In the world of shoulder-mounted firearms, the term “bolt action” refers to the process in which the shooter must cock back the firing pin after each individual shot, clearing the barrel of an empty shell casing. Most commonly, it’s a function of sniper rifles. AK-47s, like the one pictured on the cover of Aidonia’s Bolt Action mixtape, fire hurried and abundantly by design and, unless manually altered, are unburdened with the task. In fact, the only purpose such an arbitrary modification would serve would be to slow down the firing process and increase single-shot accuracy. Compared to the reckless abandon of his career’s early days, the man who calls himself “JA’s most wanted” is now more prone to shoot with tact and precision.
Since 2005, Sheldon “Aidonia” Lawrence has released a steady onslaught of 45s, his dense wordplay gnawing through dancehall riddims fast and slow, bright and dark, recklessly dismembering badmen, good gyals and innocent bystanders. True to the trajectory of modern dancehall, he’s built an airhorn-stamped catalogue of shotta anthems, voicing just about every major riddim of the past three years, but without a proper album to house them. More recently though, Aidonia has shifted focus from accolades to accessibility, creating righteous pop amidst the hail of bullets with in-house production crew Equiknoxx and super-producer Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor. “Back in the days I had a lot to prove,” Aidonia says by phone from Kingston. “To show people I’m a real lyricist, this ain’t no commercial ting. And we got the attention. Nowadays we experiment with stuff that can connect internationally.”
Nowadays in fact, songs like “Nowadays Girl” are a clean break from the tuff chat that made his name. Beyond an auto-tuned chorus, the entire song is Aidonia singing about the vulnerability of his relationship to carnivorous gossip girls over Equiknoxx’s syrupy and tropical two-step. “Nowadays Girl” also comes just a year after the diabolically merciless “Laugh and Shot Dem,” a duet with once-close friend and current iron-fisted dancehall ruler, Vybz Kartel. “You have to change it up,” Aidonia says. “You just can’t deejay about guns all the day of yuh life, and you can’t deejay about girls alone all the days of yuh life. You have to just keep it moving.” Unmistakably though, gun talk continues to play a central role in the deejay’s ascent. On “Isaiah,” an ominous recent release, his gun is again raised to detractors, Aidonia preaching vengeance of biblical proportions.
This is a promise he draws closer to fulfilling as he slow-cooks his long-awaited debut, a double CD with one disc reserved for hits like Dem Time Deh riddim standout “Ukku” and his daggering anthem “100 Stab,” and the other for brand new music. And though he continues to shoot holes through riddims, his most recent output verifies aspirations far beyond king of the dancehall. “We nah just put out an album to say Aidonia put out an album and it did good,” he says. “We want something great, something we can sell off, right across the world.”
Stream: Aidonia, Nuh Fear Riddim