I-Wayne

Lava Ground

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The tide of taste in Jamaica is finally beginning to turn away from hard, hip-hop-derived beats and violent, slack lyrics and toward rootsier and more organic rhythms. The timing couldn't have been better for the young I Wayne, whose voice is one of the sweetest, most natural-sounding instruments to appear on the reggae scene since Johnny Clarke was recording for Bunny Lee, and whose preoccupations are the same as those that informed the best music of the roots era: the divinity of Haile Selassie, the wickedness of Babylon, the perfidy of women. (Those themes don't always lead to edifying lyrics, but they do tend to inspire deeply satisfying grooves.) His debut album is a well-balanced collection of neo-roots anthems that deal with the reality of Rastafari and the dangers of technology ("Rastafari Liveth"), the superiority of natural living ("More Life"), the dire future of Babylon ("Keep Burning Rome"), and the fact that women should not be prostitutes and should do whatever he tells them to ("Ready Fe Live Up"). As is usually the case with roots reggae, especially of the last few years, the thin line between righteousness and self-righteousness is blurred and sometimes even eradicated, to irritating effect. But man, those grooves.

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