Playing God
Sean Paul: Dutty Rock



even though the album in question, Sean Paul’s Dutty Rock, was released in late 2002, it was 2003 that was truly the year of Sean Paul. The rude boy was everywhere this year, not only scoring his first #1 single early in the year but appearing on two others by year’s end (one U.S. and one U.K.). One of the leading figures in the dancehall scene, his Dutty Rock was a true crossover smash, spawning four hit singles and going to the top ten of the pop charts. However, a quick listen to the album reveals it to be an utter disaster. There’s a wealth of quality material on the album, but the album couldn’t be organized more poorly. It’s frontloaded with all of the singles, leaving the album to peter out at the end with some truly atrocious songs, and at 22 tracks and 70 minutes, the album feels interminable. Additionally, there are redundant reprises of both “Gimme the Light” and “Punkie,” the latter closing Dutty Rock in an espanol version of the original album track, and the two slower songs on the album, “I’m Still in Love With You” and “International Affair” (which are pretty much soundalikes, additionally) are inexplicably placed right next to each other. But you know what they say, in every fat, horrible, filler-strewn hip-hop album, there’s a thin one dying to be let out. Playing God gives the album a harsh diet and vigorous exercise program and records the results.

1. “Dutty Rock Intro”

I see no reason to jettison the original Dutty Rock intro, titled “Dutty Rock Intro.” A short, semi-incomprehensible dialogue between Sean Paul and a potential backing band, it'll probably give you the only taste you’re likely to get of Sean Paul going nü-metal. It’s a humorous way to start the album that has yet to really grate on me, surprisingly.

2. “Gimme the Light (Pass the Dro-voisier Remix f/ Busta Rhymes)

Of the two versions of Dutty Rock’s breakthrough single “Gimme the Light” that appear on the album, I kept the later one. It’s pretty much the same thing as the original, except it’s got Busta Rhymes, which is always a plus. It’s a relatively slamming track that functions as a fine gate-crasher.

3. “Baby Boy” (duet with Beyoncé Knowles)

Dutty Rock was recently re-issued in the States, rectifying a couple of the album’s mistakes by cutting the album nadir “It’s On,” skimming off the harmless skits, and adding this monstrously huge collaboration with one of the only stars bigger than him in 2003, Beyoncé Knowles. Once I got past the fact that this song would never be as good as “Crazy in Love” or “Like Glue” (two of 2003’s utter elite), it revealed itself to be, in fact, pretty good. The vaguely eastern strings and beats are compelling, but it’s Paul that really saves “Baby Boy” from mediocrity, his “come on girl, tell me what ya need!” punctuating the otherwise bland chorus and his raps flavoring the trite verses.

4. “International Affair”

The first of the album’s two songs to use Athea and Donna’s 1978 reggae classic (and U.K. #1) “Uptown Top Rankin’” as its base. It’s not quite as compelling as the hypnotic dub of “I’m Still in Love With You,” but it probably would’ve made a better pop single, being less repetitious, more party-friendly and having a more immediately obvious verse/chorus/verse structure.

5. “Get Busy”

Of all of the great songs on Dutty Rock, I would never have pegged this as the obvious hit. There’s barely even a beat—some thumping bass and a background rhythm that appears to consist of handclaps, but nothing that would really constitute a standard beat. Rather, almost all of the song’s rhythm is provided by Paul’s rap, one of his best on the album, flowing perfectly with no breaks. It’s one of the most exciting singles of the year, and one of the weirdest #1 hits of recent years.

6. “Concrete”

Reading the lyrics to this song reveals that it might be Sean Paul’s ode to big-assed girls. Whatever, it’s not like you’d understand that through his seemingly word-less syllables, and it’s not like it makes a difference anyways. This is one of the better album tracks.

7. “Uptown Haters Skit”

“There are no raves in Jamaica!” A friend of Sean Paul’s tries to trick him into going to a dancehall gig by claiming he’s at a rave, but Sean’s not having it, exclaiming that dancehall is rubbish. Both this and “Police Skit” are both sort of funny, this is the one that makes the cut because it’s a minute shorter.

8. “Like Glue”

This kicks the crap out of “Boombastic,” really. The big obvious single on Dutty Rock, “Like Glue” is one of the catchiest fucking things I’ve ever heard, saturated with keyboard-stutter hooks and Sean Paul’s rude boy-isms put over a great dancehall beat with an intoxicatingly nonsensical chorus. Paul’s vocal gymnastics never sounded better and the song, unlike “Get Busy,” has unlimited dance potential. Pop music in 2003 doesn’t get much better than this.

9. “Shout (Street Respect)”

The original Dutty Rock opener is an album highlight, with a beat that could have been straight from Boy in Da Corner and one of the album’s best choruses. Some real cool sound effects, too.

10. “Punkie”

This song just gives me a big grin. A reggae-lite beat that could not sound more good natured, coupled with a cheesy piano downbeat--“hot sexy punkie” lines aside, this song could be on Sesame Street. Also, it’s quite telling that the Spanish version of this song that closes the original Dutty Rock is barely differentiable from this.

11. “Breathe” (duet with Blu Cantrell)

The credits of this song have Sean Paul on the right side of the “f/” symbol (although to be fair, their contributions to the song are about equal), but I figured it was suitable for this edit due to the inclusion of “Baby Boy” (also technically not a Sean Paul song) on the Dutty Rock re-issue. It’s a fairly good Blu Cantrell song, saved from being “Hit ‘Em Up Style, Pt. 2” (ewwww!) by none other than Sean-a Paul, contributing the song’s memorable chorus. Quite album worthy.

12. “Bubble”

This one is produced by the Neptunes. Hooray!

13. “Top of the Game”

Also one of the better album tracks. Please ignore Rahzel’s annoying human-beatboxing, though. You only encourage Justin Timberlake-esque human beatboxers worldwide by giving this guy props. BRING THA BEAT BACK!

14. “I’m Still in Love With You” (f/ Sasha)

The most recent single off the album, also quite possibly my favorite. It’s a cover of the Marcia Aitkens song (like “International Affair,” based around “Uptown Top Rakin’”), and it’s absolutely fantastic. Sasha does the reggae diva lyrics of the original quite proud, and Sean Paul’s added raps do not feel wrapped around the original, but rather complement it perfectly, giving it multiple dimensions, like a dancehall "Are You That Somebody?” The production is spot fucking on, and the song, as stated before, is utterly hypnotic, even catchier than “Like Glue”. A fantastic way to end the album.


By: Andrew Unterberger
Published on: 2003-11-18
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