And if any rap stars deserve to be called survivors, it's Naughty, which has delivered three classic rap albums and three hip-hop anthems in the last four years: 1991's self-titled debut brought "O.P.P."; 1993's Nineteen Naughty III turned up "Hip Hop Hooray"; and the new record's "Feel Me Flow" undoubtedly will get grooves going throughout the summer. Poverty's Paradise is Naughty's third testament to the group's talent, popularity, and staying power A in rap, an unprecedented achievement.
Listening to Shane MacGowan without the Pogues is like drinking your whiskey without water: You don't need the mix to get the same buzz. Erstwhile Pogue and future Betty Ford Clinic hall of famer MacGowan exited his old band in 1990, reportedly owing to his bout with the bottle. Now, five years later, he rebounds as if he's on the perfect bender with his freshest batch of songs in years, borrowing from the likes of ale-fest anthems such as "The Rising of the Moon" and dueting with papal vigilante Sinead O'Connor on "Haunted" (ironic when you consider the name of his new back-up combo). MacGowan staggers and swaggers through his signature Celtic punk, mostly hitting the mark, though at times his enunciation makes Tom Waits sound like Tony Randall. Next round's on Shane.
"Maria lando," the song that kicks off this compilation of Afro-Peruvian music, has the potential to become an international classic. Its minor-key melody, driven by a tinkling flamencoish guitar line, gentle percussion, and the plaintive singing of Susana Baca, evoke a beautiful, melancholy mood reminiscent of a suddenly remembered dream.
West African slaves were brought to Peru, as they were to other South American areas, but in Peru the Spanish avoided importing large groups from any particular ethnic group, knowing a common language could foster resistance to slavery as it did in Cuba. Smaller groups from diverse backgrounds allowed the masters to divide and conquer. The descendants of these slaves slowly were integrated into their new country, but memories of Africa dominate their music-making to this day. Black Peruvians welded Spanish, African, and indigenous musical elements for their songs; they also invented unique percussion instruments, including the caj centsn, a wooden box held between the legs and played with the hands, and the quijada de burro, a burro's jawbone with loosened teeth that sounds like a tenor giro (gourd). Afro-Peruvian rhythms most closely resemble those of Andean music A at least to these Anglo ears A but African beats never take a back seat, giving the resultant sound a distinctive twist.
Besides "Maria lando," which is reprised by David Byrne at the end of the disc, the album overflows with impressive songwriting and musicianship: Manuel Donayre's "Yo no soy jaqui," an energetic land cents (a type of dance) with a message of racial pride, sounds like a cha-cha; Cecilia Barraza mixes Peruvian mountain rhythms into "Canterurias" and comes up with something that sounds like an African waltz; and Peru Negro, the group credited with helping to revitalize Afro-Peruvian music in the 1970s, lends a fierce rhythmic propulsion to "Son de los diablos" and "Lando."