A true beacon of unpredictability, spontaneity and craziness...
Jack Smith 2002
In the year dancehall went global, Elephant Man's "Pon Di River, Pon Di Bank" was the one true hardcore anthem to reach the mainstream. Sean Paul might be the acceptable face of the genre but Elephant, O'Neil Bryan to his mum, remains its beating heart. A true beacon of unpredictability, spontaneity and craziness the self-proclaimed 'Energy God' has been Jamaica's biggest DJ for nearly half a decade.
'Good 2 Go' (Elephant's major label debut following the groundbreaking VP-Atlantic deal) offers further evidence of why this music is attracting such a worldwide audience. Kicking off with "Pon Di River" the energy is instantly cranked up to 11, and the pace barely slips for the next hour. This is music clinically designed with one intention; to make you move.
As such, and given the frenetic nature of the genre (a dancehall cut is virtually obsolete the moment it's cut) not everything hits the mark. "Fam Dem Off" takes an embarrassing ride on the hoary riff of Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger" and, as is usually case, cramming 70 minutes on to a CD means there's too much filler.
Fortunately the killer quotient is pretty high too. "Elephant Man Is" is an obvious highlight, with Steven 'Lenky' Marsden showing he's not been idle since unleashing the Diwali rhythm. Constructed around a slowly descending bass scale the track is punctuated by female screams and wildly arrhythmic clicks. Expect Timbaland to reproduce something similar soon.
Other jaw-dropping numbers include the Don Corleone-produced "Who We Are" (a waterfall of backwards bubbling bass) and the two collaborations with Wu-Tang's Killah Priest. The unexpected rocksteady retro of "Who You Think You Are" adds a surprising change of pace. The subject matter might break little new ground ("Cock Up Your Bumper" and "Real Gangstas" hardly push the lyrical envelope). But the sheer production ingenuity and Elephant's delivery, a sort of comically menacing lisp, is - at its best - staggering.
Right now dancehall is providing some of the most vital sounds on the planet. "Good 2 Go" might not be the best example of the past 12 months, but it should keep Elephant Man up where he belongs.