Panjabi MC


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Hip-hop's Alexander the Great-style impact on music from around the world is well-documented; its inexorable beats have plowed a path through sounds of every culture. And on the surface, the debut from Coventry, England's Rajinder Rai, aka Panjabi MC, seems to offer that same imbalance, thanks in large part to its Jay-Z cameo on the massive club single "Beware of the Boys." But once you get past the Western window-dressing (and Jay-Z's presence, despite the undeniable electricity and commercial clout it adds, isn't much more than that -- his verses, which ricochet from sexed-up snake-charming stereotypes to weak antiwar whine, certainly aren't among his most memorable), you discover that it's the droning groove of bhangra, not the block-rockin' beats, supplying this project its juice. Which means that the less overt mash-ups, like "Yaaran Kollon Sikh Kuriye" and "Jogi," carry a foreign intrigue even greater than Beware's huge hit. On those songs and others, it's the familiar rhymes and rhythms that are made to fit into an alien framework of wails and chants, instead of the other way around. As an authentic antidote to hip-hop's superficial Indian infatuation, Beware is most welcome; what it augurs for future musical meetings between East and West makes it most important as well.

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