Benjamin Zephaniah
One Little Indian-Rough Trade
February 21, 2005

Track list
  1. Uptown Downtown
  2. Naked
  3. Superstar
  4. Touch
  5. Rong Radio Station
  6. Our Fathers
  7. Slow Motion
  8. Responsible
  9. Homesick
  10. Genetics
  11. Things We Say
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4/5
Renown British dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah more than 8 years after his Mad Professor produced album "Belly Of The Beast", and 22 years after debuting in 1983 with the amongst others Wailers featuring "Rasta", returns with his 5th (?) album "Naked", produced by once Björk and 80s Howard Jones producer Trevor Morais on One Little Indian Records. This is the first album where he really steps outside the reggae-world, as adressed in the first track "Uptown Downtown" with his hip-hop, reggae, who really cares ... check the poet with the dreadlocks sound, followed by the excellent 7:10 title-track "Naked", of which he says it is "the most personal and honest poem I've ever written. I actually think it's a love poem and this is about the love for myself and the love of truth and reason — all my life that's been me", and it is over its intriguing beat all that Benjamin Zephaniah stands for, as made clear in the last stanza
Dis is me. I hate dis government as much as I
hated the one before it and I have reason
to believe that I will hate the one to come
Dis is me, squeeze me. Let me free me.
I have come to realise that what you can do for me
I can do much better for me.
Let me do for my loved ones what you will not do for them
I want to hold the hands of my loved ones
and cause a victorious rumble in dis black universe
I am naked, whispering screams in the church
of the impatient revolutionaries. I may be
vulnerable, I may not have the education of my critics and
the wealth of my arresting officers, but I have
never felt the need to wear a uniform in order
to break laws and I have never felt the need to
eat dead bodies in order to feel like a good human being.

Dis is me naked

This stanza in combination with the lines earlier in this poem Naked, and all the priests and politicians / Who I despise are naked ... should not leave anyone surprised that he publicly rejected and OBE, as he himself said:
"Me an OBE? No thanks!
I woke up on the morning of November 13 wondering how the [UK] government could be overthrown and what could replace it, and then I noticed a letter from the prime minister's office. It said: "The prime minister has asked me to inform you, in strict confidence, that he has in mind, on the occasion of the forthcoming list of New Year's honours to submit your name to the Queen with a recommendation that Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to approve that you be appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire."
Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought."

But there's room for a lighter approach as well, as the tongue in cheek life is hard for "Superstar"s proves. "Touch" is a beautiful love-poem over a strumming acoustic guitar with a saxophone in the background, almost Barry White like delivered, followed by "Rong Radio Station" which Benjamin Zephaniah performed last year at the Tribute to John Peel, a blazing track over a fast paced drum'n'bass riddim featuring UK reggae-stalwart Dennis Bovell's basslines and after that the heartfelt everybody's looking for their fathers / it's a man's world so they say / we keep looking for "Our Fathers" / when our mothers know the way over an also d'n'b inspired backing. The gloomy "Slow Motion" terrorism about state terrorism is followed by the dubby reggae of gotta be "Responsible" with a beautifully sung hookline by De'borah Asher. "Homesick" is over almost Nyahbinghi like drumming, with a jazzy bass and jazzy saxophone accents, to commemorate one more Black Death in custody. The lyrically intriguing "Genetics" has a synth heavy techno beat with great percussion, before the album is closed with the upful "Things We Say" that despite it's almost loungy backing is probably closed to his earlier material musically. This album, that comes with a very nice 36 page booklet, containing all lyrics (that can easily stand on their own on paper) and some extremely nice artwork by critically acclaimed UK street artist Banksy is an absolute must-have if you don't shy away from the non-reggae backing, as it is superb food for thought.