Nobody’s disputing Beenie Man’s dancehall crown. Question is, can he find a worthy sparring partner?
Judging from the urgency Beenie Man brings to his new LP Undisputed, you would think he was defending a hotly-contested title, when in fact he seems to be in a weight division all by himself. The album’s intensity must be less battle-fury and more frustration at the lack of a worthy challenger in an era when reggae’s most belligerent sound-clash specialists have traded in sword and shield for dancing shoes. Beenie apparently does not see the lack of hostilities and general party atmosphere as any reason to let his blade get dull--even the sexual banter of the dance-friendly 45 “Hmm Hmm” is packed with such agile, warlike metaphors that if you didn’t listen closely you would think he was running down a post-9/11 conspiracy theory: “All Trump Tower Donald him a build fi ya / Insurgent dem alla kill fi ya / Man alla take Pfizer pill fi ya / Congress a pass all Bill fi ya. “
Not that anybody should come away thinking this LP is a bookish rhymefest. Almost every track on it from the foundation rhythm of the title cut “Undisputed” to the 90s throwback of “Come Again” (not to mention the hi- energy tracks “Heart Attack” and “Chaka Dance”) was, is, or will be a club hit. It’s overall feel combines the unrelenting energy of jump-up dancehall in the style that has recently provided hits for Dingdong and Matterhorn with a vocal dexterity that is miles ahead of their call-and-response dance lessons. This is as true of the tunes produced by chart king Scott Storch as it is of the juggling riddims—Octane, Fort Knox, Chaka Chaka—sprinkled throughout. It may be—and this is saying something--the most cohesive and consistently hype set Beenie has ever released. It’s only real flaw, if you can even call it that, is the extent that the hardcore dancehall anthems outshine the Akon collabo on “Girls” that is the album’s crossover centerpiece. With it’s R&B vibe and mellow “Zom de zom de zom” flow, it is hardly adequate preparation for the lyrical ferocity of Undisputed.
By Edwin Houghton