It’s been a wild ride for this Long Island group of misfits, bartenders, and perhaps the greatest showmen in reggae-rock history. Oogee Wawa is back in full force with the release of “Just Keep Swimming,” their epic junior full album release, but it might as well have qualified their sound as graduating the band to a higher tier of reggae-rock stardom. The growth this band has been through in the last decade reflects the maturity revealed through their lyrics, topics, and song-writing. Don’t let their growth as a band fool you though, these are still some of the same goofballs who crack jokes on stage, smile through their whole set, and are just generally the most FUN band you’ll see live. Jesse Lee literally illustrates this by designing a picture of a naked man floating face-down in a pool, with floaties on his forearms and a “parental advisory” warning covering the man’s ass, as the cover of their album art. However, it must be noted how evolved Oogee’s sound has developed, and “Just Keep Swimming” exemplifies their increase in talent, while sticking to their core vibe of catchy hooks, proficient vocals, expert guitar riffs, and unmatched MC-ing.
In true Oogee Wawa fashion, the boys start off their new album with a heavy-hitting opener called Keep UP, the first of many tracks that features guitar guru and one of their newer members, Lawrence Coleman III, perform an absolutely spectacular guitar flurry of a riff. On the next song, Sharks, MC, and rapper Jesse Lee (AKA Oogee Lee who just released his first solo album “Fire is Fire”) and now keyboardist and lead singer Nick Loiodice, have both vocalists matching their signature flair to produce a classic Oogee hit. Check out their recently released lyric video to see the lyrics OogeeLee is spitting about navigating not only the dangerous seas in the music business but life in general.
Herbal Aroma follows and is one of those songs that will forever get stuck in your head. It’s a smokers’ anthem that doubles as a love ballad, and as the most recent single before the album released, it highlights Oogee’s ability to change up their signature sound and mix it up, but still keep the music at its core. Sweet Sippin’ has a similar vibe to Herbal Aroma, which makes it an appropriate follow-up and features Kenny Mullins of Resinated and KNEX, spilling a sweet and savory verse about having good times, while inebriated.
The album then takes a deep nose dive into the anxiety-driven Pressure. As the brand new lyric video demonstrates, this song delves into the anxiety, depression, and “pressure” that is life and struggling with negativity that goes on inside people’s own heads. Probably one of the best lyrically-written songs Lee has ever produced, this deep song is accompanied by Coleman’s guitar riff matching Lee’s vocals, word for word, and Ryan Birkbeck, matching the same rhythm and vibes with violent drum fills.
Right in the middle, The Circle is one of the greatest collaborative efforts in the scene, bringing together a quartet of reggae-rock’s greatest rappers into a smorgasbord of lyrical perfection. Loiodice delivers a timeless chorus, where the listener can imagine the collaborators in this track standing in a circle, hitting the smoking apparatus before spitting their respective blazing verses. Oogee Lee starts the fire off in true MC style, followed by Matthew Roads and James Begin (Tropidelic), then Jordan Miller (former front-man of The Movement and influencer of Lee), and of course Brandon Hardesty (Bumpin’ Uglies), all contributing their very trademark hip-hop/reggae-rock rapping styles. The Circle is most definitely one of the most astounding highlights of this already epic album and will be an open invitation for local talent to showcase their similar talents at any live show they perform this banger at.
That sense of community that Oogee Wawa demonstrates when they welcome others to join in on their performance live, is showcased in the next song Mecca. However, the community I’m speaking of is that of the great state of New York and the difficult times that state is currently under due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mecca is a call to arms for the oppressed to rise up against the politics that divide us and a call-to-action to support each other in our communities. It’s also the second track (the other being
Sharks) to feature a steel drum plugin they use to add an island vibe to their respective tracks.
Next up is City to City, an ode to their nationwide network of fans, friends, and contemporaries they’ve met on tour. Whether you’ve seen Oogee live before or not, once they finish their set, Lee and crew will get off stage and immediately greet you and make you feel like family. They’re some of the most humble artists in the reggae scene, and they demonstrate it by showing their fans true love, hence the beauty of this wonderful tribute to us Oogee Wawa Warrior family.
The latter tracks of “Just Keep Swimming” follow the successful Oogee formula, in songs like Can’t Catch Me, with Loiodice setting up the vibe with his harmonious choruses and keyboard rhythms, Chad Chadwick laying down a funky bass groove, Coleman tearing it up on whimsical guitar solos, Birkbeck setting the tone with his rhythmic hammering on percussion, and Lee always rapping on a lyrically-witty verse or two. For a slower song, Lunatic follows this same formula that has been proved tried and true and also follows a serious topic in battling depression, which parallels their earlier track Pressure. They end the album on a positive note with Believe, about believing in yourself to achieve your dreams if you find support in your friends and loved ones, and actively seek out the ways in which you can reach those dreams.
This extraordinary album truly is a culmination of a decade of persistence, networking, and determination. Produced by Mike Watts and recorded at VuDu Studios, “Just Keep Swimming,” sounds immaculate, and the tracks that former member John Paul “JP” Aceto aka .wavrider (Ride Waves Productions) contributes to like Sharks, Mecca, The Circle, and Sweet Sippin,’ help emphasize that signature Oogee sound. A sound that has evolved impeccably, while always sticking to their Long Island roots. “Just Keep Swimming” might as well be Album of The Year of 2021, so far!
Album Art Photo Credit: Kali @eastcoastkali