February 01, 2005
Reggae, Contemporary Reggae, Ragga, Dancehall

Album Review

First off, much respect to Virgin for resisting words like "definitive" or even "greatest" on their stellar collection of Beenie Man. The rightfully crowned King has way too many hits to be contained by a single disc, and licensing them from all the different labels Beenie has been on would be a massive undertaking. Instead of trying to be the last word in Beenie, Kingston to King of the Dancehall strives to be an introduction to the man's later material, but not as late as you'd think. While it would have been interesting to include Beenie's hits as an adolescent, Kingston to King of the Dancehall chooses 1995's massive Jamaican hit "Slam" as its earliest track. Including the poignant "No Mama No Cry" from two years earlier would have been a Beenie fan's wet dream, but picking up when the man was on top makes for an incredibly exciting collection and a "welcome newcomers" set of more polished tracks. Virgin is obviously going for the come-latelys here, ones that came to the man through the hit "Dude" and his sweet and breezy Janet Jackson team-up, "Feel It Boy" (which is only included on the DVD, keeping the CD nearly 100 percent Jamaican-powered). Can't blame them -- dancehall is a tough sell -- but the way the compilers introduce beginners to the man's dynamic career is more than admirable, it's downright brilliant. "Who Am I" and "Girls Dem Sugar" are the catchy, fully formed tracks the listener is first entranced by, holding his hand and leading him to the more skeletal but no less worthy "Romie" ("an him big fat sister Nyomi") and "Ole Dawg." Tracks like the "Girl Dem Sugar" remix with Mya and "Love Me Now" with Wyclef (which borrows equally from Naughty by Nature's "O.P.P." and Yellowman's "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng") represent the crossover Beenie, but the King's feet are still firmly planted in dancehall and it's up to the guests to bring the crossover. From the good as it gets "Dude" to the unbelievably fierce team-up with Vybz Kartel, the last four tracks are killer, top-of-his-game Beenie, with his anthem -- and here, title track -- included. The packed-in DVD is not only icing on the cake, but also helps fill in some of the gaps with more back-story. It's much more than the usual electronic press kit, and if the CD hasn't convinced the listener he needs more Beenie, the half-hour documentary will. A superb gateway into a rich discography and a portable, filler-free collection for fans to boot.
David Jeffries, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Who Am I
  2. Girls Dem Sugar
  3. Romie
  4. Ole Dawg
  5. Slam
  6. Foundation
  7. Nuff Gal
  8. Bookshelf
  9. Girls Dem Sugar
  10. Love Me Now
  11. Miss L.A.P.
  12. Bossman
  13. Dude
  14. King of the Dancehall
  15. Row Like a Boat
  16. The Specialists
  17. Girls Dem Sugar [DVD]
  18. Love Me Now [DVD]
  19. Bossman [DVD]
  20. Feel It Boy [DVD]
  21. Street Life [DVD]
  22. Dude [DVD]
  23. King of the Dancehall [DVD]
  24. Kingston to King of the Dancehall [DVD]