Various Artists

Riddim Ryders, Vol. 1

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Within the course of only a few short years, Jamdown Records quickly established themselves in the U.S. as a savvy label. Their late-'90s dancehall collections featured arguably the best the genre had to offer and the Jamaican label went to considerable lengths to cross over into the U.S. pop market. With each successive release, Jamdown proved a market clearly existed for hook-laden dancehall. Then, once Shaggy topped the pop charts in 2001 with his Americanized dancehall, Jamdown sought to capitalize on America's sudden interest in dancehall -- Riddim Ryders, Vol. 1 is the result of their efforts. Inflected by dance-pop's catchy choruses and, perhaps even to a further degree, by hip-hop's sex-obsessed party themes, the dancehall featured on this compilation has obviously been formatted for U.S. audiences. In fact, the album features short interludes where various characters that represent the prevalent demographic groups in the U.S. call into a fictitious radio station and request songs -- it's yet another savvy attempt by Jamdown to make this album consumer-friendly. But while it's easy to call out Jamdown for marketing a watered-down product -- and many dancehall purists surely will -- it's difficult to deny the allure of the music featured on Riddim Ryders, Vol. 1. Even if all the artists sound a bit similar as a result of the music's formulaic nature, it's a winning formula: club-ready rhythms, singalong hooks, saccharine melodies, bad-boy posturing, and a ceaseless amount of upbeat energy. It's a bit futile to single out standout songs because of the album's welcomed consistency -- it's probably easier to pick out the small few songs that falter. In the end, this collection should appeal to anyone with even the slightest interest in dancehall, though diehards and purists will probably find this too exploitative and commercialized. As a bonus, Jamdown also includes a second disc that features all of the songs segued together in a continuous mix, a nice addition that's more suited to party situations.

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