Robby John’s debut EP, “The November Man”, weaves tales of struggles with sin and yearnings for redemption in a modern blend of reggae and hip hop. It’s the kind of album that defies genre. The kind of album where every song has an entirely different sound, yet carries a distinct cohesion throughout. In many respects, it doesn’t even sound like a hip hop or reggae record, and Robby John deserves all the credit for having the creativity to come up with something fresh and new.
Robby John hails from the small island of Dominica, and serves as a Youth Minister in western Florida. His travels have no doubt helped him to create such a uniquely urban and worldly sound. The opening title track blends soaring strings and Robby’s swaying, accented singing with rap breaks. Don’t be fooled by his opening line: “I am the November man/ I carry Judas in my heart/ And a gun in my right hand.” Robby John works with words in ways that challenge your ideals of what Gospel music ‘should’ be.
So what should Gospel music be? Falsely uplifting? I don’t think so. It should be honest and heartfelt. Emotional. Contemplative. Real. And that’s what Robby John fastens himself to. “Too Close To The Fire”, which features beautiful, hypnotic vocals from Crown Vox (Jennifer Hall Burris), is a trip-hop track with bursts of electronica (“When the darkness falls upon me/I struggle to see Your face/I want to trust in the coming of Your strength/To lift me from this place…When will I learn/Stand too close to the fire/You end up getting burned.” Simple, hard truth. Every day we battle sin. And every day we are faced with the choice to recommit ourselves to Jesus.
This notion of deflecting sin is a powerful, recurring theme here. “Hard Times” – lilting acoustic reggae – offers pop hooks underneath lines like “I’m just having a hard time/Making up my mind/Should I continue to love in the midst of your (the world’s) games and lies?” before declaring his return to the Most High, love, and grace. “King Of Kings” combines Robby’s distinctive inflection with trip-hop beats a la Tricky in pleas to turn our broken lives to Christ: “Who can you call?/Who can set you free?/The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords/Rewrites our destiny.” The largely acoustic “King David” is a gorgeous track that likens our struggles with David and Goliath with metaphors that claw far below bubble gum-pop depth. And the album’s closer, “Missing Home”, is a stirring recount of the lamentations of youth and the trials we go through with family differences: “Missing home/Many years I’ve roamed/Incomplete/Out here in the streets/There’s no APB/No one looks for me/I’m just a lonely shadow walking towards Eternity.”
There’s an incorrigible depth to these songs. A yearning. A seriousness that goes well beyond the typical praise song. Robby John has found an eclectic voice that is destined to speak to people across land and race barriers. A bridge across the universal divide. “The November Man” is an album that will immerse you and slowly pull you in. Let it.
Robby Kevin John is from the small island of Dominica, and grew up in the village of Fond Cole. He spent lots of time writing poetry and listening to all genres of Music, which inspired him to tell stories. A lover of The Word and the mystery therein. Enjoys painting pictures through his music of both the good and the bad in order to connect with people of all different races and cultures. The style is more of a reggae/hip hop fusion which mirror the influences both in music and poetry. Artists like Sizzla and Luciano still influence the way he does music and handles the ‘riddim" . These days, he likes to sing about his Faith in God or Jah, as they avidly say in the Caribbean. His goal is to speak Truth from The Word and inspire others to live for God and grow in Faith, no matter what the tide brings.Robby says, “Hey Man, when all is said and done, the only things that will last is those eternal things, which are shaped by our present actions and devotions”. It is ok to make mistakes and grow from them, but it is never ok to give up!