Hip-hop is the reflection of America, and the faces of this country are changing. Despite decades of American-born dominiance, the last five years has seen an influx of foreign-born musicians ruling the airwaves (see Akon and Daddy Yankee), and it seems like the good ol’ U.S. of A. might finally be truly becoming a global culture. How will we know if the U.S. is really ready to welcome the world to its shores? Easy, all we have to do is watch how well Elephant Man’s new album Let’s Get Physical sells. Elephant Man has ruled …
DJBooth Album Review
How will we know if the U.S. is really ready to welcome the world to its shores? Easy, all we have to do is watch how well Elephant Man’s new album Let’s Get Physical sells. Elephant Man has ruled the Caribbean dancehall world for years, making only the occasional state-side guest appearance, but Bad Boy is betting the Jamaican native can make the jump into American hearts and wallets. So let’s ignore the fact that Elephant Man named his album after an Olivia Newton John song from 1981 and answer the real question; is America ready for Elephant Man?
Well, if there’s one thing this country loves its ass, and The Energy God (as Elephant is called) has wisely decided to deliver a plethora of hip-winding and sweat-inducing tracks on Let’s Get Physical. Back That Thing On Me uses a staccato drum line and some strangely ambient electronic synths to get the ladies appropriately moving. For his part Elephant Man does more chanting then rhyming, at times sounding like some sort of sexual drill sergeant (“drop to the floor!”) but he more than gets the job done. Musically, the most interesting part of Thing On Me is learning that Mario can do a pretty good R Kelly impression - let’s just hope he doesn’t’ try to emulate Kells personal preferences. Body Talk takes a more female-centric approach on his reunion with Kat DeLuna singing a moaning, whispering hook while Elephant Man finally earns his nickname with a high-energy verse. It’d be even more impressive if female newcomer Jha Jha didn’t drop an even better flow on the guest verse, but these songs only have one mission; get the ladies out on the dance floor, and by that criteria America’s going to love it. What’d you expect? It’s not like the album’s titled Let’s Take A Nap!
Elephant Man has more up his brightly colored sleeves than just booty-shaking, on occasion he delves into some more serious social territory. Five-O is not only an anti-ode to the police, it’s musically the best song on the album. With a screaming guitar soaring over classic reggae riddims, Five-O truly breaks new ground, probably because Wyclef brought his considerable composition skills to the table. Here Elephant’s playful voice takes a more desperate, angry tone, to powerful effect. It’s much more fun to hear him chant “pon de river” than “murder dem” but that’s why Five-O has the greatest potential to make a lasting musical impact. And for the record I refuse to give Diddy guest feature credit for another useless ad lib during the intro. I have to draw the line somewhere.
Bad Boy knows that America will have a much easier time accepting the island stylings of Elephant Man if they eased the transition with popular guests features and Let’s Get Physical is accordingly packed with high-profile collaborations. Swizz Beatz drops another skittering, looping beat on Jump, Chris Brown helps him corner the teenage girl market on Feel The Steam and Busta Rhymes and Shaggy (remember when he was a big deal?) get in some lyrical time on The Way We Roll, but they all have one essential problem no one seems to want to mention. The elephant in the room, if you can allow me a terrible pun, is this; the vast majority of the time I have no idea what Elephant Man is saying, and chances are you don't either. He’s absolutely able to carry a song solely on the power of his extraordinary delivery, but it’d also be an insult to suggest that not understanding his lyrics don’t detract from the overall effect. Something is definitely lost in translation, and though it's just as much my fault as his, that doesn't change the fact the some essential connection is not being made. Is America ready for Let’s Get Physical? When they’re in the club, sure. But in their homes? I doubt it. He may be a little ahead of his time, but hopefully Elephant Man will help open the door for the next generation. Lord knows American hip-hop could use some more international flavor.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 04/9/08
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Five-O (Remix) ft. Wyclef, Swizz Beatz, Yung Joc, Assassin" (2007)
Total DJ Booth Features:
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