Bluetooth riddim, definitely needs to be heard.
I could have probably made quite a nice album with his more recent work which was left off the album as well. As he has gotten closer to releasing the album, predictably he has become more and more active and the MASSIVE shot which was left off Gully Sit'n, All Over the World over John John's Big Up riddim would have done quite nice (one of those absolutely horrid interlude's could have been left off).
Overall, while I didn't quite get what I expected from Gully Sit'n: A Dancehall Story, the journey through is still very enjoyable. As I said before, this one is strictly for the well initiated dancehall heads I can't imagine that sitting through 20 tracks of this would be too enjoyable for any other type of fan. While Assassin had been missing from the scene over the past year or so, Gully Sit'n marks the return to prominence of one of dancehall seriously talented prince's, all fans of the genre need pay attention.