Jah9 is the recording name for Janine Elizabeth Cunningham, a Jamaican singer who cites influences like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Though Jah9 cut her teeth in the underground poetry scene, she shifted focus when her music gained attention. Jah9's sound is distinct, bringing jazz and dub influences into an otherwise very reggae-centered album, which has put her into a category all her own often referred to as “Jazz on Dub.”
"New Name" starts the album off with horns and an explosion; it's an incendiary opener, the fluid singing and backing vocals mixed with extremely melodic music while the lyrics deliver an important message about corruption. The critical wordplay of "Intentions" follows, and even though it starts with gentle cooing, it is a protest song about the superficiality of modern day life. “Preacher Man” continues the quality lyrical themes and talks about religious hypocrites and politicians after starting out heavy on percussion with an ominous background and fractured keys. Much later on, the unexpected tempo shifts make the song even more interesting.
Though the first few songs follow a similar path, ultimately Jah9 keeps things diverse. “Gratitude” is piano heavy, poetic, and full of thoughtful lyrics that offer a chance for Jah9 to show her vocal range. “Interlude,” on the other hand, is a quick spoken word set to keys and almost seems ballad-like. Much later on, Jah9 injects a love song in the form of the aptly titled "Mr. Right" and takes help from Projecto on the bass heavy "Legitimate." The album ends with a selection that defines beauty, the lovely and life-affirming "Innervoice."
It's not surprising that New Name was so well received within the reggae community. Jah9's vocal acrobatics, warm beats, and jazzy guitars are met with politically charged wordplay that makes her an anomaly in more ways than one (the most obvious being female in a genre that is so male dominated). Fans of genres as diverse as pop, electronica, roots, dub or anything Jamaican influenced will be in awe here.