The concept of time holds a special meaning for Protoje. Three of his most recent studio albums reference the past, present, and future. This is a conscious state of mind that is synonymous with roots reggae, yet Protoje elevates his thoughtful soliloquies into nimble wordplay, effortless flows and melodies. His recipe for success has made him undoubtedly one of Jamaica’s most innovative musicians for over a decade. The latest chapter, Third Time’s The Charm, adds to the trilogy of albums he’s dropped since his GRAMMY nomination for A Matter Of Time (2018). Protoje’s journey as a man, a father, and as an entrepreneur in the music industry is crystallized in the artist’s new 10-track opus. The LP, released in partnership with Protoje’s label In.Digg.Nation Collective and RCA Records follow In Search Of Lost Time (2020), which planted a new flag for Protoje and his network of home-grown Jamaican talent he’s helped develop over the past two years. At long last, Third Time’s The Charm is a bookend to an era that began with the 2020 pandemic.
1. The Charm
A filtered yet soul-stirring voice of reggae legend, Dennis Brown, fades in the title track singing, “oh mother, why are you crying,” evoking the need for healing. Enter Protoje over a fusion of the reggae classic’s bassline and traditional ‘90s hip-hop drums & snares, produced by Iotosh. In.Digg.Nation’s resident wordsmith flexes on this reintroduction, for those who may need a reminder of his top ranking in Jamaica and as a internationally-known talent. “I used to invisible, I bet them see I now Them want fi be I now De Janeiro to the Ri-I-O; Ethiopia then reach Cairo; Circle all across the globe, you see the seeds I sew,” says the lyrical titan.
The first single produced by 8TRACK & IV the Polymath, bridges the gap between long on-and-off stints of lockdowns in Jamaica due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trap-style bounce of “Hills” creates a feel-good vibration to compliment the sobering surroundings of his hilltop studio in the tropics, where Protoje has found solace through the pandemic.
3. Family feat. Jesse Royal
“Family” reunites Protoje with long-time friend and collaborator Jesse Royal. These two kindred spirits channel their humility and gratitude for the support from their loved ones over Iotosh’s production, which features a silky-smooth trumpet played by Okiel McIntyre.
4. Incient Stepping
Protoje’s meditative standout-track is a theme of positive affirmations. Protoje is at his most spiritually grounded on over the hypnotic rhythm, produced by Zion I Kings, which consists of Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred on keys, drum programming by Romaine “Teflonzincfence” Arnett, and David “JAH David” Goldfine on bass guitar and kette percussion.
5. Dreamy Eyes
The album shifts from self-love to Protoje’s love interests on the ska-flavored track produced by ZIAH. PUSH.
“Its locked-in grooves and super tight musicianship frequently rival the greats of the ’70s, and Protoje seamlessly weaves in elements of hip hop and electronic music that propel these songs into the future….some of the finest modern reggae around…there might not be anybody doing more for the development of reggae on a broad, international scale in the past 10 years than Protoje.”
– Brooklyn Vegan
6. Ten Cane Row feat. Jorja Smith
Then the versatile MC doubles down on his love ballads with endearing compliments on “Ten Cane Row” featuring the British soul singer Jorja Smith. Iotosh is at the helm, while Llamar “Riff Raff Keys” Brown lays a blanket of soft keyboard chords on the JA meets UK collaboration.
7. “Late at Night” feat. Lila Iké
The song is a layered gem of Protoje’s diverse palette of influences. The song’s rhythmic framework samples “Late at Night” recorded by iconic Jamaican lover’s rock songstress Pam Hall and reggae architect Gussie Clark in the early 80s. The updated version with Lila Iké’s warming vocals adds deeper sentiment of social commentary on the original that was sung by American soul groups of the 70s like The Stylistics and The Jones Girls. Cadenza, the UK’s heavyweight DJ & beatsmith co–produced “Late at Night.” Other notable contributions come from Natural High Music and Wade Johnson on organ, Lamont “Monty” Savory’s guitar solo, and Donald Dennis on bass.
8. Love For Me
Protoje opens up about the challenges of balancing his personal life along with the ups and downs of being in the spotlight on “Love For Me.” ZIAH. PUSH produced the somber tune. The pitch-perfect falsetto of Jamaican singer-songwriter Sevana floats throughout the track echoing Protoje’s contemplative tone. Additional production by bassist Kelsey Gonzáles of The Free Nationals, Christian “Elyzr” Meraz on keys, Lamont “Monty” Savory on guitar, and Greg Paul on drums.
9. Here Comes The Morning
The start of the day inspires Protoje on the track, “Here Comes the Morning.” This time of day is on his side because he compares the morning to the woman in his life. His poetic rhymes are easily digested over Iotosh’s rolling boom bap drums and the producer’s calming whisper of the chorus. Llamar “Riff Raff Keys” Brown adds his signature keyboard flourishes to the loungy love song.
10. Heavy Load feat. Samory I
Capping off Third Time’s The Charm is “Heavy Load,” featuring Jamaican singer-songwriter Samory I. Protoje dabbles in a new flow with a swinging tempo — another quality display of the artist’s range—on ZIAH. PUSH’s soundscape. Daniel Heath arranged the string section on “Heavy Load,” plus Donald Dennis played bass. Samory I, bears his soul on the chorus, wailing the pain of the burden he carries in life. Yet both Protoje and Samory I retain a sense of optimism because of their belief in a higher power of Jah fueling their motivation.