By Troy Jackson
Reviewed by Jorge Antonio Vallejos
I enjoy supporting independent artists. For the most part they are easy to get along with and are appreciative of the work I do. And there’s a hunger factor. Artists who are not in the bigtime are hungry, in a good way, and they are ready to show their talent.
I know this because I’m one of those hungry artists; I’m ready to write a piece, read some poems somewhere, and teach workshops.
Hunger is something I respect.
Troy Jackson is a hungry artist who matches humility with his appetite.
When finding out that Troy was a musician who used his music to entertain as well as educate and challenge systems of oppression I knew he was a perfect fit for my site. We met, took photos, chatted, and then I heard him sing.
Troy blew me away.
Part of the privilege of running my site is that I get to meet artists, get books and videos and CDs sent to me, and I get to see one on one live performances that I tape and then upload on YOUTUBE for everyone to see.
But I get to see them live.
As I videotaped and watched Troy Jackson sing The Batty Boys Revenge I was in awe. I saw hunger and talent and heart flow in unison. I enjoyed a live performance that I was going to watch over and over again on my YOUTUBE channel.
You could see the happiness in Jackson’s face as he sang, and the gratefulness in his seeing my amazement.
After our taping and photo-shoot I told Jackson I was excited to listen to his CD of Troy. I was not disappointed.
Made up of six songs, CD of Troy is hard to explain in terms of what genre Jackson’s style is. All the tracks are danceable, some are more for a club while others are suited for a lounge or after-hours bar, and some would be great to drive to on the highway. One song reminded me of the old-school breakdancing days of the early 1980s.
Who (Beautiful) is an uplifting song that not only gets you moving, it touches your heart. “Power to the people” is sung by Jackson. He’s telling the listener to not give up, that they are not helpless, that they have a voice. Jackson is telling us that everyone is strong and beautiful. “Don’t you be afraid to be as beautiful as you supposed to be.”
Who is a much needed message of re-birth, empowerment, and freedom. You can see that Jackson is community minded. Without getting into all the uglies that exist in society, Jackson sings about positivity and reassures everyone that they are beautiful in their own way. With a funky electro beat accompanying Jackson’s voice he reassures his audience that they can get back their voices, wings and live their dreams.
Surface (falling) has a housey beat. While listening to the song I felt like I was back at the INDUSTRY club on King St. 15 years ago at 5 am. I could see the crowd in the dim light dancing and holding their drinks. Halfway through the track the beat switches from house to techno and it’s not awkward. Surface is it’s own 3 minute mixtape that ends with positive lyrics: “rising to the surface”. Again, Jackson sings about overcoming struggle. “Keep this life in check” sings Jackson. It’s good advice coming at you with slick beats and a good vibe.
My favorite song is The Batty Boys Revenge. Batty Boy is the Jamaican patois term for a man who is gay. Over the years there has been much controversy of Dancehall Reggae artists from Jamaica being banned from performing in Canada because of their homophobic lyrics. Homophobia is present everywhere and in every culture. Jackson has decided to use this homophobic term in a “taking back” manner. Referencing himself as a Batty Boy Jackson talks of hate in families, churches, and on the streets toward queer folk.
Jackson is transparent in letting his audience know that he faced homophobia at home as well as the streets. He tells the common story of leaving home because of his being queer. His song is a confession as well as a manifesto: he’s been through shit (“hell to pay”) and he’s had enough!
Jackson talks of the realities of violence:
Nowhere to run,
Nowhere to hide,
Batty Boy fi die.
Jackson challenges the church:
Preacher lead the chorus and they all pray,
Tell me who you hate today.
Jackson is fed up:
Looking over my shoulder,
I had enough of it.
Gonna bypass this bullshit.
Batty Boy ends powerfully:
We’re coming back,
We’re coming back,
Coming back from the dead.
CD of Troy is short, sweet, fun, and challenging. You can dance to it, use it in workshops and classes around anti-oppression, and use it for parties. It has a bit of everything, mainly the heart of an artist who wants to entertain and bring positive change.
Tune into Black Coffee Poet Wednesday May 2, 2012 for an inclusive interview with Troy Jackson.