Album: Ms Dynamite

Judgement Days, POLYDOR
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The Independent Culture

Three years on from her Mercury-winning debut, Ms Dynamite's follow-up is awash with issues: a tide of complaint and reproach which lets up only occasionally for a glint of joy about her child (never a welcome strategy for listeners outside the immediate family circle) or a sugary, clichéd reminiscence of how life was better back in the (school-) day - a common theme of much hip-hop, a genre condemned to lament its own deterioration. Apart from the understated reggae tugging at some tracks, it seems a more routinely American-sounding effort than its predecessor, with straightforward beats and dull guest rappers trying to emulate 2Pac's delivery on their accounts of life in "the 'hood". This is a pity, as, when left to her own devices, Ms D can work up an articulate head of steam about all manner of issues: social inequity, her own broken heart, black culture's self-destructive "animosity overload", gun-toting gangsta stupidity, and what she regards as her father's neglect and opportunism ("You can't play like you're daddy now/ And you can't claim shit 'cos you weren't around/ I spent 23 years trying to be the fuckin' man you should have been"). She's aiming for a socio-psychological statement as wide-ranging as The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but the solemn self-immersion seems rather gauche and indulgent from a British perspective.