The claptastic Diwali riddim transcended fashion last year to become one for the ages. But before you wear out your Greensleeves Diwali compilation (number 27), why not accessorize it with a pair of frivolous twelve inches? If you can find it, begin with a black-label mash-up featuring Missy Elliott's "Work It" lyrics over Diwali, backed with Elephant Man's "Elephant Message" atop the "Work It" instrumental. Keep the b-side's Neptunes beat alive with Sean Paul's "Gimme the Light (Work it Remix)," available on a Massive Jointz EP full of solid ragga-hop remixes. Flip back to the Paul original on the Buzz riddim, and you've just freshened up 2002's biggest sounds.
But you say you want something massive that hasn't been worked to exhaustion? Fortunately Diwali producer Lenky strikes while the iron is hot with his sophomore opus Masterpiece (Greensleeves number 34). A high-energy shuffle set to rippling synths, this beat not only cooks, it brings out something different in each vocalist. Enter it via Crissy D's stripped-down "Rock Me," then Wayne Marshall's jaunty "Check Yourself," before peaking with Beenie Man's ragtimey "10 Out of 10" and Elephant Man's stomping "Give Her It Good."
More Diwali knockoff than successor, VP Records' Diesel riddim arranges polyrhythmic claps over a tabla march, for a heady, steady vibe that sounds in short bursts like junior varsity beat matching, making a selector likely to step back from the decks and the blame. Nevertheless, Shad Du's "Money" is rich stuff, while Captain Barkey and Mr. Vegas's "Whine" is dark, hypnotic, and soaring -- like the evil, more powerful twin of Vegas's "Rise" from 2001.
Also on VP, Golden Bathtub is making a splash right now as guilty-pleasure dancehall pop. Unlike "Masterpiece," Bathtub washes away artists' differences, yielding a set of similar bubblegum love jams -- yet with its big guitar chords, it's still the catchiest beat at the dance right now. Hawkeye's "Tell Unnu Straight" and Elephant Man's "Perfect Winner" will wind the ladies' waists like a watch.
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A lower-profile gem is Mi Nuh Know, crafted by the legendary David Kelly and released on his Mad House label. Riding two-stepping congos, a plucky keyboard melody, and assorted chimes, newcomer Ms. Thing wants to "Get That Money" while Baby Cham confesses to a "Bad Mind." You'll gladly forgive them.
Meanwhile, over on U.K. label Jet Star, the triple-doorslam beat -- ton ta-ton! -- from Clipse's hip-hop anthem "Grindin" accents the big, noisy Sweat riddim, adding up to a novelty that's, well, there if you need it.
Lastly, back at Greensleeves, the riddims Threat (number 32) and Mad Ants (number 33) mix like oil and water. Threat incites chin nods with a tasty midtempo groove, bolstered in sections by dubby keys. Boy-men T.O.K. and Red Rat cool their jets enough to deliver some of their best work yet, while Elephant Man outweighs everyone as usual. The Mad Ants riddim, on the other hand, trades depth for an insects-in-the-pants call to motion. Thin and frantic, it relies on hard-hitting singjay treatment by Capleton, Beenie Man, and Bounty Killer to flesh it out. Thankfully they are up to the task.
Overall 2003 crawls into the dance looking promising indeed. All that's left is to instill some righteousness in the young'n with Luciano's Serve Jah, another soulful chapter in the singer's good book. Then when the kid's asleep, let the tender lullabyes on VP's Sweet Love Volume 6 lay the grown-ups' cold winter's night to rest ... or just get it started up.