Reggae Gangsta Gets Flippant (and Litigious)


“If I get lucky/Maybe I’ll make it to 40,” slurs Jamaican rough rider Tanya Stephens. According to the soft-rocking “Cherry Brandy” (quite possibly another “Red, Red Wine”), the world always looks better after putting down a few. But through the skanking one-drops, straight pop hooks, doo-wops, folky dirges, and ripped ragga riddims, one thing remains clear: This woman’s music is fully formed. And so is her message—when it comes to Jah, Stephens (who’s suing Lil’ Kim for allegedly plagiarizing one of her songs) cuts through all the holy, self-righteous bullshit tainting the lyrics of some roots music with one flippant shot on her Nyahbinghi chant “Keep Looking Up”: “Why don’t you look around you?” And in a contralto as low as T-Boz’s, she pleads like a ma on lead single “These Streets” yet spars like a reloaded gangsta bitch on the rockabilly “Spilt Milk,” matter-of-facting a lover who betrayed her: “Me find a better wood/The forest full up with tree.”