Not surprisingly, "Beware" (the original title is shortened on this album) sets the tone throughout: The instrumentation and Eastern harmonics of bhangra -- the traditional Indian music popular in the dance-music community of Coventry, England, from which Rai hails -- are combined with Western jeep beats and rhymes from a host of obscure MCs. Oddly enough for a person who calls himself an MC, Rai sings instead of raps on the record. He even includes more traditional Indian folk numbers, such as "Ghalla Gurian," to give pop-hungry tourists a taste of his music's broader cultural context. Nevertheless, the album has a blatant commercial sheen, even with the dhols and the foreign-language libretto intact. But Rai is an impassioned singer, and he makes himself immediately at home in these newfangled settings; his appeal loses nothing in translation. Of course, the U.S. streets will have the final say as to whether Panjabi MC is a one-hit wonder or India's first ambassador of hip-hop.
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