Sugar Minott

Ghetto Child

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This time accompanied by the Abbashante Band, Sugar Minott self-produces yet another entertainingly varied album, as always bouncing between the twin poles of social commentary and lovers themes. Having recently released a pair of rootsy records featuring Sly & Robbie, Ghetto Child is inevitably lighter in feel, less dread in approach. Numbers like "This Is Reggae," although dancehall in style, hark back to reggae's early fun-filled years, before the somber rastas descended in large numbers to fill the genre with their melancholy melodies. Even a song like "Danger Zone," a searing look at ghetto life, has an exuberance fed by a funky arrangement and punctuated by the brassy horns, while the title track is no sufferer's lament, but a proud boast of defiance, splattered by the ragga beats and scathing synth (Minott has obviously learned from the mistakes of African Soldier). In fact, regardless of the lyrical theme, musically the album remains bubbly, upbeat, and in some cases (notably "Material World") outright happy. It may be a material world, and Minott a child of the ghetto, but that doesn't mean life offers no joy. Especially as there are women to woo, but nowadays the DJ is playing it "Cool and Easy," mostly eschewing caressing lovers rock for a bright, brasher dancefloor style. Less soulful slow dancing, more flirty and fast stepping. The album leans heavily toward an urban contemporary sound, but never entirely uproots itself from its island home and, when Minott returns to a purer Jamaican sound, as on the dancehall of "Nowadays Girl" and "Blessed Be the Tithes," they're all the more welcome for it. The CD features nine bonus tracks, entertaining dubs of the entire album, bar "Blessed Be the Tithes."

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