Reggae, decades after its emergence, remains an overwhelmingly maledominated domain, and the dancehall subgenre, in particular, has demonstrated a forceful resistance to allowing women into the club. Alongside Lady Saw, Ce'Cile, J.C. Lodge and scarce few others, Tanya Stephens has emerged over the past decade as a leader in closing the gender ranks. Rebelution is far and above her most impressive effort to date and stands to win her the title of new dancehall queen. Penning all of her own lyrics, with the music supplied by a handful of coproducers (in particular Andrew Henton) who, in most cases, also supply the instrumentation, Stephens haswhether deliberately or coincidentallycrafted a thematically cohesive concept album of sorts. Her focus here is on female empowerment, be it in the music business, in bed or in the streets. In turn hilarious and dead serious, and shifting easily from dancehall to conscious roots reggae, Stephens lays it all down unambiguously. In "Put It On You," she leaves no doubt what she expects from her partner: "Well me a watch you like a sniper 'cause me want you ride me like a biker/Climb up pon the buff like a hiker/Basically me want you slam me hard like the Rowdy Rowdy Piper," while in "These Streets" she admonishes her lover not to treat her with any less respect than he does his car and other possessions. The backtoback "Saturday Morning" and "Cherry Brandy" address the conundrum of the alcoholinspired onenighter. In the former, Stephens has no clue who she's woken up next to, and swears she's sticking to Coke (the liquid, not the powder) from now on. But in the sequel she's over it fast, pledging her allegiance to favorite guys with names like Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker. Stephens is the owner of an especially flexible voice that's equally convincing in a soft balladand much of this album takes that formand a stonehard dancehall floorstomper. In any form, though, her words are winners, and never lightweight: "Rosa," a tribute to the late civil rights heroine Rosa Parks and other great leaders of the movement, notes with appropriate respect that while those of African heritage have "come a long way," people are "still not unified." In "Warn Dem," immediately following, she rails adamantly against violence and war. "Do You Care" wonders of the predicament of the racist white man receiving a liver transplant from a black person and the homophobe rescued by the driver sporting a gay pride sticker. Yet when Stephens takes on the battle of the sexes, she is equally and unflinchingly frank, defending her role as a "housewrecker" in "Still A Go Lose" and leaving nothing to the imagination when, in the albumclosing "Don't Play," she instructs her stud: "Me want yuh stick it up so hard me a listen out fi 'gimme the loot/Pass the remote and make sure say the Magnavox mute/So when the neighbor them see you them say respect my youth." No doubt about it now, Tanya Stephens means business.
- Jeff Tamarkin, All Music Guide