Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Inna City Pressure

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Education is an enlightening thing. Hearing Dr. Israel’s new musical experiment for the first time is like Woody Harrelson trying to "hear" Jimmy. It’s a combination of dub, dance hall and jungle which my outer ear received as inspired, but my inner ear processed as unfocused.

Ironically, enlightenment comes in the form of a published statement explaining the jungle phenomenon. Once jungle is described as a gift from two West Indians who dared marry the hyper rebellion of techno-rave culture to the brashness of hip hop, this writer’s first impression of Dr. Israel is called to the carpet. Three cultural elements blended into one sound warrant a second listen.

So this time, I listen and "hear" Dr. Israel. I appreciate the music, which does maneuver between jungle and reggae, a little mo’ better. Still, hearing and appreciating lends credence to the determination that Inna City Pressure is an experiment mired in blandness. Israel’s conscious lyrics shine as he laments about the mutual problems of ghettos from Kingston sticks to Brooklyn bricks. And while the messages are strong, the entertainment is lost in the depressed sound of Israel’s voice, which is oddly reminiscent of Eddie Grant.

High points on Pressure include the traditional dub flavor of "Revolution," and the griot’s tale "Life in the Ghetto." The latter provides a flash of poetic power from Israel, who recants "At 17 Johnny Brown was dead /rumor has it that he was shot by a dread /Momma buried him in Harlem and tried to be brave /Now Malcolm and Martin watch over his grave."

While Pressure wins musically, at many points, there are too many sonic experiments set to too many mundane vocal arrangements. However, Israel may go down as a pioneer, since other artists will undoubtedly capitalize on his mistakes.

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