When Jah Cure sings that “prison a nuh bed of roses,” it’s tough to argue. Having spent the last seven years on maximum-security lockdown in Kingston’s correctional system, he knows only too well. As far as his career is concerned, though, it’s not been quite so bad— his star truly rose behind bars. Just as the “Free Pimp C” battle cry echoed throughout Texan hip-hop for the duration of the Houston rapper/producer’s recent incarceration, Cure’s situation has become a Jamaican cause célébre: his sentence fiercely disputed by friends and fans, his name invoked by everyone from Capleton to Morgan Heritage as a symbol of Babylon downpression.
That he is the only living reggae artist whose songs are routinely covered word for word by his contemporaries during live performances is just one measure of this support, but the best yardstick is that he’s kept churning out hits. Allowed access to studio equipment while serving his time, 28-year-old Siccature Alcock has maintained a breathless recording schedule and become a figurehead of the one-drop movement—a 21st-century take on conscious roots now dominating Jamaica’s musical landscape. Coinciding with his July 28 release, True Reflections . . . A New Beginning collects the best of these jailhouse rockers, including “Most High Cup Full” (a 2004 lick-over of Bob Marley’s “Sun Is Shining”) and the Donovan Bennett-produced “Love Is” and “Longing For.” It’s a pitch-perfect showcase of his compelling, emotionally charged vocal style.
Still, a straightforward pleasure it’s not. Remembering that Cure was sent down for rape, robbery, and gun charges, a certain level of cognitive dissonance kicks in. Whether he’s guilty or not, reconciling the brutality of these crimes with the gentle beauty and upful spirituality of his work is as conflicting as his plaintive proclamations of innocence are believable.