The world became a better place when Beenie Man released "Dude," the steamy rump shaker with a sting in its tail that kicks off the man's return to dancehall, Back to Basics. The 99.9 percent dancehall album makes 2002's star-studded Tropical Storm sound like an overly planned showcase as it trades Janet Jackson and the Neptunes for Jimmy Cheeztrix and Steven "Lenky" Marsden. Sounds like a raw deal if you're all about pop, but when dancehall fans get to hear their hero sounding so comfortable and languid they really couldn't ask for more. You can fault the album for feeling much like a scattershot collection rather than a planned full-length, but forgiving the lack of structure of dancehall albums yields spontaneous rewards when you're dealing with a talent like Beenie. Take the compressed thumper "Dr. Know" -- a wild character that both the Detroit Grand Pubahs and Kool Keith wish they thought of -- or the hypnotic "Grindacologist" with its irresistible "left, right, left, right" hook and Yaz-styled keyboards. The real find is the impromptu acoustic jam "Back Against the Wall," a nearly roots number that's proof Beenie is a reggae genius to all those who can't say anything nice about synthetic ragga. The Timbaland-produced "All Girls Party" is the lone crossover attempt, and while it's topped by the album's Jamaican tracks, its frisky beat gives Beenie plenty of lyrical inspiration. R. Kelly is the only other singer who could deliver "take off your underwear" as convincingly as Beenie does on his excellent "King of the Dancehall" anthem, and when he mimics Yellowman's faux Chinese on "Love All Girls," it's an admirable nod to an obvious influence. Good to see the man moving away from just odes to booty with these little lyrical touches and the deep "Back Against the Wall," but he still nails the naughty numbers like he was born to strut. You really shouldn't be caught in the bedroom without a copy of "Dude," and with Beenie so glad to be home throughout the album, Back to Basics is a keeper.
Back to Basics Review
by David Jeffries
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