Queen Ifrica - Times Like These [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Queen Ifrica

Times Like These [7-inch] (2011)

VP records

In a song tradition that stretches back to Ancient Egypt, Queen Ifrica has released two lamentations. But unlike the ancient counterparts, Ifrica seems to offer a slight spark of encouragement and hope at the tale end of her woes instead of a forecast of doom.

"Times Like These" is one of Ifrica's best cuts to date. As with much of her career, she's able to blend pieces that are often incongruent. She meshes soaring choruses and dancehall chatting, with both flowing into each other instead of jamming aside each other. Even more interestingly, she's able to blend her fairly orthodox Rastafarian views with modern culture, making the belief system seem more practical than cryptic. Although Ifrica has taken some flack for her belief's tenets which don't always fit with modern U.S./European thought (although much less than some other less welcoming artists… *cough* Buju *cough cough*), she daringly adheres to her stance and admonishes young girls for being too promiscuous as well as young men for being weak at the core. Even more interestingly, when she calls out, asking for a return of the heroes of yesteryear, including Marcus Garvey, Louise Bennett-Coverly and Bob Marley, she simultaneously seems to be angry at those named for leaving in the first place. Most prominently, Ifrica's bold voice is on full display, with its entire range represented from her low rumbling rasp to her clean, soaring chorus calls.

The flip side, "It Hard," continues Ifrica's call of desperation. But, playing off the theme of the A-side, instead of calling out to the heroes of Jamaica, she calls out to the common person, mentioning the struggle of Jamaica's numerous poor. More of a roots number than its companion, "It Hard," which is built off the Sweet Wata riddim, echoes back to '70s reggae, with its Korg synthesizer, heavy echo and one drop rhythm. Near the end of the song, after Ifrica has run through a litany of obstacles, she urges the down-pressed to support each other, changing the song from one of desperation to encouragement.

Both of these tracks highlight the connection/conflict that has existed between punk and reggae for some 35 years. Both often represent the poor man and attack capitalism as a system of control, but the social mores between the two seems wildly disparate. Just as dancehall star Mikey Dread was adopted into the UK punk scene because of/despite his fierce beliefs, it will be interesting to see if Ifrica will, or even wants, to crossover. It would be a shame if she doesn't, because in these times, punk, and even modern music, could use some more female heroes of its own.