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Spotlight

Elephant Man

By Bill Murphy
Published July 11, 2008

Brash, bold and a borderline goner, Elephant Man is churning up the dancehall scene with a mighty trumpet.

In recent years, a handful of Jamaican dancehall artists have enjoyed an unusual level of mainstream crossover appeal, particularly among American hip-hop audiences who like their beats slick, stripped-down and accessible. At 32, Elephant Man (born O’Neil Bryan in Kingston) is one of the few who has crossed over to such a degree that he’s actually working with some of the same producers and MCs who have ruled the U.S. airwaves.

 

Following hot on the heels of his 2004 debut Good 2 Go, Let’s Get Physical puts the self-styled Energy God (as his fans know him) squarely in the ring with such hip-hop heavyweights as Wyclef Jean, Busta Rhymes, Swizz Beatz and P. Diddy (whose Bad Boy imprint has released the album in a joint venture with VP Records). “It’s so important right now for dancehall and for me to make my second mainstream album [something that won’t] let down the fans,” Bryan told the BBC’s Radio 1Xtra last year, when the album was nearing completion. “You haffi give them what them nah expect—make them look out for the unexpected.”

 

And the album is certainly rich in surprise moves, from the Swizz-produced club banger “Jump” to the very nearly rootsrocking “Five O,” with Wyclef and Diddy. Of course, some of the grooves here are safe as milk—as is Bryan’s subject matter for the most part, which sticks largely to the bump-andgrind braggadoccio that is dancehall’s lifeblood—but his flow is so infectious, and party sense so well-honed, that you can’t help but go along for the ride.