Reggae Youngbloods Preach Dancefloor Apocalypse

The eight would-be reggae dancehall dominators showcased on this CD/DVD combo (featuring videos and a documentary) know they'll either catch a star or slip back into grinding poverty—meaningful originality can misfire, so they bank on familiar posturing and catchphrases like Mavado's "Anywaaaaay" or Busy Signal's consonant-rolling shtick. But sometimes you gotta be there. The CD's patwah lyrics may be impenetrable to non-Jamaicans, but the doc's images of studio freestyling, night-long "passa-passa" street dances, and concerts set against a cityscape of sun-scorched concrete—with no palm trees or golden sand in sight—hurl you straight into the music that informs Kingston JA's restless, gritty soul. Dancehall Draft Picksmakes it vividly clear: If these are indeed the latter days prophesized by reggae's granddaddies, youngbloods are going down dancing. This dancehall is about stripped-down, got-to-ride-it riddims, and these mic chanters, no matter what philosophy they believe they're spitting, are urging you to win' yuh waist, cock yuh batty, and forget yuh trouble.

Alozade's sonorous bounce and Tony Matterhorn's wicked wit do play persuasively off the dancefloor, and Ward 21, who are already proven hitmakers, may not belong in an up-and-comers collection. Mavado, too, is appealingly tough, but whenever Bounty Killer is on camera, the energy soars, inadvertently undermining his protégé's creds and underscoring the point that those who came before still swing a heavier axe.

 
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