Three days before singer Keznamdi planned to release his debut album, Bloodline, Jamaica reported its first case of the coronavirus. Within hours, the government announced a temporary ban on entertainment events, a move that followed the postponement of several music events worldwide because of the pandemic.
“I’m very proud of this work, it’s my best to date.”— Keznamdi
Keznamdi’s “best body of work” stood threatened.
“My biggest fear was not being able to tour and bring that live experience because an album is not just the body of work, it’s the whole experience for the rest of the year which is the videos, live acoustic performances, and everything that comprises that album experience,” Keznamdi told BUZZ.
Bloodline, an accumulation of months of pure, unhurried inspiration, a paragon of the ‘Skyline Drive’ sonic, and a vessel of 11 genre-bending tracks each bearing its own musical genius, could not be withheld.
“I felt like it was a very important time to release it because of how relevant it is to our current day-to-day experience,” he said. “I also think with people being at home, they’ll be more able to sit through and listen to the project in its entirety and appreciate it more. When we do announce the show/tour for the album, it will be more powerful as the anticipation will be greater.”
Until then, fans have been virtually engaging songs on the album, some of whom have ignited a City Lock dance challenge, moving to the spitfire flows of Keznamdi and smooth braggadocio of Tory Lanez. The dancehall track has amassed more than 500,000 streams on YouTube, and other songs like the reggae-dub title track (which features Mortimer) are reaping love.
“I’m very proud of this work, it’s my best to date. Recognition is a beautiful thing, and it’s fulfilling to see people connecting to your music and choosing your song to be on their playlist. It’s the sweetest feeling.”
‘A mystical thing’
The foundation of Bloodline was set two and a half years ago at the Skyline Levels recording studio in Jack’s Hill, founded by Keznamdi’s parents, reggae singers Makaya Chakula and Goldilocks. Though the recording process was intermittent, Keznamdi had a vision of carrying on the work of his forebears with excellence. His vision was illuminated when he found out he’d be adding to his bloodline.
“The title track was initially called A Child’s Love. I had it for some time, and it grew into Bloodline. When I had all the songs together and was trying to find an album name, Bloodline felt like a nice name, so I chose that,” he said. “Three months later, I learned that I’m going to be a new father to a son so it was a very mystical thing. The due date for the baby was January 20 and he didn’t come that day, but my album was actually submitted that day. I never even planned it like that, then three days later my son was born.”
With family being a critical element of Bloodline, it’s fitting that it starts with Skyline Drive, a dub-heavy number which sees Keznamdi toasting anecdotes of life at Skyline Drive, where he was raised among four siblings including singer Kelissa and fitness coach Kamila McDonald.
Tribute to the community
The tribute to the community is upheld in Justice, courtesy of the stinging wails of singer Errol Edwards, who Keznamdi described as, “an ordinary man who work on nuff farms and do gardening on the hill, but look how much talent him have.”
The militant track denounces the ill-treatment towards black people throughout history and references the Coral Gardens massacre which saw the torturing of several Rastafarians at the hands of the State in 1963.
State of Emergency also offers a critical look at society from the perspective of elders.
Themes of love reign on reggae smooth-talker Morning Comes and the 808-laced Queen of the Ghetto, which packs a plot twist spearheaded by guitarists Ryan Coleman and Danny Shyman (the latter produced it).
Remastered classics So Right and Victory (which features Chronixx) also appear on the album, rounded off by the groovy kush-loving Chillumpeng and egotistical ‘gyallis’ anthem, Love Mi Nuff.
Rooted in Jamaican culture
Multiple producers including Andre ‘Suku’ Gray, Charlton Williams, Romario Alexander and even Keznamdi contribute to Bloodline‘s genre-defying sound, still rooted in Jamaican culture.
“We had about 20 to 30 songs to choose from, and we recorded everywhere which I loved. In San Francisco, we recorded at Hyde Street Studios where nuff big songs were recorded, we even recorded at airbnbs. I made the beat for the City Lock chorus on a little keyboard while I was waiting in Tory Lanez’ parking lot, and the album was mixed at Miami’s Hit Factory. I never compromised anything on this album. I think it’s a classic, it’s my classic, and I have more to make.”
An eight-episode YouTube series centring on the making of Bloodline is set to premiere in a few weeks.