Album Review – Top Prize by Alkaline
Have you ever listened to an Alkaline song and loved it on the first go? That’s weird. Dancehall heavyweight Alkaline dropped his sophomore full length project, Top Prize. Well, he’s released it one week today, which is probably the minimum amount of time you need to fairly review his music. At first, it can be grating. It can be muted. The pauses in the riddims can frustrate your ears. You almost never appreciate his musicality at first. but Alkaline is a powerhouse and he’s set out to show his growth, five years after he ruled with New Level Unlocked in 2016.
“Bruck dung every barricade and set worl’ record”
From the outset, in Top Prize, the Young Lawd puts his “one man against the world” mantra out there. Nobody wanted him to make it, he reminds us, and yet he’s set himself apart, now holding the top prize.
The project transitions into Ocean Wave, one of the four songs that were released prior to the album and a follow-up to Impact. He figuratively refers to loud explosions, which are more about his impact and fame than badness. Alkaline uses the track to, much like Intence in Public Enemy No 1, explain the genesis of his trademark independence. Ocean Wave is arguably the most commercially successful track on the album and one of the best efforts in the artiste’s career. The water is alkaline in this one.
“We a create big waves like the ocean…dem never see a force, dem never see a force so strong”
Deh Suh is more upbeat, showcasing musical range, as Alkaline creates his own harmony over one of the heaviest beats on Top Prize.
Maniac is perhaps the shining light among the new tracks, even though Hostage has taken popular opinion. Top tier intro, and he never eased off our necks.
“How dem fi stop me? Me a do this from me a teen.”…”Once mi get di pussy, nah go see me back.”
Alkaline flexes his musical muscles, describing sexual escapades and his riches. Maniac is a melodic, dark sounding masterpiece.
It is then disappointing to move from three of the four strongest songs to Magic, which is a letdown of a gyal chune. It is a throwaway. His strident fans will like it. Casuals won’t.
Hostage reintroduces us to the vibe from Ocean Wave. The verses are beautiful constructions in the way he describes this woman and the feeling she provokes. The weakness in the song is the production, which lets the chorus down, giving it a slightly washed out sound.
Alkaline maintains the strength from Maniac and Hostage in Twerc over a slick, fast paced instrumental that an Afrobeat artiste would not sound out of place on. Whichever woman he’s singing about here, we salute you. Twerc is the underrated gem of the album.
More Life underscores the ability of Alkaline’s songs to grow on you. This is one you could easily hate on a first listen, after hearing seven songs that are, for the most part, mellow for a dancehall production. Once the message sinks in? It’s a nice album chune.
“Mi nuh trust mankind. See di ting bad mind, a we gun alone we sleep wid.”
Nuh Trust Mankind is a barely offensive fit-for-album-only song that can set boredom in. Alkaline is spitting, even if in an annoying voice. Are we listening though?
We’re sweating now and wondering when we’ll hear another Ocean Wave or Maniac again. Thankfully, Ah (Awe) comes next. This girl again? Melodic and descriptive, it does what it is supposed to do in an okay way.
Someone probably likes Heat of the Moment. This person probably argued on the internet about the album being the greatest ever 50 minutes after its release.
“Step to me wrong, how mi fi know say him a pickney?”
Remember Cree? It happens to be a big chune in which the artiste pivoted heavily off Masicka’s Grandfather, although we wonder if Alkaline threw this and a few others on Top Prize because it was a proven hit. Cree is in the stratosphere that Teejay hit with Uptop. What says badness more than singing about it like you’re Chris Martin or Romain Virgo?
Considering the dips in quality at critical points, it was a smart move to bolster the project with the hits. Case in point is the fact that the album should have ended at track 13 with Medicine. Let’s pretend it did.
“Mi roll it up and a light it up like Edison”
Top Prize is a solid effort from Alkaline which does not surpass New Level Unlocked, mainly because of the unevenness and failure to adhere to a consistent storyline throughout that shows progression as a person and artiste. The album showcases the best of the artiste, in stronger efforts like Ocean Wave, Cree, Maniac, and Twerc, but also highlights some of the worst, and how hyper-individualism can be a double edged sword.
Author of the Limit does not Exist. Egalitarian. Central Banker. All I do is tell jokes, really.