Mental Maintenance

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Like so many reggae singers before him, singjay Konshens is able to combine true talk and a velvety voice for maximum effect, but he's also a firm member of the new school with Wyclef-sized ambitions and the genre-spanning attitude of Chino and the Marley children Damian and Stephen. Here, the traditional reggae-flavored opener "World Citizen" is righteous and roots without being Rasta, while the following "Represent" is as polished as a radio-aimed R&B single. Both stay on message and both stick in the head, and as the album winds through the boom-clap sound of Tarrus Riley ("Rasta Imposter"), some wistful memories of when music meant everything ("Pop in My Headphones"), and an Akon-styled declaration of self ("The Realist"), Konshens remains in control, giving up tunes that are memorable and coming up with a style that's everything he loves but filtered through his smooth croon and undying hope for a better tomorrow. With 17 tracks and no fat to trim, Mental Maintenance is a forward-thinking, past-respecting triumph.

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