Crying to the nation

The life cycle of a reggae hit can be long, but the single “Lose a Friend” by I-Octane has had an incredible run by any standard. The song, in which the Sandy Bay, Jamaica, native sings — with a catch in his throat — about a slain friend, was well-received when it was released in 2009. Then, in 2010, the song comforted residents of Kingston, Jamaica, during a period of civil unrest in the capital city. And, I-Octane’s performance of the track at the Reggae Sumfest 2011 festival stole the show and transformed him from a rising star dabbling in dance-hall and culture reggae to someone poised to become conscious reggae’s next big star.

Now, the track is likely to enjoy another boost in popularity, as it’s included on I-Octane’s debut album, “Crying to the Nation.”

I-Octane has been churning out hits for nearly five years, but only a few of his previously released tracks appear on the album. The rest is new material, and there’s not a dud in the bunch.

Other than the ability to switch up his voice, from rough to smooth, depending on the subject matter, I-Octane’s main strength is being political without polarizing. Songs about love, both romantic and universal (“L.O.V.E. Y.O.U.”; “All We Need Is Love,” featuring Tarrus Riley); anti-violence (the title track, “No More Violence”), and generic spirituality (“The Master’s Plan”) manage to deliver powerful messages in a mild way — and all are strong enough to enjoy years of popularity.

Sarah Godfrey

I-Octane's “Crying to the Nation.” (Courtesy of VP Records)

Recommended tracks

“Lose a Friend,” “Crying To the Nation,” “All We Need Is Love”