Various Artists

The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems 1999

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For those readers who don't run their own dancehalls, nor have the money to purchase all the hits streaming from them, this two-CD compilation pulls together everything one could want and then some. Stuffed with 40 hits from the biggest names in the scene cut with the hottest producers, this set more than lives up to its title. Outside Jamaica, there's no one who knows dancehall better than Greensleeves, and some of the top talent are signed to this label. Obviously their hits are all featured here -- Shaggy, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Buccaneer, Red Rat, Mr. Vegas, Goofy, Sizzla, and Bushman included. But this is not a label showcase, and the compilation also includes cuts from Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton, a clutch from Capleton, Spragga Benz, General Degree, Zebra, and even veteran Burro Banton. The album careens across the toughest rhythms and the most innovative sounds and intriguing hybrids to have hit the dancefloors. One of the most stunning is Buccaneer's "Bruk Out," which tosses in a searing guitar solo ripped straight out of the music scene. It's a nice touch by producer Danny Brownie, who utilizes a similar rhythm for Red Rat's "Bruk Mi Ducks." Buju Banton's snide "Fake Smile" is delivered up to a roots rhythm, heavily indebted to the Wailers, while King Jammy unearths a lovely rocksteady rhythm for a Bushman cut. There's a number of tracks that cross over into hip-hop, notably Ward 21's "Judgement Day." Capleton's "Never Get Down" slips briefly into house, while Steely & Clevie cross over into another dimension entirely to create the rhythm for Zebra's "You See Me," on which the opera singer is the least bizarre element. An opera singer surprisingly doesn't feature on Chico's "Pavarotti," but there's definitely a taste of the Mediterranean to be found within. Steely & Clevie's imprint can be found all over this set, and their productions never cease to amaze. Danny Brownie is also heavily represented, while cuts from Q45, 321 Strong, Opera House, Bobby Digital, and Philip Burrell are among the other cutting-edge producers found within. A compilation that for once lives up to its boastful title.

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