Beenie Man

Tropical Storm

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The latest from dancehall superstar Beenie Man is a complex and rewarding exploration of the many musical and lyrical themes that tie contemporary reggae and hip-hop together, from the increasingly similar beats to the rudeboy/gangsta continuum that has been a feature of reggae since the 1960s and of hip-hop since the 1980s. Dancehall "slackness" (i.e., sexually explicit lyrics) has its modern counterpart in hip-hop as well, as Beenie Man's duet performances with Lil' Kim and Lady Saw here demonstrate. Some of the most powerful tracks on Tropical Storm find Beenie Man chatting over rhythms provided by the Neptunes, who support him with arrangements that are both warm and aggressive; the effect is especially nice on "Feel It Boy," a sweetly romantic duet with Janet Jackson. Beenie Man does occasionally come across as a bit too eager to establish his bad-boy credentials -- too many of these songs find him repeatedly insisting on his gangsta status. It may be true that "real gangstas don't play" (as he says, over and over, on "Real Gangsta"), but they also don't waste a lot of breath saying "I'm a gangsta I'm a gangsta." Overall, though, this is an album sure to please Beenie Man's growing legion of American fans.

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