The Overstanding

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In many ways, The Overstanding is a traditional dancehall -- or at least a traditional Sizzla -- album. Bouncing between revolution ragga and sweet lovers rock and featuring a mix of new and old, this 2006 effort is a lot like the man's early full-lengths in shape and form, but it's on Damon Dash's new label and benefits from the extra money being thrown around. Recent Jamaican hits like "Solid as a Rock" and "Thank You Mama" get re-recordings that fatten the sound, while touches of polish from the hip-hop and R&B world broaden the spectrum, making The Overstanding an easy, yet not fully representative, entry into the world of Sizzla. The uplifting "Break Free" -- a completely different song from the "Break Free" found on 1999's Royal Son of Ethiopia -- is sure to put a smile on the face, while the opening "Take Myself Away" comes at the same issue from the other side as Sizzla looks for freedom in an unforgiving, bleak world. He's believable when writing about all the emotions between these two extremes and his ballads are all satisfying, although newcomers should be warned that the fragile falsetto voice he uses on his love songs is an acquired taste. What's fascinating is that this high-profile, international effort created with the cooperation of Dash -- the man who discovered Kanye West and co-founded the Roc-A-Fella label with Jay-Z -- could have addressed the accusations of homophobia Sizzla has faced and perhaps softened the controversy. It doesn't, and while the spirit of not selling out while walking through Babylon is part of what makes the album so good, this won't take the man off anyone's boycott list. Say what you want to say about Sizzla, and you can say a lot, but The Overstanding is the work of a talented and certain artist with a compelling hunger for worldwide success, just strictly on his terms.

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