Release Date: Jul 9, 2013
Record label: Big Dada
Genre(s): Electronic, Rap, Reggae, Jungle/Drum'n'Bass
Jungle is back. It's official this time; Congo Natty says so. The influence of that most rambunctious of early '90s dance genres is undeniable, from the ubiquity of "Amen" break mangling and rapid-fire sub-bass to the cultural importance of the Rasta message of unity and spirituality that permeated the worldwide dance culture, which embraced the potent mix of Jamaican dancehall vibes and UK rave mentalism in the mid-'90s.
As jungle/drum'n'bass morphed into the big bassy monster known as dubstep (both the commercial and underground versions), old-school names like Michael West (aka Congo Natty, aka Rebel MC) either evolved in tune with current trends or found their home in the underground, where white-label 12"s meet a rabid fan base and the general public is none the wiser. Now coming aboveground after eight years with his first album since 2005's Born Again, Congo Natty displays that he's grown and yet somehow stayed in place, offering ten cuts of constantly shaking, slowly building, and Rastafari-fueled certifiable jungle music topped with soul-filling chants and political protest. Closing highlight "Microchip (Say No)" rallies against both the Babylon system and big brother with a hard-line stance against our entirely trackable future, while "Jah Warriors" is military music to help jungle soldiers navigate the mean streets, investigating the "thin line between the devil and the riches, the snakes and the snitches, the ho's and the bitches.
In a club with an atmosphere that fogs up yer spectacles every ten seconds, and low frequencies that bother one’s trouser bottoms like a hungry dog, people are liable to properly lose their shit to Congo Natty. The writer of this review remembers witnessing a slice of their Bloc Weekender set a few years back, walking into the room just as they – Congo aka Rebel MC aka Michael West, plus DJ and myriad guest vocalists – whetted the crowd’s whistle with the a capella section of Nineties rager ‘Junglist’. It was bonkers loud and there wasn’t even any music playing at the time.
Michael West has been rocking out parties since the early ’80s. He started out with ska-pop group Double Trouble, who enjoyed chart success with singles Just Keep Rockin’ and Street Tuff. West moved on to solo shows, continuing to use the name Rebel MC for his more break beat-orientated work. From the release of Rebel Music in 1990 and Black Meaning Good in 1991, West has represented the face of UK Jungle music like none of his other peers.