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Yellow Fever

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Album Review

It's pretty amazing how well Yellowman has weathered the years. His first hits came in the early '80s, and you can count on one hand the number of reggae artists who were superstars that long ago and who continue to maintain that status. Throw in Yellowman's triumphant struggle over a disfiguring cancer (not to mention the albino coloring that made him a social outcast until he became a reggae hero), and you've got a genuinely inspiring story. And, in this case, a genuinely great modern reggae album. Despite its slightly sterile computer rhythms, Yellow Fever is a potent mix of roots reggae and conscious dancehall (Yellowman having largely left behind the bawdy lyrics of his past). After the program opens with the obligatory chest-thumper ("One Yellow Man"), "Gwaan a School" sets the tone for the rest of the album as Yellowman chants the praises of education; "Life Is a Heavy Load" and an unlikely cover of "Lean on Me" maintain the serious mood that predominates. Of course, he hasn't completely forgotten how to party, as the salacious "Ring Ding" (based, improbably, on the melody to "Sleigh Ride") and the more chaste "Rock With Me" illustrate. Yellowman is in great voice and still toasts with the best of them.


Born: 1956 in Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Jamaica's first dancehall superstar, Yellowman ushered in a new era in reggae music following Bob Marley's death. His early-'80s success brought the popularity of toasting -- the reggae equivalent of rapping -- to a whole new level, and helped establish dancehall as the wave of the future. For better or for worse, he also epitomized dancehall's penchant for "slack" lyrics -- that is, casual violence, sexism, homophobia, and general rudeness. Graphic sexuality was his particular forte, reaching levels...
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Yellow Fever, Yellowman
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