Words by Marcha M. Johnson
Photo by Sherwin Dyer
Machel Montano is already the The King of Carnival, but 2015 has been the year of Monk Monté, as Machel Montano has taken to calling himself,
and the King of Soca/King of the Road made sure we knew it. His level of activity this year has been consistent and impressive, a steady stream of quality new content for the past three months leading up to today’s International Soca Monarch competition, and the greatest show on earth (or at least the Caribbean!), Trinidad Carnival. (The material’s also been collected on his newest LP, also titled Monk Monté. In case you’ve lost track and need a quick roundup of what’s good for 2015 and Montano, here’s a quick guide to some of our favorite tunes. And make sure to watch our “King of Carnival” video series with Machel for a deeper look at Machel’s music and the meaning of Carnival.
Machel and frequent collaborator Precision Productions kicked off the Carnival season with “Remedy,” and it has been in steady rotation since, setting the tone for the year in soca. Not to mention Montano and his “Toro Toro” collaborator, Mr. Lover Lover Shaggy, released a re-fix about a week ago, giving this early tune some renewed momentum.
This uptempo groovy soca track brings some memorable lyrics, as Machel makes his intentions clear about what he plans to do one he gets his hands “on ah bumpa.”
“Like Ah Boss”
Machel’s sixth release for the season, the electrifying power soca release “Like A Boss,” quickly became a favorite, and is a definite contender for this year’s Road March. You know it’s a serious situation when you hear Montano’s signature “Hey Haaa” call-out throughout a number, while the horns from the Roy Cape All-Stars and driving percussion add an old-time vibe to the song’s otherwise futuristic EDM tempo. And the gravity of the situation that is soca during Carnival time is well illustrated the military-themed music video, dropped just in time for this week’s big Machel Monday show.
“Pop Ah Bottle”
Knowing who’s on your team, both on- and off-season, is important, and there’s no better time to celebrate camaraderie than at Carnival time as Machel does on this song ostensibly about another seasonal staple: alcohol.
One of Machel’s many collaborations this season, “Party Done” is a collabration with Angela Hunte, the Grammy-winning, Trinidadian-American songwriter behind Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Summoning all the hot gyal dem. Machel’ rude boy appeal perfectly complements Angela’s sex appeal on one of the season’s best and most underrated tracks.
Monk Monte has collaborated with a number of dancehall artists in the past, including Vybz Kartel, Mr. Vegas and Shaggy. This time he tapped Jamaica’s latest crooning sensation Chris Martin for a groovy soca number.
“Come Back” featuring Destra
Last time the King of Soca and the queen of bacchanal collaborated, they brought us what is now considered a Soca classic, ‘It’s Carnival.’ This reunion orchestrated by Precision Productions brings the same passion for Carnival culture that these two brought out back in 2003.
“Jump” featuring Fatman Scoop and Papajay
There are only a few personalities in hip-hop who can bring forth an energy to match that of Soca artists, and Fatman Scoop is one of them. He definitely brings it here in this London Future production also featuring Papajay, an up-and-coming kid star who’s roughly about the same age Machel was when he started his own career. The legacy continues…
“Erupt” featuring the Laventille Riddim Section
Nothing spells trouble quite like the Laventille Riddim Section, Trinidad’s most legendary percussion ensemble. The combination of their pulsating and beating percussion sound and Machel’s undeniable energy couldn’t be described as anything else but an eruption.
“One Wine” with Sean Paul and Major Lazer
Major Lazer has long been incorporating elements of soca music into their own sound, and this collab with Machel and Sean Paul (both of whom appeared on separate singles from the group’s latest EP) is a perfect representation of their unique style, blending Sean Paul’s dancehall touch with Machel’s command of soca. See also Machel’s appearance on the remix to Major Lazer’s “All My Love” featuring pop superstar Ariana Grande, one of the hugest collaborations of the season.
“On My Way”
Leave it up to Monk Monte to diversify the palettes of soca lovers with “On My Way,” a track which manages to capture the celebratory energy of Carnival season while standing out from the usual pack of soca releases. It’s also spawned the season’s most epic soca video, set against the background of the Egyptian pyramids, that’s directed by God Loves the Fighter mastermind Damian Marcano. Channeling the emotions felt in his journey to self fulfillment and personal growth, the video follows the journey of a child as he navigates his way to self-realization, a visual metaphor drawing parallels to Montano’s own life featuring appearances by both Montano’s son, Nico, and father, Monty.