Bristol MC Gardna released his debut album on 19th October featuring a who’s who of UK music spanning UK Hip Hop and Reggae. This is a summer album providing an uplifting wave sunshine in Autumn. The Nextmen’s Brad Baloo provides the production duties and his work with Mungo’s Hi-Fi really shines through on this album.
Album opener ‘Welcome to the Garden’ features Catching Cairo, here Gardna lays down the law over a jazzy upbeat, welcoming us to the good times almost like the start of a new relationship.
Track 2 is ‘Good Time not A Long Time’ the title track, features UK soul legend Omar with an equally soulful guitar sample, I can detect trip hop underneath the upbeat. This is an album to get lost in, no analysis, just a goodtime.
The reggae influence continues with track 3 ‘A Game’ featuring Fox, we see the birth of UK garage all over again. Reggae instrumental samples and vocals from Fox backed by bassline brings the party home, encouraging the listeners to “Do their own thing”, over luscious horns.
Track 4 ‘Lioness’ features the iconic Hollie Cook on vocals and soulful backing harmonies, this is powerful hip hop by numbers, a rumination on a love that might not even work out. Reggae instruments flourish the break beat and takes the track in a refreshing direction. Lyrics on empowerment come to the forefront making this a sure fire smash hit.
Track 5 ‘Do your thing’ brings forth the dub and trip hop influence and references to UK Rave culture pepper the track. Track 6 ‘In my zone’ features Charli Brix, and is a very chilled affair.
‘Bureau De Change’ features Eva Lazarus, and brings out the grime influence on the album, opening with a classic reggae call and response, Gardna’s delivery is on point! Over a bubblers style instrumental.
Kiko Bun who is making waves right now in the UK Reggae scene, features on Track 8, ‘Slave 2 The Rhythm’. It’s a delicate construction, which again shows the dub reggae influence and is another hark back to the Bristol reggae scene. It is at this point that the album takes a more serious turn, the good times will also feature bad times and it’s about how we get through them.
‘In & Out’ featuring Dread MC is a political track with lyrics asking “Why are they closing down our raves?” a sentiment that has been part of UK dance music since the early 90s but is more pertinent and wide reaching now in this time of tory austerity, “We just tryna live!”.
Track 10, Pressure featuring Taiwan MC is the albums hardest moment and wouldn’t be out of place in a Roots dancehall. It is a meditation on one’s place in the music industry and the artist’s struggle to survive but more importantly it’s about believing in oneself and never giving up hope. The title Pressure is a nice call back to the classic of black British cinema by Horace Ove and its subject matter and reggae influence would not be out of place in that film.
‘Shine’ featuring Rider Shafique is a meditation on modern life and how to survive in the chaos. “Life is precious so don’t waste your time!”, again the album returns to themes of empowerment and beating the system.
The album closer ‘Outro’ features a return of Catching Cairo and the jazzy chords of the first track, it is a melancholic farewell, but one that makes you want to play the album over again and stay in the garden.
All in all this is a great debut album from Gardna the production, lyrics and guest artists are on point. It encapsulates his musical diversity, and artistic creativity and is fun. I look forward to hearing more from him.
Interview with Gardna
Where does your journey as a music fan begin?
It begins with me as a youth in HMV buying £1.99 singles and playing them through my Sony Walkman. Eventually moving on to vinyl as I got decks for my 11th birthday. I was into all sorts though. Probably some dodgy CD’s knocking about at my rents yard still.
“Was Bristol trip-hop / hip-hop an influence on your work?”
Those guys inspired a generation of musicians in the city. Definitely. I met Daddy G at a show I did with the man Don Letts recently, he’s a sound geeza.
Tell me about your early productions?
Got to be honest I don’t talk much about the early stuff. I don’t think many rappers do because looking back on old videos is a bit cringe sometimes init. I grew up making music videos, selling mixtapes at school, rap battles outside in my local community centre – all of that kind of stuff. Naturally there’s vids of me online where I am a proper young. Early stuff was all UK hip-hop inspired but I really found my thing when I properly moved the city – Bristol.
Your album features many guest artists, how do you choose the artists that you work with?
I love all the musicians on the project. They’re all friends of mine now but first and foremost I was a fan. I listen to all their music and watch them all play live
regularly, it’s an honour to have some absolute legends on the feature list alongside some of my favourite new artists.
What are your thoughts on the current state of UK Hip Hop?
It’s thriving to be honest; MCR is where it’s at for me. Children of Zeus, DRS, Levelz are my go too. It’s good to see the vets involved KINGDEM doing bits again. I know Daddy Skitz and Joe Burn have a fire album coming, Beggars doing a final album too. Just wish there was more UKHH coming out of Bristol.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve got a remix EP of Good Time not a Long Time in the works, A new Gardna x Kreed EP underway. Rumours of Nextmen vs Gentlemans Dub Club vol 2. Ooof.
What is the greatest hip hop album of all time?
Tough one. I’d probably have to go with Lauryn Hill — The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In recent times Children of Zeus – Travel Light.