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Once again, VP Records hits the public with a must-have compilation, this time focusing on some of the biggest hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Often characterized as a low point in reggae history due to the increased focus on gun talk, partying and sexual pleasures, no one can deny the infectious beats of this era. Dancehall 101 doesn’t stray too far from this stereotype, but also includes soul-stirring tunes, such as Wayne Wonder’s timeless “Saddest Day” and Foxy Brown’s “Sorry.” Rastafarian references are minimal, as tracks by artists such as Buju Banton and Tony Rebel predate the religious fixations of many of these performers’ more recent work. Quite a few classics are here, including Sister Nancey’s “Bam Bam” and El General’s reggae-Español hit, “Pun Tun Tun.” Other contributors range from dancehall king Yellowman to singer Beres Hammands. Younger artists such as Beenie Man and Red Rat also represent with a couple of more contemporary tracks. One downside is that the lack of socially conscious tunes might leave new dancehall listeners with a limited view of the genre, much as hip hop often gets pigeonholed as merely addressing the finer points of big-breasted women, big-bodied Benzes and jewel-encrusted platinum. But make no mistake; if you’re looking to complement or start your reggae collection, you can’t go wrong with Dancehall 101

Dan Zarazua writes about music for Metro Times. E-Mail him at

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