Vybz Kartel Up 2 Di Time Review

Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Vybz Kartel has the sound and the attitude to be a big star and he's riding some of...

Adam Webb 2003

In many ways, dancehall is a reminder of everything hip hop used to be. Its feels more real. It's spontaneous andaliveand it makes you move. While gangstas expend their energy promoting fashion labels or flogging sneakers, even the grimiest rappers are positively buffed by Jamaican standards. No wonder every US urban star worth their salt wants a little JA flavour right now.

In a scene which has already witnessed Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder and Elephant Man break through, Vybz Kartel may yet be the stalking horse to dancehall's crown. Critics might complain that the established hierarchy is harder to crack than Fort Knox, but Kartel has already bust it open. Tracks like "New Millennium", "Why You Doing It?" and "Sweet To The Belly" (all featured here) have all been huge hits over the past twelve months. And, at just 24 years old, Kartel is almost a decade younger than some of dancehall's 'next big things'.

Combine thiswiththe inherent hip hop influence in his music, and surely he stands a stronger chance of crossing over than most. Certainly, tracks like "Badman Nah" and "Sen On" spit like Busta Rhymes. Kartel's delivery is as impressively lithe and frenetic as the beats, while the productions sound as innovative as the spells Lee Perry was once weaving from the Black Ark.

The only letdown is the lyrics themselves, which offer little beyond the sort of formulaic slackness that was popular a decade ago. This is surprising for an artist whose reputation was built on slick wordplay. Sure, Kartel loves the finer things in life, but flexing your masculinity and homophobia at every opportunity soon becomes tiring.

"Dis a di new millennium, a different thing a gwaan", he declares on "New Millennium" and he's half-right. Vybz Kartel has the sound and the attitude to be a big star and he's riding some of the hottest rhythms in the world right now. If he brought his lyrics into the 21st Century (and he's definitely capable) then he could become the biggest star of all.

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