Albums: City High

City High, Booga Basement/Interscope
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The Independent Culture

The refugees effect continues to influence American R&B, with groups such as Spooks and now City High emulating their sound, style and multi-gender line-up. In City High's case, the original duo of Robby Pardlo and Ryan Toby has been augmented with the soft, warm tones of Claudette Ortiz at the behest of the label boss Wyclef Jean and his cousin, the producer Jerry Wonder Duplessis (Whitney, Santana and Destiny's Child), who clearly know what they're doing. City High marks a new high-water mark for the genre, with the trio's daring appraisals of issues like education, prostitution and treachery harnessed to infectious, jerky grooves in the Timbaland/Neptunes manner. Sexual politics is clearly the City High forte, whether they're lamenting America's draconian statutory-rape laws in "15 Will Get You 20" ("He was only 16/Body of a god, and face of a king"), musing on the mystery of sexual attraction in "Why", or offering a single mother's defence of prostitution in "What Would You Do", the latter bisected by a middle-eight riposte demanding she "stop making excuses". With namechecks for Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes, and an irresistible slice of replica Sly Stone Farfisa-funk in "You Don't Know Me", the trio's agit-soul credentials are in no doubt, but it's the string of obvious hit singles here that will secure their own success. Household names by the end of the year.

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