When it comes to singles, most dancehall artists employ a sperm-to-egg strategy: Release a horde and hope one sticks. An exception to this rule is Kingston-born DJ Baby Cham, whose quality-over-quantity approach makes his comparatively sparse singles stand out—especially when they’re as flawless as “Ghetto Story,” the Billboard-charting title track to his sophomore album. Over the “85” riddim—named for the dancehall era it evokes—Cham’s baritone bravado crackles with emotion as he delivers a growing-up story about Kingston bad boys, concluding with lines that lift the track beyond the tawdry realm of gangsta glorification: “Jamaica get screwed through greed and glutton,” he laments.
It’s the album’s only track to hit such heights, but it’s the only one that tries—Cham specializes in pussy, not politics. On “Vitamin S,” “Tic Toc,” and “Bring It On,” his hip-hop-flavored flow—slow and deliberate enough to please the patois-challenged —
is hypnotic: Bawdy boasts are heaped atop pared-down riddims, and Cham intones each line as if trumping the last. Despite an overreliance on tepid r&b hooks (including one by Rihanna on “Boom Boom”), this album, produced by Jamaican hitmaker Dave Kelly, makes you wonder: Can there be a “next Sean Paul” while we’re still enjoying the first one?