Benjamin Zephaniah is better known in the English-speaking world for his books of poetry and children's fiction, but his latest musical release, Naked, should help in bringing his immense ability as a spoken word artist greater appreciation and recognition. Naked is a profoundly moving work, with Zephaniah's intense, provocative poems set over dub-inspired trip-hop beats. Zephaniah is, as the title suggests, not trying to hide or even disguise his message ("naked" is repeated over and over again as a type of hook in the title song as the poet discusses the important truths that come with nudity), but since he is also talented and intelligent, he is able to imbue more universal, and often subversive, meaning into his words (the desolate "Homesick," for example, about a man who, as a literal prisoner of the state, represents all suffering that occurs from governmental oppression, or "Rong Radio," a passionate and direct attack on capitalism and media). Zephaniah strives to inform others of the situations in which they exist and to take responsibility for and control over their own lives. He writes and speaks in both standard British and Jamaican English ("There's something about the way that/People die when you can't see them" and "Yu can't blame all yu sins on de ghetto"), reflecting his bi-national cultural identity and his refusal to only stick to one group's definition of what is linguistically "correct." Zephaniah isn't trying to attack individuals -- his focus is on the system, and he's concerned and angry about the state of the world and wants to try to break the veil of consumerism and globalization that has clouded the vision of its members. Producer extraordinaire Trevor Morais is careful to compose music that emphasizes and strengthens the poet's lyrics without making anything sound contrived, working his beats around the various delivery techniques that Zephaniah employs. The entire effect of the dark trip-hop, layered cleanly with guitars, synths, percussion, and saxophones that build up and break down in accordance to the specific tone of each song, is gripping. And added to the power of his words, the message is impossible to ignore.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown