I-Octane channels the Voice of a Hard-pressed Generation on My Journey Image

by Jordan Delahaye

There is always that one song, album or performance, that is at the cornerstone of a musician’s career. “Lose a Friend” is one of I-Octane’s most impactful songs to date, and the single may have indelibly changed the course of his then bourgeoning career.

Even though the talented young artist had previously released two moderately successful singles –“Stab Vampire” and “Mama You Alone” – the mournful “Lose a Friend” became the unofficial Jamaican tribute song for lost loved ones and catapulted the artist’s career into reggae/dancehall history.

Fast forward to the present and I-Octane is still a hit-maker. The now seasoned musician is a staple at reggae and dancehall stage shows and on domestic radio stations, as well as in the international Jamaican music sphere. With two albums under his belt and an illustrious career spanning over seven years, I-Octane has also profited from a carefully crafted image that has made him a role model to many, and a high profile brand ambassador with communications giant, Digicel, among his clientele.

His continued success is no doubt in part due to his well rounded career, but it is I-Octane’s talent for conscious lyricism and consistency when it comes to quality production that makes him one of the more credible acts in his scope. His latest release, My Journey, is refreshingly understated and expertly captures and showcases the singer’s iconic sound as well as his keen lyrical sensibility.

“My Story”, is every ghetto youth’s story and could very well be the most important track on My Journey, for its inspired social commentary. Songs of the like are plenty in the dancehall arena where most of the players come from, or are inspired by the ghetto; but the track’s infectious dancehall rhythm carries a fresh take on the up-beat that adds a modern element to the ragamuffin anthem. The message however, remains the same.

Ky-Mani Marley, Gentleman and reggae songbird Alaine, were all tapped by I-Octane to round out the cast on the album.

Marley gives his signature charismatic stamp on “A Yah Wi Deh” and the single has already been met with critical acclaim. Already a hit on the reggae/dancehall circuit, the track bears a modern, militant edge that once again places the Rastafarian Movement at centre stage.

Alaine is a talented and skilled vocalist; I-Octane chose well when he decided to add their collaborative effort, “Lighters Up”, to the track list. Individually, the musicians each boast a distinct sound and it comes as no surprise how well they harmonize together on the raving tune. Though the musicians share the spotlight on the track, Alaine seems to one-up her male counterpart.

 My Journey charts I-Octane’s journey through life, love and music. The album clings to a delicate balance found between the conscious spirituality of reggae and the party-centric dancehall genre, and offers a full musical spectrum within that range.

  I-Octane offers a little something for everyone on the compilation but manages to not spread himself too thin. The album remains focused and skilfully composed throughout, in a way that compliments both the musicians and the music.

Unlike the American music industry and the current K-pop revolution where male acts can reach superstardom with just the support of screaming fan girls, in dancehall and reggae success tends to elude the musicians who are unable to appeal to a more mature audience of both sexes. I-Octane manoeuvres this obstacle with apparent ease. What’s more is that he does it without the ubiquitous “bad-man” tunes or sex-plicit lyrics that are typically embraced in dancehall culture.

This almost chaste approach to his artistry is due largely in part to the musician’s Rastafarian faith, which he seems to renew and reiterate on the album in songs like “Babylon”, “Stepping in the Name of Love” and “Burn it”.  

“Blood a go Run” is another important track on My Journey. The song’s lyrics are not easily digested but its message highlights a dark reality that many Jamaican youths find inescapable. The lyrics and the album’s overall theme suggest that personal experience might be the main source of inspiration here, but there is also something else-a passion-filled plea that gives the song an almost eerie persona.

Reggae and dancehall music emerged from the slums of Jamaica to inspire the world, but the genres still remain closely linked to their roots. It is for this reason that most musicians who want to be successful in the industry must appeal to, or form some connection with, reggae and dancehall’s original audience. I-Octane is able to do this without losing his broader mainstream allure.

For those who have not been heavily exposed to I-Octane’s personal blend of reggae and dancehall music, it should become clearer after listening to My Journey what all the hype is about. The album’s fluid musicality is synonymous with the kind of high-quality production that one would expect from an artist of I-Octane’s calibre. While the soundscape is light and infectious, the narrative is weighted and meaningful. My Journey doesn’t just showcase I-Octane, the musician; it also highlights Byiome Muir, the man behind the music. This personal element is what makes My Journey so relatable and inspirational to a generation that is struggling to find its way.

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