"Salad bowl"? Come on. Anyone who believes cultures can rub elbows and stay distinct hasn't been listening to the melting pot that is reggae lately.
I mean, check out Red I, a blond-dreaded Bay Area cat bringing fiery dancehall in Spanish -- what?! But Unidad, his crisply produced debut CD, is as hot as his mic-shredding local performances.
And then there are the popular mash-up and remix EPs that have dancehall and rap swapping spit. Massive Jointz #4 sets Busta and Mariah's "I Know What You Want" to a thumping ragga riddim. Elsewhere, on a Hip Hop Dubz twelve-inch, Bounty Killer's "Just Dead" lyrics ride the Neptunes' "What Happened to That Boy" beat. It's all charming dancefloor fodder, playful and disposable.
But for evidence that crossover territory is actually vast and grand, peep Soul Jazz Records' Nice Up the Dance, which alternates hip-hop remixes of crossover standards like Dawn Penn's "No, No, No" with current dark hybrids like Ward 21's "Petrol." The latter is also available on Ward 21's rugged, essential new LP, You Know How We Roll.
Among emerging singers, you might be interested in Wayne Marshall's debut, Marshall Law (VP). It's almost a shame the young'un can sing so well, since his mid-tempo dancehall, which lifts hip-hop melodies for songs about weed and sex, is so uniformly shallow.
Also in the "you ignored him here first" category, Greensleeves' 20 Cent riddim comp, on which vocalists share a peppy electronic beat, is most notable for the solo debut of Daville, an R&B-style crooner fresh out of "harmonizing group" (read: boy band) ARP.
And finally, on the German reggae/rock tip, the Meteorites' Dub the Mighty Dragon (Rise Robots Rise) offers sing-along jams that innovate as much as they imitate. It may be a touch white-bread, but so much the better for mopping up this diverse stew. Like we said, there ain't a salad in sight!
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