If art is rooted in angst, then no musician has more to offer than Emmanuel Jal, who was born during the Sudanese Civil War, raised as a child soldier, and managed to flee to Kenya at age 11. On his third album, Americans get their first real introduction to the hip-hop/spoken word star, whose dry, oddly timed, and often non-rhyming delivery is reminiscent of both the Geto Boys’ Bushwick Bill and Jamaican dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. The album’s production sounds like the hard-edged but soulful urban sound of Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock, features plenty of more traditional raps from special guests, and provides a message of personal responsibility, respect for women, and aid for Africa and beyond. It’s a much-needed antidote to the often self-indulgent and materialistic American hip-hop scene.


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