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Real & Personal

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Mar
Real & Personal
Sounds like … Sean Paul, Elephant Man, Shaggy, Kevin Lyttle, Beenie Man, and other reggae-pop artistsAt a glance … despite some truly irresistible dancehall numbers, Real & Personal is too synthesized and not on par with Papa San's more eclectic back catalogTrack Listing More Life For You Lord Good to Me Oh Zion Jus' Seh Di Word He's Coming Tell Me Why Come Out a Di Building It's All About You Cornerstone Stand Strong

Reggae music has been on the up-and-up lately, particularly with the advent of reggaetón, a syncopated hybrid that mixes reggae with Spanish hip-hop. Figures such as Daddy Yankee and Don Omar are the genre's hottest ticket, with reggae-pop staples Sean Paul and Shaggy still retaining the appeal they enjoyed in years past. Jamaican-bred Tyrone "Papa San" Thompson may not be in their same league, but he's been doing it for way longer than many of them, recording gospel-themed reggae albums even before his breakthrough cameo in Kirk Franklin's The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin project.

For Real & Personal, his third outing on GospoCentric Records, Papa San continues to make the music that's closest to his heart. But unlike 2003's God & I, he employs traditional, keyboard-based ragga production values instead of the more varied approach of that album. Though the insular, sun-caressed fun is still all here, things are noticeably more artificial and synthetic, with Casio effects, bleeps, and noises dominating the majority of the soundtrack.

Thankfully, there's no absence of fierce, bass-heavy party numbers. Romps like the hypnotic "He's Coming," the devil-bashing "Come Out a Di Building," and the hip-hop-leaning "It's All About You" all temporarily make you forget the rest of the album, which verges on the tedious whenever certain choruses overstay their welcome. It's those moments ("Cornerstone," "Oh Zion," "For You Lord") that require the most patience of the listener, as their meditative grooves aren't immediately accessible.

Elsewhere, Papa San winningly dabbles in instances of reggaetón in the danceable "Stand Strong," perhaps the song with the most current, up-to-date sound. Purists may love it, but on the whole, Real & Personal sounds too dated and synthesized to be given serious thought by the consensus of the reggae-loving populace—particularly those who prefer the pop realm of the genre.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.