Artist: ChamTitle: Ghetto StoryRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jamiyl "J Boogie" Samuels
Ever since Sean Paul dropped Dutty Rock in 2003, dancehall artists young and old have been trying to duplicate Paul's penchant for attaining crossover success while remaining true to his dancehall roots: a feat unmatched since Shabba Ranks pulled off the trick over a decade earlier. The artist formerly known as Baby Cham is no new jack. He has been burning up the dancehall scene since the late 90's, but the only taste of mainstream acclaim came in the form of an appearance on the much slept on Foxy Brown single "Tables Will Turn". With Ghetto Story (Atlantic/Mad House), Cham aims to straddle the line between staying true to the hardcore dancehall music that made him famous and selling records for a major label.
With his most personal release yet, Cham is at his best when he spits the brazen, unapologetically gangsta dancehall music. In the vein of past hardcore Cham classics "Can I Get A" and "Man and Man", "What Dem A Say Now" dares his enemy to cross him "What dem a say now when dem see the AK?" he spews. "Bring It On" finds Cham bragging about getting serviced by his enemy's baby-mama among other disrespectful jibes. "Cham" is a self-promoting gem that will give sound systems a workout. The title track finds Cham revealing his most personal and vulnerable side to amazing results, so much so that a remix was done twice over (both included on the album). Sticking to the script on "Ghetto Story", even when hes down, Cham finds a way to get his gun and get revenge. However, Cham, or the folks at his label, might have been blinded by the success of the "Ghetto Story" single and forgot that its success was due to its rawness.
Like Beenie Man and Bounty Killer before him, Cham's first foray in the majors falters with blatant attempts at crossover records. The elementary "Boom Boom" features MTV darling Rihanna crooning "When you hit the spot it goes boom boom boom." Simplistic production dooms "Love It Like That" as it's hard to listen to Cham spit game over R. Kelly-esque woodwinds. As is the case with a lot of dancehall records being released in the States months after releas in Jamaica, certain songs make the cut that are dated. "Vitamin S" and "Girl" featuring Jimmy Cheesetrix are examples of songs that have been heard on other compilations, a minor detail if you are not an ardent follower of dancehall music.
Despite the missteps, Ghetto Story is a formidable major label debut for Sherlock Crescent's native son. The multiple versions of "Ghetto Story" is more than enough to satisfy the mainstream audience. Cham shows versatility that will keep listeners entertained, however a completely dancehall record would have made his ghetto tales that much harder to forget.