Richie Spice

In the Streets to Africa

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Richie Spice is no innovator, but he's undeniably a master of a certain variety of modern roots reggae -- the kind that blends old-school rhythms with modern technology and flirts with dancehall sounds while keeping the lyrical messages devout and socially conscious. Of course, at times the Rastafarian version of social consciousness can sound an awful lot like retrograde conservatism to Babylonian ears (notice that Spice's highest praise for womanhood is reserved for those who "know how to stitch and know how to hem"). Still, listeners can probably all agree that praising a woman for her domestic skills is better than bragging about how many people he's shot, and he does have other lyrical themes as well -- not to mention some heavyweight rhythms to work with, courtesy of producers like Devon Wheatley and Clive Hunt. Highlights include the brilliant sufferer's anthem "Youth Dem Cold," a very fine duo performance that features the late Joseph Hill (of Culture), and the sweet and simple "Take It Easy." Less inspiring are the strangely desultory "Get Up," which opens the album, and the generic nyahbinghi repatriation anthem that ends it.

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