Various Artists

Strictly the Best, Vol. 27

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As the essential compilation of the year's best dancehall, it appears that the Strictly the Best series is unbeatable. This 27th edition provides all the sizzle and rough beats that fans have come to expect. From the opening track, "Mystery Is the Man," a viciously hot riddim by Bounty Killer, the tone is set for dancehall's most hardcore tunes. And the album delivers, from "Warrior Cause," a sizzling duet by Spragga Benz and Elephant Man, to Arrow, another hot offering by Bounty Killer. Unfortunately, increasingly violent, anti-gay lyrics are also hot, and Elephant Man's "Log On" demonstrates this with clarity: "log on/and step on chi chi man/ah no say you ah dicky man." Ironically, the CD's standout song is a classic call for equal rights and justice. Anthony B delivers an uncannily sound-alike cover of Peter Tosh's "Equal Rights." Focusing on the world's unstable political climate, the tune offers common sense advice: "everyone is crying out for peace yes/none is crying out for justice/but there will be no peace/without equal rights and justice."

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