What I've heard of Def Jam's Def Jamaica
album conforms to my expectations: everything is better the more dancehall it gets, and the Jamaican DJs slay the rappers. Or maybe it just feels like that: for some reason there's very few rappers who sound good over dancehall beats, and those who do (eg. Foxy Brown, Missy) are a) usually women, and b) not afraid to approximate a bit of patois themselves. Perhaps it's just that, matched with the unceasing equatorial exoticism of the Jamaican grooves, an average hip hop flow sounds slightly conservative, even fun-hating, like a friend who who won't take off his jumper in the middle of a heatwave because he's afraid his arms look pudgy. As a result most of the rappers end up sounding like Clipse (dead-eyed, dead-voiced) whether they meant to or not. Oddly though, US rappers tend to sound great
over Indian-flavoured beats. What's the formula to explain this?
The grand exception of the tracks I've heard is Ghostface Killah's duet with Elephant Man, "Girls Callin", whose simple but energetic beat allows both Elephant and Ghostface to ramp up the melodrama with performances now doom-laden, now giddy. Ghostface couldn't be further away from dancehall patois, but his garbled nervy whine is a fitting equivalent, amounting to the same level of expressive urgency using entirely different building blocks.