Shaggy first burst onto the scene in 1993 with "Oh Carolina." His update of that early-'60s Jamaican hit (for the Folkes Brothers and Prince Buster) pointed reggae in a new direction by dipping back into its past. Featuring the hard-hitting rhythms and relentless vocals of dance hall, "Oh Carolina" also harked back to the joyousness and soul that characterized the pre-Rastafarian Jamaican music of the '60s: a sense of fun that's been lost to some extent amid the sexism and violence glorified in a lot of dance hall.
Boombastic not only fulfills the promise of "Oh Carolina" and Pure Pleasure, the album from which it came, it catapults Shaggy to the top of the heap. It's a diverse collection of great songs without a weak cut among them. Shaggy's back-to-the-future style is perfectly summed up by a double A-side single. "In the Summertime," a bouncy, infectious remake of the 1970 Mungo Jerry hit, alternates a soulful chorus with a rapid-fire rap à la Chaka Demus and Pliers' "Murder She Wrote." The flip, "Boombastic," is a stripped-down dub masterpiece, a percussive cacophony of samples, sound effects and a clanging piano. Shaggy's baritone growl oozes a sexuality that recalls both the dance-hall swagger of Shabba Ranks and theatrical self-deprecation of ska king Prince Buster.
Born in Jamaica, Shaggy moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., when he was 18. He's perfectly positioned to continue a vibrant tradition of musical cross-fertilization between reggae and R&B. Shaggy's propulsive cover of Ken Boothe's 1966 ska hit "Train Is Coming" and even his remake of the campy calypso classic "Day Oh" reflect an intuitive connection to the island's musical roots; meanwhile, the New Jack Swing glide of "Something Different" and the funky grind of "Why You Treat Me So Bad" (a duet with rapper Grand Puba) demonstrate an equal fluency in contemporary mainland rhythms. (RS 716)
(Posted: Sep 7, 1995)