Spice Rack

Featuring the lines "she love how me plant it, slide and slant it," Universal's opener "My Love" (RealAudio excerpt) announces from the jump that the sound offered by the youngest of reggae's singing Bonners is a damn sight more Afro-erotic than the lovers-rock fantasies his big brothers Pliers (often found sweetening his deejay partner Chakademus' rough reggae raps and executive-producing here) and Spanner Banner, who joins Richie and Sizzla clone Jah Mason for "Love Is the Way" (RealAudio excerpt) purvey so smoothly.

Eschewing their rounded notes for his own raw, flat-out stylings, this baby bro continues to do it his own way. He's had a rough time of it, too.

The liner notes enthuse that Richie Spice is "the newest star in the dancehall," thereby overlooking Spice's several years on the sidelines. But dancehall has finally caught up to Spice's vocal imagination. Last January's Rebel Salute, an annual convocation of Rasta and roots reggae well off the usual tourist trail, conferred its approval with rousing "booyaka shots" and lighters in the air when Spice busted out "Fire" (RealAudio excerpt), a tune that scored with the popular incendiary theme set by "Fireman" Capleton. Like many tunes on Universal (which, at 18 tracks, is somewhat too heavily spiced), this one runs over a nicely skewered mix of dancehall and roots, with computer-generated rhythm chords over a drum machine throwing out burru drumlike cross-rhythms.