There’s something almost inherently monotonous about Sean Paul, a bland, humorless representation of Caribbean hyper-masculinity, defined by tightly-pulled cornrows and a signature raised eyebrow: a shtick that would be ridiculous even if it weren’t copied from WWE wrestler the Rock. As one of hip-hop’s instantly recognizable cartoons, he’s on the boring end of the spectrum, his only qualities of note being his role as one of the mainstream ambassadors of dancehall and the flashy guests he sometimes attracts. There are no guest appearances on Imperial Blaze, and 70 minutes is an almost excruciatingly long time to spend alone with Paul.
In a world where the full-length album seems less and less viable, it seems entirely possible that the only ones who will listen to Imperial Blaze in its entirety will be those reviewing it. Some singles may work their way loose, but as a whole the album will is too long and monotonous; the affected style of Paul’s voice, fine for the occasional single, becomes a grating trial over 21 songs. The beats, vibrant and effectively spry at points, repeatedly slip into the mechanical churl of reheated reggaeton.
When the beats on Imperial Blaze work, like the clever marimba that underscores the otherwise standard “Evening Ride,” they temporarily mitigate the negative factors. The best songs have a scuttling flow that plays laidback reggae off surging, modern hip-hop beats. But these moments are infrequent and fail to change the fact that as both a singer and MC Paul is a nonentity, a mostly featureless blob void of charisma. Heard at a party or a club, his songs may have a certain offhand charm; in a row they form a bland marathon that’s a challenge to take on.