Protoje’s debut album Seven Year Itch is filled to bursting with high grade lyricism. This mellow, occasionally danceable, and certainly head-bobbing inspiring collection is filled with memorable reggae tunes.
As the title song declares, Protoje’s album has been seven years in the making. Its coming signals the big break for the young reggae artist and declares exceptional promise.
Ironically, while the seven year itch is usually a time for infidelity, the album is in many ways Protoje’s declaration of his commitment to making good music.
The Seven Year Itch is easily a collection of love songs declaring Protoje’s love for music, marijuana and women. On ‘JA’ he even declares his love for country in a patriotic song that is refreshingly devoid of syrupy untruths, looks Jamaica square in the eye, points to her flaws and says your scarred and you’ve got issues but I love ya (arguably like cook food)!
The title track outlines a journey toward the present. It makes mention of two failed attempts at getting degrees, the decision to pursue music instead and the eventual dream of the riches (or at least a sea-side lot) that come with the big break. Interestingly, on ‘The Seven Year Itch’, Protoje references ‘Welcome to JamRock‘ as one of the influences for his music.
This revelation is not surprising as Protoje’s style is reminiscent of an early Damian Marley (without the penchant for 1980’s deejay rhyme schemes). The Junior Gong influence comes through most cleanly on tracks such as ‘Dread’ and ‘Rasta Love’ (sung with Ky-Mani Marley), which bears the ancestral echoes of Damian Marley’s ‘Still Searching’.
Protoge also manages to separate himself from the pack, as unlike many Reggae balladeers who often sing on classic reggae rhythm, his melodies are new. This is a refreshing change.
Like Damian Marley, Protoje also manages to effectively declare allegiance with the masses without disavowing his ‘uptown’ roots (which seep in through his metaphors and allusions). Of course, he declares a greater affinity to the weed selling/smoking ones.
The Seven Year Itch is musically and lyrically sound, though the lyricism is easily stronger than the former. The album is dominated by thoughtful and introspective pieces such as ‘The Seven Year Itch‘, the soulful ballads ‘After I’m Gone’, ‘In the Streets’, and ‘Growing Up’ (featuring Gentleman). The witty narrative of ‘Wrong Side of the Law’ as well as ‘Arguments’ and ‘Roll’ offer a lighter side while sexier, love-filled pieces come through with ‘Rasta Love‘ and ‘No Lipstick‘.
So, ‘No Lipstick’ is among the songs that espouse Protoje’s high-grade intellect. Indeed of the entire album, only three of the songs don’t mention marijuana at least once. ‘No Lipstick’ is particularly intriguing because it has the unique distinction of being a weed-based love song. Indeed, while many an artist have previously declared his love for weed, it is a first that weed is being used a sign of love, where “marijuana glistening in the morning dew” replaces a bunch of red roses.
It may well be a good thing that it has taken Protoje seven years to release his first album, as this work declares that he is an artist of substance. In a world where you know the value of each song and can just pick the tracks you prefer, its particularly refreshing to find an album where every track is worth a listen, and several are worth more than one. The Seven Year Itch is likely to make you either fall for the repeat button, unless you want to just make the entire album keep repeating.