Richie Spice

Jamaican singer Richie Spice approaches dancehall music from a vastly different angle than most of his peers. Despite growing up in the rough parish of St. Andrews, Spice's smooth vocals and delicate songwriting stand in stark contrast to most of the soundbwoy fi dead shit-talk now proliferating throughout the reggae ranks. On his newest disc, In the Streets to Africa, Spice sings passionate love songs to both women and youth in an effort to bring healing music to the masses. His radio-friendly tune "Youth Dem Cold" is easily the best song on this album, and it speaks directly to the causes of violence in Jamaica. The romantic ditty "Brown Skin" is another standout song, both for its lyrical content and smooth vocals that somehow remain within the reggae canon and don't cross over into R&B territory. Coincidentally, Spice is also the younger brother of Pliers, who co-wrote the dancehall classic "Murder She Wrote," so musical talent runs in his blood. There are times when some of the love crooning grows monotonous, and it's easy to tune out around the halfway mark of this disc and wait for the radio-ready tracks like "Motherland Calling" to wake you up again. But the Rastafarian nyabinghi drums on that song are so slow and crisp, they remind you of a simpler time in reggae, when violence and misogyny weren't so prevalent. — Jonathan Cunningham