Art and Life appear to be fraternal twins. Ever consider how interwoven art and life are? And how each continues to mutate and re-emerge as generations whisk by? History will one day reaffirm Hip-Hop as the only true descendant of Jazz by its prevailing influence on the creative arts and its spot-on reflection of culture and modern life. A testament to this fact lies in the energy of hip-hop’s vocal delivery, the way its percussive flowing rhythm has given the genre its indelible stamp much like the way scatting manifested itself within jazz. Integrate this with a bold voice who hails from the land of spiritual freedom and a brash musical expedition unfolds.Jamaican DJ Beenie Man
(born Anthony Moses David) is this voice. He has been performing since age five, releasing an internationally successful album The Incredible Ten-Year-Old Wonder
, at you guessed it, age ten and over the course of the last sixteen years, has placed his rapid-fire Rasta ragga raps over everything from dancehall and hip-hop to salsa and country. This hodge podge of influences and styles stretches towards new levels on Beenie’s latest offering Art and Life
which continues to confirm his growing stature as one of the reigning superstars of contemporary reggae.
The production on Art’s seventeen tracks is slick and steep allowing funk driven hip-hop grooves and traditional dancehall riddims to power songs such as “Analyze This” and “Trus Me”. This rhythmic propulsion also lays a bed for beautiful harmonies to bloom on “Haters and Fools” but it is the album’s special guests that propels Art and Life to the next level. A pair of new school Divas lend their talents as the kaleidoscopicKelisshowcases on the chorus of “Jamaica Way” while red-hotMyalends her smooth-as-silk grace to “Girls Dem Sugar”. Elsewhere Steve Perry of theCherry Poppin’ Daddiesslides in a taste of ska as Beenie rhymes “Mamacita, Hey mama, mama...we can go and smoke the Ba-hama”. This smoke, in turn, signals a fire as Cuban trumpet legendArturo Sandovalleads a Calypso party line on “Tumble (La Caida)”. Indeed, Art and Life covers a vast array of sounds but when I hear “I’ve Got A Date” mixing in theStaples Singers“I’ll Take You There” bass line, I wonder for a brief moment what else this classic melody could be used to sell...maybe national ads for www.match.com (I want a commission)?
Aside from this wandering thought, Art and Life’s universally empowering message is, at times, surrounded by ultra bright moments of can't-get-it-out-of-your-head pop as the first single “Love Me Now (or hate me more)” and its infectious chorus is featured in two versions, both of which are fueled by a sample ofNaughty By Nature’s“O.P.P.”. The first version, lathered deep in funk, featuresWyclef Jean (Fugees)and rapperRedman. Conversely, the second has more of a propulsive DJ inspired beat and ultimately segues in to theCivil Rights Anthem“We Shall Overcome” which reminds one of the powers of music.
Music may be the world’s greatest medium and a single man named Beenie (which means small in Jamaican pat wah ) finds himself in the rather tall position of becoming a modern day prophet by sharing his art and life. It’s incredibly inspiring to acknowledge that a singular voice can find its way into so many minds and lives. And when art actualizes this power, beauty baths the soul, energizes the mind and enriches one’s life. Zim Zimma...Jah Mon!
Rating 4 out of 5 stars
Track listing:Haters and Fools / Ola (featuring Steve Perry of The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies) / Love Me Now – Rockwilder Remix (featuring Wyclef and Redman) / Girls Dem Sugar (featuring Mya) / Crazy Notion / Original Tune / Jamaica Way (featuring Kelis) / Love Me Now (featuring Wyclef) / Art and Life / Analyze This / Heights of Great Men / 9 to 5 / Trus Me / Tumble – La Caida (featuring Arturo Sandoval) / Some Tonight (featuring Tanto Metro & Devonte / The Best That I Got / I’ve Got A Date