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DADDY YANKEE - BARRIO FINO - UNIVERSAL
Record Rating: ***

Daddy Yankee - Barrio Fino - Universal A form of dance music that became popular with Latin American youth during the late 1990s, reggaeton as a music style hasn't been around that long, but it’s now got hip artists doing it. A fusion of Bob Marley-esque hip-hop percussions with a Spanish flavour, reggaeton’s most successful crossover artist is Daddy Yankee, and anyone new to the genre will want to start with him.

He’s already a huge star in Latin America, and Barrio Fino is Puerto Rican born Raymond Ayala’s third solo effort and fifth release in a career that spans over a decade. The first reggaeton album to debut at #1 on the Billboard chart, it’s shifted over 5 million units worldwide, largely in part due to its lead single Gasolina. The song became an international club hit and fuelled his sudden ascent to wealth and fame in the process. The fusion of salsa, dancehall and reggae styles on tracks like Sabor A Melao and Tu Príncipe are misleading; the 20+ tracks showcase this as a Latin hip-hop album first and foremost.

For better or worse, it’s filled with overdone Eminem-like productions with the extra gloss of backup female vocalists on the hooks, making him sound like any baggy trussed hip hop kid the world over. He obviously has strong rhyming skills as follow up #1 hit Lo Que Paso, Paso and radio staple Corazones demonstrate, but the album peaks early and it's not nearly as catchy or accessible as you might have expected it to be.

Yankee, who sounds best when he’s party-oriented, tries hard on Barrio Fino to live up to the promise of the hype surrounding him, and almost makes it. Those who aren't intimidated by the language barrier will find this to be a good album to play around with.

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