Various Artists

Urban Beat Reggae: Dancehall Massive Culture

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An interesting thing has happened since the first Urban Beat Reggae collection was released in 1996: cutting-edge dancehall has stopped taking most of its cues from thug rap and started taking them from smooth R&B. There are some hard beats here, to be sure -- Richie Spice's "Galang Yah Gal" bounces and jitters atop a spare, grunting breakbeat and a wheezy organ sample, and Baby Wayne delivers a similar hardcore performance on "Low Mi Gwaan." But the smoothly soulful "Ladies Man," a combination track featuring Spanner Banner and Sean Paul, is much more typical, as are Richie Spice's swinging "My Love" and a fine new mix of Everton Blender's easy-skanking "Slick Me Slick." There are some weak tracks here -- listeners really didn't need yet another take on Dawn Penn's "You Don't Love Me (No No No)," and it's a little sad to see Everton Blender and Beenie Man issuing a heartfelt condemnation of dancehall vulgarity two tracks after Spanner Banner and Lady Saw finish teaching a master class in slackness -- but on balance this is a perfectly serviceable collection of modern dancehall reggae. Recommended.

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