Hempress Sativa hosted an album launch gathering in Kingston Jamaica celebrating the release of her new CD Unconquerebel. The gathering was a great success with many of the top roots reggae artists coming out and giving her their love and support.
After Jah9 and Xana Romeo, another powerful female artiste puts her release on the international agenda: Kerida Johnson aka Hempress Sativa presents her debut album called Unconquerebel. With thirteen tracks, the lioness roars at us from the den of Conquering Lion Records, with executive producer Christopher Mattis pon di controls and additional mane-shaking by DubRobot (We All) and Paolo Baldini (Wah Da Da Deng).
Release date and cover are laden with symbolism: while the former falls on the celebration of Ethiopian Christmas, the latter displays an unignorable homage to the high culture of Egypt and, of course, to the cultured high of Cannabis. This conscious construction of meaning is reflected in the lyrics as well. Among the issues touched, we have anti-war slogans in No Peace (“There will be no peace, if peace is wrought by war!”), spiritual musings in Jah Will be There, Made I Whole or Heathen Wage and the rebellious outcries such as Revolution or Fight For Your Rights that gave the album its title.
Except for the only feature of the release, the skanky Natty Dread which brings veteran MC Ranking Joe to the fore, the release is held in a deeply meditative, instrumental Dub style. It’s actually a pity that none of the songs has a Dub version, as it would have been a pleasure to listen to the pure melodies enfolding under the cunning hands of masters like Errol “Flabba” Holt, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Kirk Bennett, Devon Bradshaw, Robbie Lyn or Stingwray.
Twisted Sheets, the most melodious track on a wonderful Roots Reggae beat, is actually the only one about the weed that gave the singer her name, and with the bedroom-tune Black Skin King, she boldly elaborates on the “sheets” metaphor.
The ultimate strength of the album, however, is the radical appreciation of Jamaica’s rich soundsystem culture. With Rock It Ina Dance, the Hempress takes us back to a time where the success of a singer was so directly linked to his or her ability to ride any riddim and find the right words to make the audience listen that studio recordings were secondary in importance. These Dub School vibes are continued in Boom, during which Sativa welcomes us to the J.O.E. Yaad in Vineyard Town and grants us a glimpse of what it might be like to experience this artiste live.
“When the lioness roar, no dog bark!”
July 15th, with more than two decades in the community of Mona Common
Papine, Doris Ray Ricketts, a Rastafarian mother, would give birth to a healthy albeit premature baby girl she’d name Kerida. Kerida’s father was the legendary drummer and selector of Jah Love Muzik Albert ‘Ilawi Malawi” Johnson. Ilawi was to become Kerida’s greatest muzikal influence.
“Yes I’ve been rocking to this beat
from mi mami belly, Ilawi selecting the records
Dj a Brigadier Jerry, from flash’it in a JahLove dance
A gallop like a donkey”
Verse by Hempress Sativa
Ode to the first encounter with an intangible embrace the verse speaks to Sativa’s early exposure to Muzik. Her father Ilawi would summon the four year old Sativa and her older siblings to the control tower which was located in one of two bedrooms in the board house, while he was preparing his selection for the next upcoming dance session. Ilawi would always include his family.
Known for his vast collection of conscious Orthodox Rasta material, Ilawi would skillfully place the needle on the turntable, playing a version, and confidently handing the mic to the offspring who dared to go first. It was there at home with her father that Sativa would succumb to her first love and begin to hone her skills as a vocalist that would later manifest into her extraordinary talent. It is best when such talents are instilled when one is young.
Hempress Sativa’s first performance was at the age of thirteen at a Twelve
Tribes of Israel Showcase at the once King Bebo Lawn. The show featured artistes of great magnitude but the act that resonated most with the elder Rastafari crowd was the rhapsodic melody of Sativa’s voice – a voice bigger than the body from which it was belted out as she sang “Tyrone”, a cover by rhythm and blues/roots artiste Erykah Badu. Her background vocals were done by her sisters group Tajai, which included two other members who were sisters as well. Sativa got a great applause and a request for an encore.
Hempress Sativa’s lyrics are spiritedly influenced by her Rastafarian culture. This is conveyed in her song Judgement in which she chants “No More Illusion, Rastafari is real”. Her music, although generally rooted in traditional reggae rhythms, also at times, crosses genres and may reflect traces of Rhythm and Blues, African and even Hip-Hop influences as evident in the anthem – Jah Have Mi Back. Singles such as Get High and Children of the Emperor created a buzz both locally and internationally, exemplifying her musical agility as a melodic singer and a lyrically skilled Chantress.
Sativa’s moral fiber is strongly governed and deeply rooted in her Rastafari
livity. She sees herself as an instrument of H.I.M Haile Selassie I First and
she maintains that marijuana as an important part of the social fiber of
her culture. This is conveyed in the contents of her songs such as Get High a mantra type acoustic track in which she chants –
“Everytime I get high
Babylon falls every time I get high
Every time I get high, Babylon has fallen”
And Oh La La Laa an espouse of a hip hop anthem advocating the decriminalization of marijuana – an issue that touches the heart and consciousness of Hempress Sativa. The incarceration of people worldwide has inspired her mission to educate people about the healthy uses of marijuana, its medical purposes and products. She recorded a song called The Weed Thing.
Dubbed The UnconqueRebel Lioness, Hempress has been creating waves both locally and internationally with songs like Freedom, Rastafari Rise, Still Surviving, Wah Da Da Deng and Mellow Mood’s Inna Jamaica Pt.2 which is a collaborative effort featuring Hempress Sativa and Forelock.
Sativa has graced the cover of magazines such as Backayard Riddim magazine, Hotbox, Irie magajine, Abana Magazine and yet she remains a humilitant soul. She has blessed the stage of some of the biggest stage shows in Jamaica. She performed two years in a row at Rebel Salute in 2013 & 2014, Reggae Sumfest 2013, Bob Marley Week Celebration 2012- 2013 at the Emancipation Park and 2014 at The National Stadium Car Park, Digicel 5k Celebration in Downtown Kingston, The Independence Day Street Dance 2013, Wickie Wackie Live and Live from Kingston. Sativa did a Southern US tour and performed on the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in 2015.
Hempress Sativa is pushing up the pace on the frontline. She is definitely an artist to watch. She lists her muzikal favourites as Sade, Lauryn Hill, Dezarie, Burning Spear and Ijahman Levi. Hempress Sativa is a multi faceted young talent, propelling Jamaican muzik into the future while maintaining a strong foundation in her culture.