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Emmanuel Jal Warchild

No rap artist has a more poignant or interesting back-story as Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier who was both a victim and perpetrator of the Sudanese genocide before hitting puberty. On his third (and first English-language) release, Jal addresses his tragic, violent past (“Warchild,” “Forced to Sin”), updates a Jimmy Cliff classic (“Many Rivers to Cross”), offers a deeply moving metaphor for the rape of Africa (“Vagina”), and repudiates materialism (“No Bling”). On “50 Cent,” the album’s boldest, most ambitious track, Jal warns the American gangsta rap icon he’s “being played by the man.” Occasionally, Jal sounds preachy, but you might too, had you lived his life. Thoroughly conscious, undeniably relevant, and utterly essential, Warchild may be the most important rap album since PE’s Nation of Millions.

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