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Album Review – 438 by Masicka

Three weeks have passed since Masicka dropped his highly anticipated and much teased debut project, 438, and the Jamaican music scene is still captivated. The usually fast paced and quick to move on dancehall scene has stopped to listen and pay homage to the man many believe is the next ascendant to the King of the Dancehall throne. This is not to say that the man born Javaun Fearon is not without his detractors. Even they too must now acknowledge the man’s near mastery of his craft. One fact holds true; the former Calabar High School student, sharing this commonality with the undeniable Vybz Kartel, John Holt, and Baby Cham, among others, has beat the iron balloon and “only one flow” allegations.

“Sounds from mi heart, so dem haffi connect”

And you hear it.

“Ey, mi can tell you pain inna every language”

Masicka begins the album in a celebratory mood with “Ultimate”, a track that is motivational Masicka through and through.

As told in the album’s teaser track, “Update”, which has become a seemingly effortlessly constructed hit indicative of his “can’t miss” billing, Masicka clues us into how hard he works to ensure that his “thing never fluctuates”. 

Following “Ultimate” is a brilliant five-song run of tracks straight from the heart that pull on every heart string. His self-titled “musical brother” Popcaan makes his appearance on “Pain” to deliver a vocal performance bordering on perfection. You would be tempted to assume 438 reaches a crescendo. The truth is, the two powerhouses had only whet dancehall fans’ appetites.

“Suicide Note” and “Toxic World” are a one-two punch of maturity, confidence and skill, as Masicka introduces the thought that he may be dancehall’s deepest. He is certainly the most thorough and precise. The reflective tone of the album continues with the double whammy of love songs, “Love Story” and “Moments”. Love Story is a love letter about a lost love for which there is, hopefully, a glimmer of hope in resurrecting.

Rounding out the front 6 is the addictive collab with British-Jamaican bombshell, Stefflon Don. No, Masicka did not collaborate with Jada Kingdom. Stefflon Don delivers a performance that either would be proud of. We need videos for “Pain” and “Moments”. End.

“Mount a space weh yuh take up inn a mi brain, it nuh safe. Suh mi haffi tell yuh fi cut my B”

“Highlight” is a slight drop from lofty peaks after the musical delight of tracks 2 to 6. It is hard to follow successive 10s, even if you yourself are a 7 or 8.

“Quality” is anything but. Whilst both artistes do nothing wrong, the hugely successful veteran does nothing to break the monotony offered in this grating song that is difficult to listen from start to finish. let down by the one note riddim, it was doomed from there. A real shame, which disrupts what would have been an uninterrupted master stroke from “Pain” to “King”.

“Yuh haffi learn fi adapt, you hear dat”

If “Quality” stalled the momentum of this fine project, “Stature” restarts it featuring Masicka in his comfort zone, clever, slick lyrics covering his various most comfortable themes (weed, women, badness).

“Stature” beautifully and seamlessly transitions into a musical masterpiece. “King” is the best song for 2021. Nothing more needs to be said. 

“Ten different account dawg, bag a pin. Mansa Musa, bagga gold, bagga bling”

The dynamic duo return in “Vanish” to follow up from “Leader’ to put badness in the nicest way possible. 

“Contract Killer” is a customary gun chune that delivers what is was supposed to without setting the world alight or giving us more than we already know about Masicka. The opportunity to include a previous hit was lost at “Quality” and “Contract Killer”, where “I Wish” and “Different Type” would have been super subs.

438 always recovers, though, as the album begins to wind down with the well constructed “Mirror” and “Heart Cry” that bring you back to the mood of the album’s first half.

The most awaited track of the album, the exactly 10 minutes long “Story” has you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, even if the first two thirds of the combined track were released at least a half decade ago. Masicka ends with another cliffhanger in the same way that he teased 438.

He closes with his biggest song, “They Don’t Know”, which caps both the album and his career to date and leaves Fearon ready to take on the world in front him.

Track Ratings

Ultimate
4/5
Pain
5/5
Suicide Note
5/5
Toxic World
5/5
Love Story
5/5
Moments
5/5
Highlight
4/5
Quality
2/5
Stature
4.5/5
King
5/5
Vanish
4.5/5
Contract Killer
3.5/5
Mirror
4/5
Heart Cry
4/5
Story
5/5
They Don't Know
5/5
Album Rating
4.5/5