Lady Saw :: Extra Raw... The Best of Lady Saw :: VP Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Even though the site's name is, we do dabble in related urban genres from time to time in our reviews. For reggae, the relationship is more than just kissing cousins. It was the very culture of soundclashes and deejay toasting that Kool Herc brought from Jamaica to the Bronx in the 1970's, making modern day hip-hop a direct descendant of reggae style and sound. Here's another way to look at it - the sound of hip-hop is what a child of reggae born in the U.S. would be like, co-opting the culture of his/her parents with the local cultural environment into something neither had ever seen before. While the children of reggae in Jamaica grew up from roots to dancehall to slackness, the children of hip-hop experienced their own lifecycle of disco, political, educational and gangster (with a little slackness mixed in by 2 Live Crew). These children grew up so differently that many will outright deny they are related at all, but listen to either long enough and you'll hear how close they are. Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Lady Saw and Patra are rapping too.

Speaking of Lady Saw, VP Records just re-released "Extra Raw... The Best of Lady Saw," an eighteen track tribute to a woman often described as "The Firsy Lady of Dancehall." This is not a title that was handed to her on a silver platter. Saw has spent the last 37 years of her life overcoming stereotypes and prejudices against female deejays in her native land. While it was considered perfectly acceptable for male reggae artists to have sexually explicit lyrics, for women it was taboo enough to get her bawdy performances banned in many clubs in Jamaica even in the 1990's. Soon enough those same halls learned they would be on the outside looking in, because as a recording artist on VP she went from regionally controversial to globally popular. Her duet "Smile" with Vitamin C went three times platinum. Even if you think you know Lady Saw, you've heard this song and Saw's catchy "what'cha gonna do, say what'cha gonna do" refrain. There's also a fair chance you've heard Gwen Stefani rocking with Saw on the popular No Doubt hit "Underneath it All," another song featuring Lady Saw to go platinum. Saw has had plenty of hits on her own though, ranging from songs about standing up to female degradation ("Sycamore Tree") to knocking unfaithful lovers ("Give Me the Reason") to promoting safe sex ("Condom").

One may question what the point would be of picking up this CD the second time around if they were a Lady Saw fan the first time it was released. The first is undoubtedly the bonus DVD packaged with the disc, featuring her best music videos and a live performance from 1997 in New York City. The second is that the lineup of songs on "The Best of Lady Saw" has changed, which is why this new version is EXTRA Raw instead of just plain Raw. You won't find the hard-pulsing "Want it Tonight" duet with Shabba Ranks on the original. You won't find her track "Loser" with protege Ce'Cile on the original either. Instead of just reissuing the original album with a DVD, VP Records actually changed up the lineup while keeping the classics like "Healing" featuring Beenie Man in tact.

While I don't profess to be the #1 reggae fan in the world (in fact I'm often embarrassed by far behind I get on the current shit) Lady Saw is a case of "I know what I like, and I like her stylee." She's unapologetically bawdy and frank, she's definitely top rank, and when she croons "you work me like a stallion" you can't argue with her FI-YAH. She can be staunchly feminist too though, dismissing the need for a companion, boldly standing "man are the least of me problem" and "me stress free cause me no need nah excitement," telling a man with too much drama to go see his OTHER woman and leave her the hell alone. "Me worry about a man? YOU'RE WRONG!!" You go girl. Lady Saw is righteous, raunchy, rude and rebellious, and her reggae rocks even at RapReviews.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10

Originally posted: July 21, 2009