Ghetto Dictionary: The Art of War

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The Art of War is the first part of Bounty Killer’s ambitious 40-track Ghetto Dictionary, whose goal seems to be to establish the DJ as the force to be reckoned with in the dancehall. This first volume is an aggressive, hardcore fireball that aims to scorch the Earth and makes not apologies for doing so. And yet, how is it that I initially found this album to be boring? Well, it’s largely a matter of been there, done that. The Killer gives us nothing new here; we’ve heard it all before from him. Even his nihilistic dissing of other DJs seems old-hat. But, given time, I came to appreciate his dedication to what he does best: giving the fans what they want. The Art of War can be seen in many ways as the antithesis of arch-enemy Beenie Man’s Art & Life. The title aside, musically, Bounty Killer eschews the light pop and R&B crossover sound of Art & Life in favor of a blistering dancehall flavor that only occasionally incorporates a hip-hop edge. Of course, let us not overlook the verbal haymakers that Bounty Killer hurls at his rival, most notably on “Look Good,” which focuses largely on the assertion that Beenie Man is gay. (Unbeknownst to many in the US, Bounty Killer caught flak from Beenie Man and others in Jamaica for he video for the god-awful hit “Hey Baby” by No Doubt, in which a poorly-timed edit shows a naked male member of the band cavorting as Bounty Killer chats about how he likes the way you shake it, etc. No doubt that No Doubt was aware neither of the implications nor the hyper-machismo and hyper-homophobia inherent in Jamaican culture.) While I can’t say that there are any particularly great songs on The Art of War (my favorite being “Sumfest”), there aren’t any bad ones either (although “W.A.R.R.,” which incorporates the whistling from the theme to “The Andy Griffith Show,” is a tad disturbing); it’s quite consistent throughout. No doubt that fans hard up (or even not so hard up) for Bounty Killer material will find what they want here.