In Gambia

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Sizzla's journeys to Africa yield controversies -- buddying up with political leaders that have questionable pasts, presents, or both -- and concept albums. His other 2012 effort, The Chant, dealt with a visit to Zimbabwe while the inspiration for In Gambia is obvious, although some of this album was actually recorded in its namesake with final mixing done in Jamaica by producer Karim Thompson. The results are effervescent lyrics about the country's beauty, its struggle, its possibilities, and its people, especially the women, who get both respectful treatment ("Woman of Creation") and the more Beenie Man approach (don't tell the Bobo Dread, but "Gambian Girls" might be the first strip club-worthy track from Sizzla, and you wouldn't be surprised if Pitbull showed up on the remix). Musically, the album is hip-hop-aware and wonderfully R&B-flavored at times as Thompson experiments with an interesting soundscape that's one drop by way of Wyclef, augmented with interesting touches like a furious flamenco guitar on "Make a Visit." Bible talk and pro-creation ("Every man find a woman/Every woman find a man" sounds like a stern order on "Nothing Can Wrong") remain in play and that love-it-or-hate-it delivery remains a gruff chirp, although it's weathering nicely at this point, sounding like a dread version of Billie Holiday when Sizzla reaches for the falsetto. Being so conceptually focused on Gambia keeps this from being at the center of the man's huge discography, but it is still a welcome addition to any ravenous fan's collection.

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