T.O.K.

My Crew, My Dawgs

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There's no doubt that the members of T.O.K. spent a lot of their formative years watching MTV, and from it they took in a lot of R&B and hip-hop. Adding that to dancehall, they've produced one of the most effective (and commercial) crossovers yet to emerge, a fairly seamless blend. "Money 2 Burn," for example, draws from mid-period Prince as well as East Coast hip-hop and Shaggy for a glorious weekend anthem, while "The Way U Do the Thing U Do" takes them back to their a capella roots -- albeit in slightly ragged fashion -- on the Smokey Robinson classic. But while this album covers a number of their big Jamaican hits, including "Eagles Cry" (Prince's influence again), "You Ah Murder," and "Man Ah Bad Man," they all pale when stood next to "Chi-Chi Man," the biggest Jamaican hit of 2000 and 2001. While its inspiration comes from a Christmas carol ("Do You Hear What I Hear?"), the scope and presentation are almost operatic, with a suitably spacious production to do justice to the idea. But this is a band with plenty of ambition who has barely started. They can sing (check "I Believe"), they can rap, and they've got the dancehall presence. This could be the beginning of real U.S. success. Watch out for the great version of "Somebody's Watching Me" as hidden bonus track, with fun '80s vocoder effects.

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