K-Salaam and Beatnick

Hip-hop and reggae, though closely related, often have a precarious dynamic when brought together on wax. What should be an organic formula typically comes off as forced, clichéd, or just plain bad. But thanks to an Iranian-American DJ/producer from Minnesota, the two genres finally achieve coexistent harmony. Meet K-Salaam and his skilled partner, Beatnick, who have assembled an all-star cast of 21 like-minded heavyweight hip-hop and reggae artists on their engaging new release Whose World Is This? The ambitious project is a seamless blend of crisp beats and riddims (produced entirely by the duo) that flourish under politically charged lyrics dedicated to "all people who have had their land stolen from them, from New Orleans to Palestine." Excellent from start to finish, the strength of Whose World Is This? is bolstered in particular by the lead single, "Street Life," which relies on Buju Banton's gruff delivery and airy vocals from Trey Songz. Luciano's voice soars over a hard bass line on the rootsy banger "What Are We Fighting For?" The surprise pick has to be "Babylon (Must Be Mad)," featuring Sizzla, a classic Barrington Levy sample, and recently banished G-Unit hippie Young Buck, who delivers a solid verse among impressive company. The album comes full circle on the last cut with the ever-talented Suheir Hammad dropping a spoken-word poem about dispossession, "Refugees," over K-Salaam's gem of a final beat. Although its musical and emotional continuity are impressive enough, the disc at its most basic level is one hell of a summer soundtrack.

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