While hip-hop is practically finished merging with pop, the next trend is busy just starting to infiltrate the clubs. Dancehall is a relatively new vibratious genre that has evolved from reggae and it is still trying to find an identity amidst the multitude of limp efforts by various dancehall artists. As of right now, I am convinced that Sean Paul is dancehall; he represents everything that is attractive about it and ignores everything that is not. Seans music might be leaning too close to pop and hip-hop for real dancehall aficionados to appreciate but this man simply brings his own flava. His debut album, Stage One, established Sean Paul as the one to watch in the dancehall industry with his unique sounds that seem to effortlessly blend genres. The sophomore release, Dutty Rock, perhaps the most anticipated dancehall album of all time, does not bend to mainstream; instead, the mainstream has bent to the album, assuring that wherever Sean decides to go with his music, the dancehall genre will follow.
1: Dutty Rock Intro 2:24 (****)
2: Shout 3:44 (*****)
3: Gimme the Light 3:46 (*****)
4: Like Glue 3:54 (*****)
5: Get Busy 3:32 (****)
6: Top of the Game feat. Rahzel 4:04 (*****)
7: Police Skit 1:56 (****)
8: Ganja Breed feat. Chico 3:15 (***)
9: Concrete 3:55 (****)
10: Im Still in Love with You feat. Sasha 4:33 (*****)
11: International Affair feat. Debbie Nova 3:49 (*****)
12: Can You Do the Work feat. CeCile 3:24 (****)
13: Punkie 3:34 (****)
14: My Name 3:40 (***)
15: Jukin Punny 2:02 (****)
16: Uptown Haters Skit 1:24 (****)
17: Gimme the Light (Dro-Voisier remix) feat. Busta Rhymes 3:20 (*****)
18: Bubble feat. Farenheit 3:47 (****)
19: Shake that Thing 3:54 (****)
20: Esa Loca feat. Tony Touch & R.O.B.B. 3:47 (***)
21: Its On 3:38 (****)
22: Punkie (Espanol) 3:35 (*****)
Basically, to people like me, there are only three things that are important in this world and they all start with W: women, weed, and war. Aside from perhaps TOK of Germaican Records, Sean Paul is the only artist in dancehall that has been able to break into the mainstream promoting only the importance of women and weed, while leaving the undesired violent themes out. Dutty Rock also has none of the bling-bling and dissing that plagues todays hip-hop industry and is simply just about having a good time.
As far as clubbing is concerned, I cannot have a good-time with hip-hop anymore, unless the few DJs that are knowledgeable enough to include classics such as Step into a World, White Lines, and Return of the Mack are spinning. Fortunately, Torontos music scene has felt the full force of a Jamaican/West Indies revolution as dancehall and soca have pretty much pushed hip-hop out of the limelight. I sense things are progressing slower in the United States but the inescapable single Gimme the Light is certainly acting as a harbinger.
The true beauty about Gimme the Light is that it was not made for mainstream pop and yet mainstream pop found it and embraced it to make it, without a doubt, the most played club song of 2002 in Toronto, New York (where Sean is perhaps most popular), and perhaps in all cities across North America as well. And the true beauty about Dutty Rock is that almost every song on it is as intoxicating and infectious as Gimme the Light, yet they vary tremendously in style as well. Just about every song on Dutty Rock is ready for playing at a club without need for remixing, but the one remix on this album is pretty hype nonetheless. Even the two skits are entertaining, the first is trite until a hilarious ending and the second is just silly throughout.
Sean Paul, also with Portugese and Chinese blood to engender that coppery complexion, chooses to dedicate Dutty Rock to his Kingston and his Jamaica, which is the dancehall center of the world. Still, this album is a lot more accessible internationally than many other dancehall albums, in part, because of Seans very varied background. The main language on Dutty Rock is still Jamaican Patoi and that means many people will have trouble understanding the lyrics and Sean Pauls lightning delivery does not help. But you do not have to understand anything sung on Dutty Rock as long as you understand one thing: dance. After all, its called dancehall.
Ladies, weed, and dancing are basically the only topics of concern in the album, and the lyrics, if you can understand them, are about the brutally honest things men are about when smoking up at the clubs: Well I dont really care what people say / I dont really watch what them wan do / Still I got to stick to my girls like glue / And I man nah play number 2 / All I know the time it is getting dread / Need a lot o trees up in my head / Get a lot o damsel in my bed / To run that ree-ed That was the hook from what I feel is the best club hit on Dutty Rock, Like Glue, and it uses the same riddim (beat) as TOKs vastly popular Money to Burn.
Sean Paul also does a few collaborations with hip-hop artists on Dutty Rock and one song I feel hip-hop heads can instantly appreciate is Top of the Game, which features the most talented human beat-box on this planet in Rahzel. The track has a bouncy beat that feels like a mix between Gimme the Light and some of the better ones from modern hip-hops generally awful collection. International Affair is my second favorite track on this hit-laden album and features samples from I Know You Got Soul (Eric B & Rakim) and Up Town Top Rankin (Althea & Donna). Perhaps no other track demonstrates Sean Pauls versatility than this as hip-hop, dancehall, R&B, and pop are all mixed into an irresistible, bubbly brew.
Later on in the album, tracks stray further from dancehall music and into the realm of hip-hop. The Gimme the Light remix featuring Busta Rhymes isnt as good as the original although its amusing hearing Busta try to imitate Seans style. Bubble makes you ask, What recently-released album doesnt have production by the Neptunes? But this one actually works. The only track damaged by hip-hop is "Esa Loca", where Sean Pauls and Tony Touchs vocals fail to mix into a cohesive track.
Dutty Rock also has a few songs that lean toward dancehalls reggae roots. I just love respectful resurrections of classics (screw you, Jigga and your '03 Bonnie and Clyde) and one of my favorites has got to be Im Still in Love with You, a bow to the Alton Ellis ballad. Well Im a hustler and a player / And you know Im not a stayer / Thats the way I give my love. / Say girly try to understand / That a man is just a man / Thats the dutty dutty love. Meanwhile, Sasha is singing, Im still in love with you boy. I know some ladies who abhor these kinds of lyrics although I certainly cannot see why. I mean, theyre honest.
Dutty Rock ends perfectly and softly with the Spanish version of Punkie (the English version plays earlier) and it actually sounds better in Spanish. The romance of the song really comes out when you cannot understand a single line and it really proves that good music is universal. Sexy ladies that love to dance ought to be universal and this is an album that is, more than anything, dedicated to them. It may not be as proper as NSync but, trust me, this is the kind of stuff that will be taking over clubs all around the world the next few years.