Sean Kingston

Back 2 Life

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Previewed by the Soul II Soul-sampling single "Back 2 Life (Live It Up)" featuring T.I., plus the cool and slow "Beat It" with special guests Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa, Sean Kingston's third album is a slick, wide-reaching affair with production coming from the likes of J.R. Rotem, Nic Nac, and RedOne. Besides the names above, the guest list reads like an all-star roster with 2 Chainz, Wale, Busta Rhymes, and Yo Gotti all lending a hand, but it's the mature Kingston who is in control and going it alone on the more sweet and sincere highlights. Borrowing the melody from Duran Duran's "Ordinary World," the great love song "Ordinary Girl" falls easily into this category, as does the light stepper "Save One for Me," which shrugs off a bad breakup and then offers nothing but uptempo beats and uplifted spirits. The infectious electro singalong "Smoke Signals" leads the pack when it comes to club cuts, while the runner-up, "How We Survive," opens with the classic dancehall riddim known as Sleng Teng before taking an EDM swerve, then an even more exciting Busta Rhymes turn. Interesting that the 2 Chainz cut isn't an over the top party monster but a hypnotic and slow bit of synth pop, but the biggest surprise might be the grown-up mouth on the previously clean Kingston, as cool curses and racial epithets fly effortlessly, all of them earning that Parental Advisory on the album's cover. Still, he's an adult now, as evidenced by the way he balances his brainless and fun hits with brainy and inventive album cuts, and with the added benefit of keeping things tight and filler-free at 11 tracks, Back 2 Life is Kingston's best album to date.

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