Sean Paul | Short Cuts | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Music News

Sean Paul

Sean Paul's success in commercial hip-hop markets doesn't make him a sellout -- yet. His ubiquitous ganja-burner anthem, "Gimme the Light," is genuine dancehall reggae, even if backed by Atlantic's major-label clout. And as with his 2000 debut, Stage One, Paul's sophomore release, Dutty Rock, collects his biggest -- and, therefore, some of dancehall's best -- singles from the previous two years. Still, the combination of this album's international surge with some compromised content repositions Paul from dancehall king to number-one crossover contender.

Unlike most of his artistic peers, the 29-year-old Paul originally chose to make music as a way into street culture rather than a way out. The son of a well-to-do painter, the Portuguese/Chinese/Jamaican artist was a renowned college water-polo player before briefly settling into a banking career. When he first tried his hand at dancehall, his "uptown" roots induced skepticism -- until he quickly scored a hat trick of smash hits. Delivering sexed-up wordplay with a silky voice and robotic flow, he seemed able to pull a fundamental melody from any riddim, like a master sculptor chipping a perfect image from a stone.

Dutty Rock picks up where Stage One left off, with Paul taking solid riddims to the next level but faltering on the great ones. "Can You Do the Work," a bedroom face-off with dancehaller Ce'Cile, thrives on the vocal interplay between the two, but on "Get Busy," the clap-happy Diwali riddim (which was handled better by Elephant Man, among others) overshadows Paul. In fact, his stammered verses and sing-along choruses find true synergy with fresh beats only twice: in the stark simplicity of "Gimme the Light" and in the infectious, synth-poppy "Like Glue."

The album's ragga-rap hybrids work even less smoothly. While not overtly commercial, "Esa Loca" and "Top of the Game" -- featuring Tony Touch and the Roots' pal Rahzel, respectively -- smack of crossover-market toe-dipping. Fortunately, however, Paul seems poised to sell big without selling out. After all, if the uptown rude boy was in this only for the money, he never would have left his job at the bank.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Greg Doherty

Latest Stories