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V/A - Nice Up The Dance

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Artist: V/A

Album: Nice Up The Dance

Label: Soul Jazz

Review date: Jun. 13, 2003

You Wanna Battle?

Nice Up the Dance!, Two Worlds Clash speaks clearly to the uniting similarities between American hip hop and Jamaican dancehall as well as to their differences. Various artists, each with unique styles, contribute to the “battle” between hip hop and reggae outfitted with messages about Jah or injustices commonly practiced in today’s world. Does this say the line between hip hop and reggae can be so blurred that it’s the rhythm and beats and not necessarily vocals that qualifies music as dancehall or hip hop? After all, it seems that one of the main differences between the two is differing vocal styles, while the MC and turntables are common to both.

Singer Blue’s “If I Know Jah” is not only sung like a Bob Marley or Buju Banton tune as opposed to popular dancehall, but it also speaks to something way beyond cars, money and sex – the all too familiar topics of hip hop and dancehall. Similarily Brooklyn MC J Live’s “Satisfied” asks its listener if they’re satisfied with the current injust system, further challenging the listener by asking, “What do you stand for?” and concluding with, “Throw your hands up if you’re not satisfied.”

Thus, Nice Up the Dance presents both hip hop and dancehall as being informative of a political consciousness, mostly from the black male perspective, as well as music that exposes urban themes of injustice and oppression as linked to spiritual and religious notions of true freedom and equality. Furthermore, musically, it does not discriminate between the varying vocal deliveries of hip hop or dancehall. Again, Tenor Saw’s “Ring the Alarm (Hip-Hop Mix)”, which features Saw’s simply phrased “Ring the Alarm” vocals over a funky hip hop beat, demonstrates the album’s dialectic, while aligning itself with messages about social injustice.

The album also stays true to its title and ups the dance quite nicely with tracks that inspire physical reaction of some sort or another – you can definitely move your body to this. The strong synthesizer influences in dancehall music are greatly reflected on Nice Up the Dance, where the synthesizer typically plays traditional reggae guitar or key licks. The vocals and synthesizer are then supplemented by a simple hip hop drum beat. A more modern version of this combination is Sean Paul’s “Infiltrate”, rap-sung over a well-known beat used by Beenie Man and many others.

Maintaining a balance between its two worlds as well as an equilibrium of politically conscious messages and rumpshakin' hits, Nice Up the Dance succeeds on all levels. The “Two Worlds Clash” subtitle is at the core of this album – it’s very clear they share roots and purpose, in terms of educating, informing and uplifting a certain public conscious. Instead of inciting attrition, these battles only strengthen the two genres’ symbiotic relationship: “Violence, fuss and a fightin’ we don’t need it,” (China Africa).

By Jadele McPherson

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