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Ghetto Gramma

Bounty Killer

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Album Review

The Prince Jammy-produced Ghetto Gramma collection is geared to Bounty Killer's root Jamaican dancehall audience, even though the operatic "My Xperience" had given him a name in U.S. hip-hop circles. That translates to heavy patois, a hard-edged vocal delivery, and minimal drums-and-keyboard-sounds arrangements often lacking usual reggae reference points like bass melodies."Ancient Day Killing" is a more "normal" track with keyboard bass and rhythm skank and occasional horns, but the patois and sheer volume of Bounty's vocal flow make it impossible to tell if it's a cautionary take on the Wild West gunslinger theme. More typical is the impenetrable start to "Convince" — the lack of a melodic hook reduces the music to beats and sound/noise and leaves you at the mercy of patois limbo. He also serves up an I&I/Jah song ("Fear No Evil"), responds to critics of his persona ("Down Grade Mi Gun," "Income"), and songs with self-explanatory titles ("Smoke the Herb," "Fat and Sexy") and incongruous messages (the macho Bounty admonishing a "Run Around Girl" to "have some self-control"). "'No No No" is a nice change-up with Dawn Penn's singing and sax fills giving a melodic foundation to Bounty's counter-rants. "I'll Be Back" finds him actually singing himself with jabbing horns, and he's really at his best on these combination tracks that provide a melodic or lyric theme for him to play off. The best is the antigun track "This World's Too Haunted" with Junior Reid — the arrangement sports a strong bass melody, militant horn and keyboard lines, and vocal hooks that swoop upward at the end of each line. Reid is pretty exceptional here and Bounty rises to the occasion to match him. "Time to Realize" with Dirtsman closes Ghetto Gramma on an agreeably light, pure dancehall note, but that's one of the few breaks from a relentless hard edge that gets very wearing. It's revealing that "War Is Not a Nice Thing" and "Mi Heart Beat" have completely opposite themes, but the music is so similar they run together in your mind. Respect to Bounty Killer for continuing to make uncompromising music for his core audience after crossing over, but it's a tough listen for anyone not attuned to dancehall reggae for Jamaican ears.


Born: 12 June 1972 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

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

Bounty Killer was one of the most aggressive dancehall stars of the '90s, a street-tough rude boy with an unrepentant flair for gun talk. There were many other facets to his music — condemnations of corrupt authority, collaborations with hardcore hip-hop artists, tributes to his mother, an ongoing DJ rivalry with Beenie Man — but his main persona was so dominant that many fans instantly associated him with his more violent material. With such seeming contradictions in his personality,...
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Ghetto Gramma, Bounty Killer
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