Y-Love

This Is Babylon

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In the wake of a Hasidic Jew achieving world-wide fame as a dancehall reggae deejay, it's hard to miss the mirror-image gimmickry aspect of an African-American making a splash on the hip-hop scene as a Hasidic rapper. But it's worth the effort it takes to look past the obvious strangeness and listen carefully to the songs -- even if you're not fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, or Latin (all of them languages in which Y-Love raps on This Is Babylon, not to mention English). Like all good conscious hip-hop, there's just as much energy put into creating slamming beats as into preaching righteous messages. The mood is generally dark and relatively low-key: the slow and squelchy "Keep the Party Divine," the brilliantly reggae-flavored "Mt. Sinai," the darkly eschatological "6000" ("What you gonna be doin' when he shows up?") -- these all combine spiritual exhortation with dancefloor booty-shaking to excellent effect. Shaanan Street joins him for an outstanding tag-team performance on "Check the Technique," and "From Brooklyn to Ramle" features some very fine Hebrew rapping (but the machine-gun sounds are a bit chilling -- what exactly is the point there?). Nothing on the program jumps out as an immediate hit single (though "Mt. Sinai" does come close), but everything achieves a fine balance between darkness and light, faith and funk, warning, and an invitation to dance.

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