Shabba Ranks…The Emperor of Dancehall Image

by Biko Kennedy

With tracks like Ting-A-Ling and Mr. Loverman coursing through his veins and Trailor Load a Girls and Wicked In Bed oozing through his pores, Shabba Ranks arguably stands as the soundtrack of Dancehall.

Known for his high-energy performances mixed with pelvic gyrations similar to that of Elvis in his prime, Shabba's authentic Dancehall flavour - which had earn him two Grammy Awards and numerous accolades – holds a persona that is ever dynamic and trendsetting.

Now the owner of Emperor Ranks Entertainment, the artiste began his career as early as age 12, having been inspired by deejays he was close to like Josey Wales, Yellowman and General Echo. It wasn't until 1985 under the alias 'Co-Pilot' that he recorded his first single 'Heat under Sufferers Feet'with the Roots Melody Sound System with Admiral Bailey.

For his long-awaited return to Jamaica's Reggae Sumfest in 2012, Ranks' delivered what patrons were saying to be the best performance at the staging for years. But today we look back on the 20th anniversary of his career's downfall.

20 years ago on February 27th, British journalist and broadcaster Mark Lemarr singlehandedly changed the face of dancehall music by ending Shabba Ranks' mainstream career on Channel 4's programme 'The Word'.

With Dancehall acts, inclusive of Buju Banton and Yellowman, being known for their highly homophobic lyrics, Ranks was asked his thoughts on the topic to which he answered honestly with a statement that caused his career to plummet terribly. Suggesting, to the audience's initial surprise and eventual disgust, that as a Jamaican he lives by the Bible and its righteousness and simply that gays deserve crucifixion (according to the Bible, as an afterword), and that God commanded us to "go forth and multiply".

Lamarr sat so repulsed (as was the audience, whose gasps of dismay could be heard in the background) that he simply told Ranks that he was talking "crap and [he knew] it" and simply cut to another segment, ending the discussion.

At the time Ranks' was on the uttermost status of his career and had days before collected his second Grammy Award for X-tra Naked. After securing an international deal with Epic Records in 1991, Shabba quickly dominated the US and UK markets and subsequently established himself as an international sex symbol, fashion icon and dancehall's first real celebrity.

Mere minutes after the interview Ranks' was at the centre of a maelstrom of international rabid music critics and tabloids and eventually was dropped from the label.

See Shabba's infamous interview with Mark Lamarr here

The name Shabba Ranks certainly has an immediate, razor-sharp edge to it; can you imagine how big of a star Shabba would have been today if he hadn't make the remarks he did or do you think he would still have stepped away from the limelight to form his family and raise his sons?

Image A music aficionado redefining possibilities while pushing the limits of success...
view all



Artist Title Album / Riddim Label / Producer iTunes Social  
You have not yet added any tracks.