SOJA – “Strength to Survive” (2012)

On one of my seemingly countless trips to Los Angeles my friend Kris and I drove to Hollywood one evening to hit up Amoeba Music. Kris (aka “Mr. Jam”) and I bonded over music during our mutual participation in the multi-year project we’re working, so it seemed natural to head out to Amoeba and do some vinyl shopping together. To make it a bit more interesting, we also decided that each of us would select one album that we love and the other person would buy it for themselves and check out. For Mr. Jam’s listening pleasure I selected Kiasmos‘ 2014 debut LP; for me he selected SOJA’s Strength to Survive.

SOJA (Soldiers of Jah Army) are a reggae collective from the Washington DC area who have been pretty active for the last two decades, releasing seven albums and touring near continuously. Strength to Survive was their sixth effort, a 13-song double album that comes with a CD copy inside as well as a download card for a few additional tracks, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Musically Strength to Survive is pretty chill, a sort of relaxed yet upbeat-sounding style of reggae that doesn’t put too much emphasis on the low end. While that may not sound classically reggae, lyrically SOJA are right on point with their use of social commentary and introspection. The lyrics feel like real expressions of love, concern, frustration, uncertainty… you name it, all of it feels genuine.

A nice album, and one that feels like it will benefit from repeated listenings because of how important the lyrics are to the songs.