May 15, 2008


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Emmanuel Jal, Warchild
Sonic360 Records, May 13
In the realest sense, [insert name of gangster rapper here] has nothing on this dude. Warchild is also the title of a documentary chronicling Jal’s life as a child soldier and “Lost Boy” refugee in Sudan, the horrors involved in which included forcing himself not to eat the carcass of his best friend on the barren path to the town of Waat, where Jal met and was taken under the wing of a British aid worker who picked him out of a sea of doomed kids and saw that he got an education.

These are his tales, these tribal-rhythm-flushed rap songs, many of them sounding no different than what the latest Jay-Z lamprey is doing. Jal flows like an understandably nervous Pitbull, laid back and mumbly, but it’s all about the words, of course. Jal’s artistic license authorizes him to insert music that sounds like something from the Lion King soundtrack (“Baakiwara”) between stock piano-loop beats, and over such things he cusses out the U.S. greed-complex not only as a rapist of his land but of its own (“Ninth Ward”) and, in a heartwarmingly unassuming reach-out, warns his favorite star that he’s being used by The Man (“50 Cent”). A+Eric W. Saeger