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DJBooth Album Review
See, Mr. Kingston filmed the video to his eminently enjoyable/unbelievably aggravating single Beautiful Girls at Johnie’s Diner, blocks away from my apartment in L.A. He shut down Fairfax and Wilshire, a major intersection, and traffic predictably backed up faster than a model at a Ying Yang Twins video leaving me decidedly late for work. With my bosses reprimands ringing in my ears I decided then and there to hate Sean Kingston.
With my road rage firmly in hand I sat down to listen to Sean Kingston, the self-titled album from the 17-year-old sensation. I wanted to hate it, but I just couldn’t do it. Like it or not Kingston’s a legitimately talented (though obviously developing) artist who makes simply decent music. While some might see his pop/r&b/reggae/doo-wop versatility as a marketing scheme, it’s more the product of a multi-faceted young man who hasn’t entirely figured out his musical identity. Let’s take a look at the many sides of Mr. Kingston:
If I hear Beautiful Girls one more time I’m going to throw up in my mouth, but that’s more the fault of radio programmers insistent on playing the same five songs all day. J.R. Rotem, who signed Kingston to his fledging label and produced the entire album, reconstructed the classic soul song Stand By Me to fit Kingston’s Jamaican accented style. Kingston’s surprisingly mature for a teenager and it shows here, he undercuts a throughly teenage pop premise with lines about incarceration and a chorus about suicide. Got No Shorty is an almost identically styled track that remakes aging rocker David Lee Roth’s I Ain’t Got Nobody with an Outkast-esque craziness and a stinging clap track. Kingston’s not walking away with a Grammy anytime soon but he’s got a real charisma that will plant the chorus firmly in your head for days (there’s that suicide thing again). Only the unintentionally hilarious I Like Your Sister betrays Kingston’s age. He lays more than three minutes of lyrics about, you guessed it, liking his friend’s sister. The result leaves a him sounding like a pre-pubescent Akon, which may actually be a decent description of Kingston.
If you’re lulled to sleep with such syrupy-sweet fare Sean Kingston has occasional jolts of grinding strength. The album begins with the booming bass of Kingston, a high volume track that features the previously adorable young man rapping with a Jamaican infused accent and a strangely worn voice. Kingston’s not a particularly good MC, but he’s better than I would have thought. Those knee deep in hip-hop’s “realness” fetish will be quick to call Kingston fake, but he did grow up occasionally homeless and with his mother in prison. He’s not the second coming of 2pac, but he didn’t grow in plush private schools either (can’t say the same for Diddy). Colors (2007) is an even more drastic departure from the world of pop, it’s a full fledged banger. The album version has a decidedly island feel with Vybez Kartel and Kardinal Offishall (instead of the original The Game and Rick Ross line-up) putting down guest verses with a full-fledged swagger. On the track Kingston sounds exactly like what he is, a boy among men. Cut the kid some slack, when I was seventeen I was more concerned with skipping out on detention than putting together albums.
I’m from Boston, which means I hold a grudge for life, but on Sean Kingston the kid earned my grudging respect. Kingston can chase pop success and end up the answer to a trivia question, or continue to develop as an artist. Let’s all hope he chooses the latter, maybe that way we won’t be feeling so suicidal, suicidal, suicidal.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Aug 06, 2007
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