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Half Pint

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Album Review

This best-of compilation was selected by Half Pint himself and draws on the handful of releases he put out on reggae-specialist and Jamaican labels. That's fine, but it also makes you wonder why this excellent singer who delivered two absolute classics right out of the career gate is still something of a reggae enigma. Hell, "Greetings" only launched and named the raggamuffin bassline/ragga sound that had a huge global impact in the late '80s and early '90s — okay, maybe not quite the formative impact that Chic's "Good Times" (with that Bernard Edwards bassline) had on hip-hop, but we're still talking serious foundation archetype here. "Level the Vibes" was also an unforgettable slice of mid-'80s roots dancehall era (i.e., pre-tape loops and drum machine beats) with another deadly nonstop bassline. So it's puzzling why his profile in reggae circles has remained so low. Not that he should have gone in for the Dennis Brown/Gregory Issacs/Frankie Paul syndrome and recorded with everyone under the sun, but he's only put out a handful of albums and rarely did the deejay/singer combo records with contemporaries who seem like a natural fit. It's more troubling that, once you've heard the opening salvo of "Greetings"/"Level the Vibes," you've basically heard Half Pint, because he seems unwilling or unable to stray far away from his formula. The Spartan arrangements will be bass and drums with skank keyboard or guitar and not much else behind his plaintive, emotional singing about girls and little else, since he seems to have used up his metaphor quotient with the two big hits. So small differences become big deals here, like a modified bogle beat with syndrum bloops on "Crazy Girl," the horns marking "Mr. Landlord," and a livelier drum push distinguishing "Too Late." "Sally" has an arresting variation on the raggamuffin bassline and some dub flair, and the pure lovers rock of "Substitute Lover" stretches with double-tracked chorus vocals and very soulful singing. Half Pint's strong singing is a constant, but you've also already heard the melodies to "One Big Family" and "Victory" by the time they roll along. Half Pint ultimately wears down due to the similarity in the unadorned arrangements and vocal melodies. The fact that it's still not a bad compilation is a testament to the singer's skill. "Greetings" and "Level the Vibes" are essential '80s reggae tracks for any collection, but you can't shake the feeling that Half Pint should have reached greater heights by now.


Born: 11 November 1961 in West Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

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

Dancehall singjay Half Pint recorded some of the genre's early classics during the first half of the '80s. His appeal outside Jamaica was somewhat limited by his willingness to repeat simple musical ideas, but the best of his work was frequently brilliant. He was the first major artist produced by Prince Jammy (later King Jammy), and together they helped establish a lighter, more relaxed, more melodic approach to dancehall that made for an easy transition into the digital ragga era. While Half Pint's...
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Half Pint, Half Pint
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