Imperial Blaze (Deluxe Version)

Imperial Blaze (Deluxe Version)

Sean Paul’s fourth album is his heaviest and most consistent collection of songs to date. Produced almost entirely by Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor (son of reggae legend Freddie McGregor), Imperial Blaze matches the humid throb of club music to the ferocity of street-oriented Dancehall. “Lace It,” “She Want Me” and “Wine Baby Wine” charge from the speakers like a battalion of swinging sledgehammers. Thankfully there is a dearth of cameos on Imperial Blaze, although the hip-hop-inflected stomp of “Lately” is enough to make one wish that Sean Paul might someday collaborate with Lil’ Wayne. Even as he delivers some of the hardest songs of his career, Sean Paul still knows how to balance it out with pop turns. It’s hard not to like the wistful piece of lover’s rock that is “Hold My Hand (I’ll Be There)” (with Keri Hilson),” while “Press It Up,” “Don’t Tease Me,” and the cheesy-but-wonderful “Pepperpot” formulate an ideal balance between pop hooks and Dancehall heat.

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