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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

MC Rai

By Bruce Miller
Published March 16, 2007

Raivolution
Embarka 001

Take this disc out of the plastic. Punch up track seven, “Maktoubi.” Go feed your cat, chop some garlic as a base for the night’s dinner, acknowledge your spouse/roommate(s) and let him/her/them know they’re special. By now, even if you don’t know Arabic, the vocal insinuations of this Tunisian-born, San Francisco-based crooner should’ve interrupted whatever you might normally have been thinking about. When Rai’s on, the best of Missy Elliot, Iraqi Choubi rhythms and the outlaw appeal of Algerian Chaabi gets wrapped up in a banana leaf. The best sections of Raivolution are as hip as anything happening anywhere, all but impossible not to find something in. The album only (briefly) flops when English-speaking rappers N4SA and CB dilute the proceedings, or when things get a little too metallic, as on “Yamina.” Otherwise, this is a sound ready to blast from North African market stalls all the way to America.