Elephant Man

Let's Get Physical

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    8
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The crimson-crowned Elephant Man represents a school of dancehall music that's so filled with Jamaican slang, so rough and raucous, and in many ways, so insider that his R&B or hip-hop crossover potential is limited. Give him a guest shot on your urban cut and he's a benefit, but it's only a matter of time before the man they call "Energy God" is going to need room to go supernova and into that chaotic dancehall style that makes him such a big star in his island homeland. Being that it's his first full-length for Sean "Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy label, Let's Get Physical could have been a diluted, overly manufactured album filled with dishonest attempts to get Elephant on urban radio. A credit to all parties involved, it isn't that at all. Chalk it up to Diddy's diverse taste -- his respect for Elephant seems as genuine as his fascination with Felix da Housecat and other left-field house music -- or chalk it up to the recent major-label shifting that allowed for Bad Boy and the veteran dancehall label VP to both be under the Warner Bros. umbrella. Let's Get Physical carries both labels' logos and freely strolls from polished duets with Chris Brown ("Feel the Steam") to mile-a-minute dancehall with no concessions for the weak hearted ("Drop Dead" or the JA hit "Gully Creep" which appears at the end of the album as a hidden track). The album kills when it skillfully mixes these two worlds, like when producer Swizz Beats releases an avalanche of gangsta drums and synths on a particularly over-the-top Elephant making "Jump" the unexpected edgy highlight of the album. With its infectious "Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!" hook and bold boasting from all involved, "Five-O" with Diddy and Wyclef is the more smoothed out but just as successful marrying of urban and reggae tones. The wicked live bass/live drums construction DJ Willie Daniels lays on the cut is a welcome sound when surrounded by so much synthetic ragga, while reggae singer DeMarco's guest shot on "Our World" further diversifies, offering an island flavor that hasn't yet crossed-over like the work of the album's other tropical guests, Rihanna and Shaggy. The only complaint to be made is that the album is definitely front-loaded -- leaving the second half to deal with all the B and B+ material. A little shuffling leaves the listener with a grand exercise in global dancehall blending and one of the most satisfying full-lengths in Elephant Man's sprawling catalog.

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