For such a small island, Jamaica has produced way more than her fair share of great songwriters; from the king Bob Marley, Bob Andy, John Holt, Beres Hammond, Gregory Isaacs, just to name a few. The truth is, however, none of the names mentioned even come close to Sizzla Kalonji in terms of songwriting abilities.
Sizzla is only in his early forties, yet he has released over 80 albums. He has written more than 90% of all the songs he has released. What is even more remarkable is Sizzla does not rely on reformatting or borrowing from things that has already been said when writing his songs.
Some will argue that Bob Marley was the greatest songwriter out of Jamaica. While there is no denying that Bob Marley is the most famous Jamaican ever, his writing skills cannot be compared to Sizzla. A lot of Bob Marley’s most famous lyrics were actually taken from other famous Jamaicans, the bible, Rasta elders and old Jamaican proverbs. Unknown to many non-Jamaicans is the fact that phrases from Marley’s songs like “every day the bucket goes to the well…”, “life is one big road…”, “chicken merry, hawk deh near” are just everyday Jamaican sayings that Bob Marley skillfully put to music.
Sizzla on the other hand is much more creative and original in his songwriting process. So when listening to Sizzla and you hear a wise and clever phrase, it is actually a phrase from Sizzla, such as: “To disrespect the woman, I disagree… how can you stand can and curse a bearing tree?”
Most likely, Sizzla will never get the worldwide acclaim for his songwriting abilities. This is for the simple fact, that some choose to wrongly interpret his music as being divisive, for example, lyrics like: “I have no white god, don’t teach me anything wrong… Would a white god save me from white man oppression?”
Sizzla has also been his worst enemy where even his most ardent fans have had to question his motives. How does such a talented individual goes from uplifting songs like “Black woman and child” to degrading lyrics like “judgment yard force up di wood in her pussy”? How does he go from singing “To see love amongst my friends… to Sizzla that is heaven” to singing “gangsta nuh lef dem gun…”? And if actions speak louder than words, how does such a great man go from smoking high grade marijuana to drinking Hennessey when Bob Marley already told us that alcohol is the destruction of a nation?
This does not take away from Sizzla’s creativity however, if anything, it shows versatility. He can write songs for the righteous Rastas, the girls behaving badly in the dancehalls or the gangstas on the street corners. After all, when Bob Marley “… push the wood, blaze the fire”, it might be the same wood that judgment yard forced up in the female’s vagina. The big long gun that run out pon dem might be the same gun that Bob Marley used to shot the sheriff.
As Sizzla said, “A nuh Macolm X or Martin Luther this.. A sizzla wha come to trick all the tricks”, maybe the inconsistencies in his lyrics are just part of the trick up his sleeve. If you love great lyrics, even if reggae is not your favorite genre, Sizzla is definitely an artist you should listen to.