Shabba Ranks Biography

Rexton Rawlston Gordon, 17 January 1966, St. Ann, Jamaica, West Indies. Ranks’ family moved from a country parish to Kingston when he was eight. By the age of 12 he was learning from DJs such as General Echo, Brigadier Jerry, Yellowman and Josey Wales. Ranks served his apprenticeship with the Roots Melody sound system under Admiral Bailey, and recorded his debut, ‘Heat Under Sufferers Feet’, in 1985. Josey Wales took him to King Jammy, for whom Ranks recorded 1986’s ‘Original Fresh’ and the Rough And Rugged collaboration with Chaka Demus. His reputation for ‘slackness’ began with ‘Needle Eye Punany’, recorded for Wittys while in New York in 1988. He joined Bobby Digital’s new label and Heatwave sound system shortly after this, and had considerable success with ‘Mama Man’, ‘Peanie Peanie’ and ‘Wicked In Bed’. The special partnership between Digital and Ranks began at this time, although Digital, formerly the engineer at Jammy’s, had known Ranks since the age of 15. ‘Who She Love’ and ‘Stop Spreading Rumours’ were collaborations with Cocoa Tea and his vocal group, Home T4, with whom Home T had teamed Ranks. Gussie Clarke later produced this combination for Holding On, which generated the big hits ‘Pirates Anthem’, ‘Twice My Age’ (with Krystal) and ‘Mr Loverman’ (with Deborahe Glasgow). Although he used few producers outside Bobby Digital and Gussie Clarke, Ranks became a dominating force in reggae music during 1989 and also began to attract interest from the hip-hop scene.

Epic Records took the plunge and signed Ranks to a major label contract in late 1990. Their faith was rewarded when remixed versions of ‘Mr Loverman’ and ‘Housecall’, the latter a duet with Maxi Priest, and ‘Slow And Sexy’, became major crossover hits during the 90s. Ranks’ first album for Epic, As Raw As Ever, used top Jamaican producers to forge a reggae-rap fusion that proved highly popular and earned him a US Grammy. The follow-up, X-Tra Naked, saw Ranks become the first DJ to win two consecutive Grammy Awards. He released further successful singles before ‘Shine And Criss’ and ‘Respect’ marked a return to the dancehall -style, delighting his loyal reggae fans. He was back in loverman mode for the single ‘Let’s Get It On’, which preceded 1995’s A Mi Shabba.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.