Terry Lynn Kingstonlogic 2.0

[Last Gang; 2008]

Styles: reggae, hip-hop, electronic
Others: M.I.A., Buju Banton, Beyoncé

We accept the “pop” in “pop music” as being a shortened derivation of “popular.” But for Terry Lynn and her long-playing debut, Kingstonlogic 2.0, it might as well be “populist.” Perhaps a subtle difference, but an important one, as Lynn’s songs are as closely related to the sounds of American Top 40 and Public Enemy’s agitator vitriol as they are to the politics and riddim of dub and dancehall.

Inevitably, the album will be tucked tightly (confiningly) into a reggae or dancehall cubbyhole, merely because of Lynn’s Jamaican upbringing and her noticeably thick island accent. But aesthetically, Kingstonlogic 2.0 has more in common with English grime and dubstep — dark, angered lyrics about the hardships of life on the streets, unadorned. “I’m a child of the soil I was born in the ghetto/ Where the gangstas roll by and then gunshot echo,” Lynn declares in the album’s first couplet. And sonically, as hard-nosed and grimy as it can be, there’s plenty for popular ears to latch onto. The stutter-stepping, globally conscious hip-hop of M.I.A. (whose surprise success with “Paper Planes” shouldn’t be a surprise at all) is written all over the deep, Jamaican bass pulses and chant-along lyrical flow of “IMF.” And on the perhaps tellingly titled “Destiny,” Lynn steps into Beyoncé’s stilettos, carrying a lithe melody over a pounding backbeat and a four-note synth riff into standout territory as the album’s most optimistic track. Even a cover of The Melodians’ reggae standard, “Rivers of Babylon,” featuring original Melodian Brent Dowe, can’t top the optimism of “Destiny.” But as the album’s final (listed) song, it does provide a properly stoic meditation and slowed-down, deep-grooved benediction to send the album off. The hidden track, then, comes a bit abruptly, but not as that great a detriment to the album.

In general terms, though, Kingstonlogic 2.0 functions as gangsta rap was supposed to function as: street journalism. It’s not a well-kept secret that, outside of the tourist zones, Jamaica has more than its share of social strife. Terry Lynn blazes through her brand of dancehall with eyes and ears wide open, conscious not only to sounds from outside Kingston (it is, after all, the age of the internet), but also to the grim realities an impoverished society breeds. Take, for example, the first verse of “Screaming In The Night”: “When the sun goes down and the moon comes out/ The freaks come to town with their big guns out/ Firing bullets like a range down south/ Ain’t nothing changed down south, a brother’s brain jumps out/ Somebody’s running from the Wilson’s house/ A mother is worried ’cause her one son’s out/ Trying to figure out what the commotion’s about/ If the screaming was coming from her one son’s mouth.”

At the very least, Kingstonlogic 2.0 shows that Jamaica is far more than a haven for ganja-smoking, dreadlocked rastafari, coconut rum, beer in short-stubby-ugly bottles, tie-dye, and tourism. With this album, Terry Lynn gives dimension to the land and culture to which the roots of her sound are bound.

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