By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Many Moods of Moses
DANCEHALL REGGAE'S relegation to the fringes of mainland pop is a shame. Of all current musics, the style can claim the strongest one-two punch, with its insistent party rhythms and melodic rhyming. But besides the disadvantages of not being a homegrown sound, dancehall's main stumbling block seems to be all those cheap drum machines and cheesy synths that repel Americans. As Shabba Ranks proved a few years back, though, an artist who can apply hip hop's indigenous flavors and production values to dancehall holds serious crossover potential on the pop charts.
Meet Moses Davis--a.k.a. Beenie Man--and check the many moods he explores on his fourth and most prominent U.S. release. Having started at 8 years old (thus earning a nickname that means "little man"), Beenie's a dancehall veteran at age 24. With a string of Jamaican hits and an appearance in the film Dancehall Queen, he's currently among reggae's top stars, rivaling greats like Buju Banton and Super Cat. Many Moods of Moses presents an artist with such a command of his technique that it's hard to deny his dancehall supremacy.
True to its name, Many Moods dabbles in various styles, yet it succeeds consistently at working new sounds into dancehall's framework. Beenie Man expands dancehall's vocabulary far enough to leave stretch marks: He touches on Zulu chant-sing in "Introlude"; rudimentary drum 'n' bass in "Monster Look"; new-jack swing in his version of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative"; and Nashville fiddle and pedal steel with "Ain't Gonna Figure It Yet." And with the worldwide hit "Who Am I," where Beenie flaunts hip-hop swagger over Jeremy Harding's sophisticated production, the blueprint for an international dancehall sound is laid.
At its most extreme, Many Moods can sound like it's infected the dancehall style with a multiple personality disorder. Beenie slips anti-Christian sentiments into "Heaven on Earth," then shouts gospel reggae to the top of Mount Zion on "Got to Be There." "Have You Ever" licentiously toasts the joys of ménage à trois, while the inspirational "Steve Biko" appropriates a Bob Marley anthem of devotion.
Does he contradict himself? Certainly. But give Beenie a break; the man is his own multitude.