Rob Symeonn The Chosen One

This album is a taste of New York’s homegrown roots music. It is most notable for the bright and clean production by Noel Alphonso — son of the Skatalites Roland Alphonso — Victor "Ticklah” Axelrod (Antibalas, Dub Side of the Moon) and Mikey Assassin. As such, it speaks to many strains of rootical production in NYC reggae right now. It’s comparatively light on the electronics and contains organic rhythms throughout. Many styles are tried on: steppers, dub, even R&B à la Commissioner Gordon in "Good God.” Symeonn’s voice is fine but undistinguished, a little thin but in good pitched. There isn’t a weak track here, but neither is there much that stands out either lyrically or production wise. The Chosen One is a solid three-star album. It will keep a mix going, but in order to rise above this level, Ras Symeonn needs to come with more distinctive lyrics that set him apart from similar-minded Jamaican artists. It’s refreshingly free of the fire-and-brimstone imagery that still holds sway in so much conscious Jamaican music, but Symeonn has the capability to write songs more specific to his non-Jamaican environment. "Cold Outside” is just such a song, featuring more interesting production by Ticklah and lyrics that deal with hard times in winter. Perhaps a bit more dub would be welcome, too, as Ticklah’s Symeonn mixes have already been comped and it would seem there is more opportunity to succeed along those lines. (Redbud)