2. Popcaan – Where I Come From
As we’ve noted here before, great dancehall albums that you can play from front to back, over and over, don’t come around often. All told, there’s not more than a dozen or two. Popcaan‘s Where We Come From is the latest addition to this exclusive list, and the strongest full-length from a dancehall act since Vybz Kartel’s Kingston Story. That the same executive producer and record label, Dre Skull of Mixpak Records, is behind both is no coincidence: It often takes an outsider to visualize the bigger picture that great albums require, and Dre is one of few outsiders who’s invested in dancehall in a meaningful way respected by its artists.
It’s Popcaan that makes Where We Come From great, though. Easily the best new dancehall artist to emerge in the last five years, he delivers on the promise of his early singles by upping his conscious lyrics and embracing a humble, everyman persona sorely missing in a genre where egos too often have gotten out of control. The 12-track release isn’t perfect, but it’s consistently good and it’s also successful in that pragmatic way that dancehall requires—it’s produced several hits, including the lead single “Everything Nice,” “Love Yuh Bad,” and the title track, each of which was made expressly for the album (an anomaly in dancehall, where LPs usually collect previously released singles). With its forward-looking production and universal lyrics, Where We Come From stands to sound fresh and current for years to come. —Jesse Serwer