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Busy Signal D.O.B. Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A masterclass in fearless, innovative production with international appeal.

Lloyd Bradley 2010

Busy Signal has never been afraid to mix it up, and once again he moves things forward, drawing inspiration from more than his immediate vicinity. The result is a set of songs that remain at the sound system dance, but are relevant on a broad and international level.

Most immediately impressive is his innate tunefulness. Coming from Bounty Killer’s Alliance posse you’d expect a degree of musicality, and Busy Signal is dictionary definition singjay – his delivery is as close to singing as possible while still, technically, toasting. Not an easy thing to do, but Hi Grade, My Money (Money Tree) and Nuh Fraid bounce with all that taut musical energy you remember from dancehall’s first flush, before it completely abandoned the bassline.

Busy Latino builds on reggaeton as a concept, going crazy Latin to end up something like what Gloria Estefan might come up with after a month or so on Hellshire Beach. Picante also has a Spanish flavour but uses it more as subtle shading, adding depth to the beats. Yes Dawg shoots dreamy synth lines through its rhythms; Hair Dresser Shop goes further, stitching itself together with multi-layered electronic backing. Opera employs a string section, and Gal Dem Song has a playground folk song quality that might well be used for whatever they call Double Dutch skipping these days.

Sweet Love and One More Night are almost old-school reggae takes on the Commodores’ Night Shift and that Phil Collins song, respectively, and they more or less work – ie not totally cheesily. The former, though, is an arranger’s masterclass as the deep toasting takes over the rhythm carrying it within the song rather than riding on top, a unique way of doing things that really sums up Busy’s approach: totally aware it’s all about the riddims, he knows without melody it won’t have a chance beyond the sound systems.

What sets Busy apart is how he really doesn’t care what he does, as long as it gets the job done. Thus D.O.B. creates its component parts in ways other reggae producers wouldn’t dream of, setting the pace for whatever, by whomever, is trailing in his slipstream.

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