by Emmanuel Jal
Released: May 2008
Jal's first album was charmed: Sudan's master musician Abdel Gadir Salim collaborated, and it seemed a celebration of survival. Warchild is less hopeful: Jal has adopted rap's grim obsession with hardship, and his English-language rapping can fall into platitudes. But his focus -- on child soldiers and corruption in Africa -- has big stakes. "Who's benefiting from our sufferings?" Jal asks, while eschewing bling and b*tches and much of the crap infecting hip-hop. He even calls out 50 Cent and celebrates the Ninth Ward. This may be a sophomore slump, but it still leaves us wanting more.