Panjabi MC Beware

"Mundian to Bache Ke” has long been a staple at South Asian weddings, but this past year it suddenly crept onto urban play lists and caught the ears of Jay-Z, who in turn over-dubbed his rhymes for a new remix. The latter opens up Panjabi MC’s first major album and while there’s something to be said for mainstream endorsement, Jigga’s snake-charmer talk treats the bangin’ bhangra hooks as exotic noise. Fortunately, Panjabi MC was wise enough to keep the original tune at the end of Beware and back it up with a tight collection of his own tracks. His production isn’t as radical as Talvin Singh’s nor is his rapping as clever as the Roots’, but our man keeps heads of all backgrounds noddin’ throughout with the "don’t fuck with me” attitude of his smoked-out flow, dhol-charging beats and gangsta-styled samples of Bollywood dialogue. What’s more unique about Beware is that it is as much engaged with the rules of streetwise funk as it is with the spirit of Desi village ways. The mid-section of the album is mostly comprised of bhangra stompers and reinterpretations of Punjabi folklore. None of them sound far removed from PMC’s hip-hop stuff, as the premise is the same: everyday people talking blues over mad rhythms. The fact that Panjabi MC can kick it using several tongues and drums is more than a novelty; it’s keeping it real in more ways than one. (Nachural)