Popcaan's second record is an uplifting mix of dancehall hits and experimental sounds that prove this Jamaican's talent has no limits.
It’s been four years since Jamaican deejay Popcaan (aka. Andrae Sutherland) released his debut album ‘Where We Come From’. Since then he’s broken into the mainstream with some legitimately stellar collaborations with the likes of Jamie XX on ‘There’s Gonna Be Good Times’, ‘Controlla’ by Drake and the standout track from Gorillaz's ‘Humanz’, ‘Saturn Barz’. It’s fair to say the break from his solo material and the experience he’s gained from it has resulted in a much more powerful and solid if slightly overdrawn second record.
‘Forever’ comes in at an exhausting 17 tracks yet it features some of the Caribbean singer-songwriters strongest material. ‘Body So Good’ is an instant hit and the perfect encapsulation of what Popcaan does best. That’s strong, rhythmic dancehall with an infectious beat at its heart. This is once again reflected on the sultry ‘Naked’ which leaves very little to the imagination with lyrics such as “When you hold me cocky and lick it, Your pussy tight, bruise the cocky and chip it.”
The first few tracks on the album, unfortunately, feel very indistinctive, a selection of bright dancehall, with few standouts. There is a notable switch up however when you’re hit with a joyous one-two of ‘Superstar’ and ‘Happy Now’ about five tracks in, both with their mix of auto-tuned choruses blended in with a selection of summery synths and percussion.
Where ‘Forever’ surprisingly shines, however, is when Popcaan detours into the experimental and unexpected. Two of my favourite tracks are actually the most sombre and spiritual of the collection, ‘A Wha Suh’ completes the album and has an angelic styled piano melody which flows throughout, reminiscent of how Tupac would blend the beauty of the piano on tracks like ‘Changes’ with his own truths in his lyricism. This combination is a perfect fit for Popcaan as he sings of escape and changing his life, like a preacher reading a sermon to his congregation.
‘Firm and Strong’ takes the religious imagery even further with a large choir backing up his message, it’s also Popcaan at his clearest. Utilising a minimal amount of autotune, instead focusing on just pure vocal strength, which is thrown at you from every angle. It’s also the only song on the record to stretch to five minutes, this allows the track to transform throughout its runtime, even the odd witty lyric such as ‘Pretty gyal a gimmie wings like Redbull’ can’t take away from the emotional impact of the final minute as a wave of choral voices hits you like a tsunami, cleansing your soul.
The second half truly see’s Popcaan let loose, ‘Foreign Love’ is almost Latin in nature, with its spicy acoustics and unexpected raindrop outro which washes away the flames he's raised in your hips. The only collaboration on the record is ‘Dun Rich’ with Davido, the result is a natural infusion, each star bouncing their vocals and presence of off each other. You could as far as to say the pair harmonise on points. A smart move to focus mainly on Popcaan however, after so many collaborations these past few years it's refreshing to have a mostly solo record.
The only main criticism I have with the album is that it could easily be cut down to a more cohesive 10 tracks, despite this I easily recommend it as one of the best dance records of the year, without a doubt some of the aforementioned highlights will be heard in clubs and on beaches for the remainder of the summer.
Dancehall is a natural talent for Popcaan but the biggest discovery ‘Forever’ has presented to me is just how diverse he can be and I would be more than pleased to hear perhaps a short gospel EP in the future from Jamaica’s brightest star. Even in his most sombre moments, you can’t help but crack a smile at the effortlessly positive atmosphere Popcaan projects, intentional or not he warms your soul, resulting in the perfect record to listen to whilst the sun is shining.