With over a decade of work behind him, things finally fall into place for Kardinal Offishall on Not 4 Sale, an entirely solid album that sounds like the Black Eyed Peas gone grimey or Wyclef Jean getting down and dirty, all with a Ludacris-styled delivery and attitude. As the Canadian -- "If you're looking for me/I'm 3 hours from Michigan" -- rapper, producer, and dancehall ambassador's first effort for Akon's Kon Live label, it benefits from the fat wallet that comes with it, making great use of its platinum guest list while letting the idea-filled Kardinal run wild in a millionaire recording studio. In 2008 it doesn't come much bigger than Rihanna but "Numba 1" doesn't surround the diva with the usual slickness and polish. Instead, it's an aggressive, tribal interpolation of the reggae classic "The Tide Is High" with authentic dancehall production from Black Chiney member Supa Dups. The witty Kardinal holds his own on the cut, proving himself worthy of standing next to both superstars and tastemakers, but he really shines on another interpolation, "Ill Eagle Alien" where the lines "Call me the immigrant translator/or the poor people's permanent position vindicator" are dropped over a hazy redo of Sting's "Englishman in New York." The Wyclef-styled awareness continues with the great "I'd rather have a real home sittin' on an acre/then owin' about hundred grand to my jewelry maker." This freedom fighting and socially conscious writing is tempered with hooky club tracks that never fail -- "Dangerous" with the label boss being the obvious choice -- along with cuts that are in touch with the hip-hop or neo-soul underground like "Set It Off" featuring the Clipse and the cool "Digital Motown" with J-Davey and producer Jake One. The man's Jamaican parents are honored with the wonderful Slim Smith sample on "Nina," goose bumps form when Estelle joins the plaintive "Due Me a Favour," and the interludes that are tacked onto the end of some tracks are either hilarious or poetic. How it was released at the end of a summer when it should have kicked it off is anyone's guess, but this instantly gripping, Island-flavored success works under all conditions and has the depth to still be rewarding whenever the next summer rolls around.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
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