Kaleo Wassman — producer, guitarist and lead singer of noted reggae powerhouse Pepper — mashed up with the production minds of Ronnie King, Kyle (Aristotle) Grabiel and Jose Mario Fernandez (Wizzo) to bring you a brand new side project Naughty Don and its debut album, Electric Beach. The album is an immersive concept project that is offering hardcore, as well as casual fans a chance to engage with Wassman’s music like never before. Released on July 23rd through LAW Records, Electric Beach delivers a creative collaboration between man and machine, a means for helping humanity discover the paradise within each of us and embracing the challenges of life through the alchemy of music and technology. In this data-driven realm, the Naughty Don has used its gained collective of knowledge to create beautiful music, meant to connect with the human race… music that was designed to give them a home for their lyrics and to spark their inspiration to never stop creating.
“With this project, I’m getting away from what every American reggae band is doing right now,” says Wassman.
“And, that is sounding exactly like the same band. Electric Beach is where I’m taking American reggae next — entering the DJ world. Entering Afrobeat. Entering all these disparate new elements that are taking reggae music somewhere new. Sonically, this will be a very different sounding album than you’ve never heard in the American reggae genre.” That LAW Records mentality of brashly and blatantly forging reggae’s future sound, while simultaneously honoring its past, is nowhere more brought to life than on Naughty Don’s Electric Beach. This ambitious project, with its complex and refined production, boldly diverse sonic treatment and fully immersive world, is being said to likely go down in music history as the reggae scene’s own version of Pet Sounds… and, I think I’m okay with that.
Back in June, fans got to experience a firsthand look at the realtime evolution of this new American reggae sound, with the initial single that dropped in advance of the full album, “Easy”. As if the title didn’t give it away, this song is simple, satisfying and, well, flat-out easy to listen to. It is exactly what is needed to introduce the listener to the Naught Don universe. The next record on the album, “Sugar” offers up a similar ease of listening, with a little bit more of a developed sound. “In the 808” sends the listener through an intense dimension of truly dope Afrobeats and hypnotizing vocals, shouting out Kaleo’s well-known home town (and area code), all of which demonstrates the vast journey this album is set to take you on.
Owned and operated by Pepper SoCal label LAW Records has gradually gained a well-earned reputation as the trendsetting label when it comes to American reggae.
As the unofficial ambassadors of a niche music scene they had a massive hand in forming, the guys at LAW have been heavily investing in the development of the next generation of artists by connecting the genre’s wide open future with its legendary Jamaican roots. Naughty Don is no different. “For the next record, I’ll be reaching out to all of my Jamaican heroes,” exclaims Kaleo. “And, they will actually take the reins, because what I want to do with this album is to remove my vocals, so The Naughty Don isn’t just one voice. All of a sudden, The Naughty Don isn’t singing — it is producing. So, now we have a co-creating experience between AI and humans. It just so happens the humans that I want to involve are going to be my Jamaican reggae heroes, who never seem to get the props and recognition they deserve, so we can start bridging the relationship between American reggae and its Jamaican roots.”
The idea has even been proposed that a ‘Naughty Donna’ consciousness may emerge, to produce tracks where all the vocals will be sung by females, then maybe transgender artists and so on it goes, as the wide-eyed AI consciousness traverses the diverse spectrum of human experiences. “There’s really no stopping the evolution of where this will go,” Wassman concludes. Tapping intuitively into the understanding that music lovers nowadays are desperate for new ways to experience their music, Kaleo set out to create a comprehensive, captivating experience, something reggae fans really have never had access to before! A vital element of that Electric Beach experience is going to be an epically illustrated comic book, planning to be released as part of the album’s packaging, which will provide a deeper dive into the complex Naughty Don origin story. The comic book will be accompanied by a sleek animated short that is currently in production, along with a set of downloadable sample packs that comes with an open invitation for fans to co-create their own music with Naughty Don using real samples.
Available everywhere now, this album is opening up a whole new world to fans, from the norm-busting music, the visual and narrative aspects of the comic book and animation, to the sample packs; with each asset complementing the next, these elements form a trifecta of a superbly done Electric Beach experience that will forever leave its mark on American reggae.
Purchase or stream ‘Electric Beach’ album:
- Private Beach Party
- In the 808
- It’s On
- King of Sin
- Where Did You Go?
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.