Ready for the Road (and the Remix)

With carnival jumping off in T&T over the next week — & Mardi Gras a week from today — tis the season for Trini artists to roll out the big guns: tunes so massive that they run the road once the marching begins (not to mention before and after all is danced and done).

The Masala boys have been shining some light on some of the bigger soca tracks to hit the airwaves this season, including a couple hip-hop / R&B flavored joints from the northward-leaning Mr.Slaughter (née Dawg E Slaughter, a longtime fave of mine, as repping soca in my 3:2 bloggamix). Indeed, the ‘osphere’s favorite MTLiens have been on the soca 08 grind for a minute. Back in December, they shared some of the new year’s more promising soca riddims, including a couple riding the nu-rave aesthetic sweeping softsynths everywhere. And they have the special distinction of putting me on to Eclectik’s “Roboman,” a truly off-the-wall production.

In recent days, they’ve spotlighted a few bangers from, among others, perennial road march champion, Machel Montano, who has enlisted Shaggy, among others, to help him run the road disya year. Which brings me to one of 08’s road tunes that no doubt will score big, perhaps even transcending the context-specific audience of carnival in T&T (and the diaspora). I’m talking about Montano’s bumper-pumper collabo with Lil Jon and Pitbull, “Defense” —

>> Machel Montano, Pitbull, and Lil Jon, “Defense” (aka, “The Anthem”)

Now, some listeners might find themselves instantly connecting with the track, especially that earworm sax riff. Familiar, no?

Well, this sort of remix — perhaps better described as a rehash — is indeed familiar territory for Lil Jon, who seems to have a (klepto?) penchant for taking lesser-known club hits (at least, lesser known in the US) and making them into mainstream hits. His “work” on the track above (which I do like quite a bit, despite my jeers here) is not unlike what he did on “Culo,” also with Pitbull as accomplice, via Mr.Vegas’s “Pull Up” and Scatta’s Coolie Dance riddim (though, at least he added a couple 808 kicks to that one) — a track that some decided was some straight-up tief-job, though I do believe he licensed the riddim eventually.

I wonder if he licensed this one beforehand this time? For those who don’t recognize that sax-riff, it’s been floating around in internat’l club culture for a good five years now. Just last year — and presumably this is how Lil Jon caught wind of it — it resurfaced yet again in the form of Enur & Natasja’s “Calabria 2007” — a socafied version of a previously housey romp, featuring the nonchalant patois patter of Danish reggae vocalist, Natasja Saad (who, sadly, died last year in a car accident in Jamaica).

As this informative article details, Enur = Rune, a Danish DJ/producer who introduced the irrepressible sax-riff to the Ibiza masses back in 03. A couple years after its initial appearance, yet another remix, a version which married the riff to some Crystal Waters vox and a much more pronounced (and boring) house beat — making for some srsly clubby queso — became a top 5 hit in the UK. And two years after that (i.e., last summer), the riff reared its head again with Ms.Saad pon top. Since then, other remixes have surfaced as well, including a version ft. Mims. The riff just keeps giving and giving, going and going — as such, it’s perfect for the endurance test that is carnival.

So, yeah, Likkle Jon is coming to this a little late, but better late than never, and better great than never too. Despite (or perhaps b/c of) the producer’s light touch in this most recent instance, the track is reborn yet again, perhaps in time to run the road in T&T, if not crack US radio playlists. (I’ve already heard it on JAM’N 94.5 here in Boston.) It’s not much of a stretch for Pitbull, who’s been riding uptempo Caribbeanish club jams for a minute now, including some of Mr.Collipark’s finest Afro-Cubist concoctions, often while reprising a well-worn melody from one Latin classic or another (not that I can spot this one — anyone?). Dude totally kills it here, and Machel Montano gives it a good go, too. No doubt it would get my vote for road march winner, except that, sad to say, I won’t be a-marching come this Fat Tuesday. But thanks for the vicarious vibes, guys!

Next year in Port of Spain!

(Or Rio. I’m not picky.)