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Da (1988)

Elmer Bernstein 

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So Drop Da Bomb...
I'm not certain how much America knows about Ali G, so here's a quick background. Sacha Baron Cohen is a middle-class Englishman of Jewish descent who created the wannabe "gangsta" Ali G as a send-up of those white youths who listen to hip-hop and British Garage (a derivation of hip-hop, dance hall, jungle and RnB) and think of themselves as black. Ali G fetched up with his own TV show - which is very good, by the way - and then with this film, dealing with his time in Parliament.

The soundtrack of "Ali G Indahouse" is very strong, regardless of how much the listener knows about the man or the movie. It's presented as a pirate radio program "comin to you out of da ghettos of Berkshire" with Ali as the host. Unsurprisingly, the selections on this program cover Ali G's biggest influences. There's garage (Ms Dynamite's "Dynamite", So Solid Crew's "Ride Wid Us" and Oxide and Neutrino's "Shoot To Kill"), dance hall reggae (Backyard Dog's "Baddest, Ruffest"), hip-hop (Foxy Brown and Ja Rule both make appearances) and RnB (Another Level). The sequencing is a little haphazard, but this problem is not a major one as a result of the "radio show" element.

Ali G also drops three stone-cold classics of early hip-hop, at least one of which has appeared on his show. NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" is given a rewind treatment and sounds as fresh today as when it was written - and quite frankly puts the MCs around it to shame. Public Enemy's "Fight The Power", with its Bomb Squad production and heavy politics, is a little out-of-place surrounded by the apolitical stuff of the rest of the soundtrack. Of course, that might be the point. The last actual "song" is Afrika Baambaataa and Soul Sonic Force's legendary "Planet Rock" in its full glory. Quite frankly, this alone is worth the price of purchase.

What really steals the show for me are Ali G's little "skits" in between some of the tracks. Part of Ali's humour is that he often reveals exactly how uncool he is when trying to be cool. The intro, for example, has him "bigging up" the various gangs around his home town of Staines and inadvertently mentioning one twice. His introduction of Ms Dynamite has to be heard to be believed - "Dis track is gonna blow up like what? Yeah, you guessed it, like dynamite. Sure it doesn't come in boxes with the word 'dynamite' on dem...", as well as his discussion of the violence inherent in garage music ("dem claim - illegibly illegibly - dat dese boys is about violence") before throwing to a song entitled "Shoot To Kill". Other highlights of this nature include his shout outs prior to Nelly's cut, shout outs ranging from his friends through to Puff Daddy and Wyclef Jean, and his incredible introduction of Shaggy ("You may fink he's Mr Boombastic/But in real life him a bit of a spastic/Take it away Mr reggae fantastic/der der der der der der piece of plastic/der der der der der der knicker elastic").

Partly as a result of this introduction, the standout track is Shaggy and Ali's duet of "Me Julie". This song, theoretically about their respective girlfriends, is utterly marvellous. Shaggy delivers one of his better vocal performances ever, along with some very interesting asides, while Ali's contribution after telling Shaggy "me can rap too" is marvellous. While some of the other cuts here are unintentionally funny, "Me Julie" glories in its humour and is thus far and away the strongest cut here.

Overall, Ali G's humour may not be to everyone's tastes, but that is no reason not to buy this CD. Some of the tracks here are very hard to come across in any other setting, while the skits and general "Ali G" quality will provide an extra dimension to the listener receptive to this sort of humour. Very much a worthwhile album.

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