Soca is elastic enough to incorporate rap and hip-hop vocals via artists grounded in the calypso tradition like David Rudder. But rapso, short for rap-soca, takes hip-hop and rap as the chief influence to blend into Trinidad's main musical style with early leader Brother Resistance rhyming Afro-centric lyrics and 3 Canal probably rating as the leading young group. But the hip-hop influence doesn't stop with the U.S. model -- the broader one for rapso youth includes the pan-Caribbean variants, with Jamaican dancehall most prominent. It's no accident the opening "Overture: Millennium Coming" and spare but hard push of "Enter the Dragon (Y2K Stylee)" sound like the brand of operatic dancehall Bounty Killer made a mark with. The lyrical thrust is very much forged by Rasta but more along developing consciousness lines like the buoyant "Mind Yuh Business" than overt politics. "Cut & Clear" develops strong momentum with melodica working over an effective groove before dropping a lyric quote from Bob Marley's "Heathen" for the finale. But there's plenty of variety in the up-tempo groove of "Revolution '99" to the celebratory release prompted by Trinidad carnival ("Irie Tempo") and music ("Yuh Feeling It?"). The sitar solo of "Mantra" reaches out to polarized Trinidad's Indian youth population and leads into a disjointed, too busy "Peace Chant." "Umbayayo" may over-romanticize some in its dreaming of Africa lyrics but sports a sophisticated arrangement with a nice hook and horn lines. The Fire Next Time doesn't impress as any earthshaking revelation to veteran followers of Caribbean sounds, but it's a solid debut by a group looking to keep Trinidad's calypso tradition fresh and contemporary.
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AllMusic Review by Don Snowden