Album Review – Public Enemy No 1 by Intence
The debut project by new gen dancehall artiste Intence, harnesses his built up venom from being handed an underdog label and hopefully goes some way to the change opinions of those that had written him off in the ongoing debate between himself and another pretender to the dancehall throne, Skillibeng. But Intence makes it clear in his intro that he competes against no-one but himself.
“A nuh like we a compete wid nobody out deh, you sight?”
Intence brings a distinct freshness to his project, partly because we’ve grown accustomed to his rapid fire video releases and partly because of the dominance of gun lyrics in dancehall today. Public Enemy No 1 doesn’t attempt to hide the artiste’s ratings for Alkaline and his 2016 New Level Unlocked album. He makes a great show of respect to the dancehall frontrunner and puts his own spin.
The Intro sets the tone for the story of Intence – stirrer of controversy, the hard working Tashawn Gabbidon from Tavern in Jamaica’s capital of Kingston.
Antisocial. Defiant. Smooth beats and flows. That’s the playbook used to brilliant effect by the man who dared to challenge Vybz Kartel in the mid 2010s. But Intence’s trap dancehall drawl syncs in a different, albeit still seamless, way than Alkaline as he reinforces his rise, his separation from the pack, his goals, and inspires fans through his reflective storytelling.
“Yah Now” is a worthy second official video release from the album, giving thanks for his progress, his independence, his exclusivity, and the ability to work on his own time and support those near to him. Intence moves neatly into “All Dat”, which you would be forgiven to think was an Alkaline effort. In “All Dat”, he goes into the pitfalls of stardom – the demands on his time, his introversion, his wealth.
“The star life, it nuh all dat.”
The next offering, “Believe”, serves up a dish of inspiration and grounding in a world of flawed individuals. It is here where the album kicks into full swing, with the next four tracks arguably featuring the three best songs from the album.
The title track, “Public Enemy No 1” encapsulates the album’s mission. Govana provides an appropriate supporting effort with his familiar vocals, decrying bad mind, and lyrics of overcoming amidst the hate punctuating the song, and indeed the album. Intence very well knows how he’s perceived among the dancehall fanbase. But he goes a far way to stating his claim to be one of the primary pretenders after the Alkaline, Popcaan, Masicka trio who currently occupy the prestige spaces in local dancehall.
“A the hate a go mek yuh great.”
In “Climb”, Intence takes the chance to borrow from Mr Vegas’ hit “Girls Time”, to explain that the sweetest time for him is proving his doubters and haters wrong. Not that Girls Time isn’t a sweet time for him as well, of course. But he’s on a mission. ‘Mi bad too enuh. Wah unu feel like?’.
The sweetest time you’ll have on this album is the one-two punch of “Understanding”, where the respect shown to the artistry that was 2016’s “New Level Unlocked” continues (“more time mi feel fi lef earth and find a different planet”), and “Winning Streak”, which are arguably the very best of Intence along with 2020’s “Through the Gate”. Understanding and Winning Streak are the most defiant tunes from a body of work devoted to forcing himself in the conversation, but from a safe distance. Nobody understands Intence and he doesn’t give a damn because, in case you haven’t noticed, he’s on a
“winning streak – king in the town.”
Intence and the much maligned crooner Jah Cure combine well on “Die Rich”, a pleasant effort promoting upward social mobility and denouncing bad mind. “Jump Start” is a rare Intence gyal chune that, once more, doesn’t sound very acidic. We know what is happening here and find nothing wrong with an artiste putting another spin on another artiste’s style.
The final tracks are all solid, best defined by the collaborative effort on “Statement” with friend, Iwaata, making for a complete body of work that only enhances Intence’s standing in the dancehall space, especially as the man he’s frequently compared to, Skillibeng, appears to be veering off course just when he had Jamaica in the palm of his hands.
It’s all about Tashawn Gabbidon though, and maybe now, just maybe, he will be taken as seriously as is deserved, because of the unique path he’s charted in “Public Enemy No 1.”
Author of the Limit does not Exist. Egalitarian. Central Banker. All I do is tell jokes, really.