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Who is the greatest dancehall artist of all time?

Vybz Kartel Bounty Killer Vybz Kartel Bounty Killer

MUSIC IS A MISSION, NOT A COMPETITIONCapleton

I agree wholeheartedly with King Shango’s statement above. I am not in the least bit of disagreement. But let’s face it, when we fans of reggae get together (especially dancehall), we like to compare and contrast dancehall artists. Who have the wickedest style? Who have the wickedest lyrics? Who rides the rhythm the best? Who is the best performer on a live stage?

We regularly have discussion based on; if you take every reggae dancehall artist at the prime of their careers, who is/was the greatest? Then you hear choices ranging from Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Sizzla Kalonji, Vybz Kartel, Capleton, Mavado, Ninja Man and even Professor Nuts. I think Professor Nuts may only have one album in his entire career, but if you want a good laugh at a live performance, he is the man.

People have varying reasons for why they think a particular artist is the greatest. For example, no one can deny the social impact of Sizzla Kalonji. Whether it was the role he played in reducing Jamaica’s crime rate when he first came out, the way his music uplift people, his great songwriting skills or just the influence he has had on all artists after him. For me it was hard to disagree with those that chose Sizzla as the greatest, after all he is my favorite reggae artist, but I could not with an honest heart say I think he is the greatest of all time. I think that credit belongs to Shabba Ranks in my opinion, and it is not a humble one.

I say Shabba Ranks, because he sets the dancehall trends for a lot of DJs to follow. It’s like he created the blueprint and past it to the DJs after him. The rough growling voice that you heard from Buju Banton, Terror Fabulous, Mega Banton and others were all influenced by Shabba Ranks.

Many people think of Buju and they think of “Boom Bye Bye” and the controversy that ensued. While “Boom Bye Bye” started the conflict with reggae and the homosexual community, it was actually Shabba who had the first real big song hitting out on homosexuality, There might have been others before Shabba Ranks but none with a song as big as “Mauma Man”. I still remember the intro to Shabba’s song on one of the hottest dancehall riddims back then:

“Mauma man duck
And kiss every bottom when you are coming up
Pam Pam! Gunshot! Fi all di faggot dem”

Since then and until today, those type of lyrics of been prevalent in dancehall, but if you ask a lot of dancehall fans, they may think Buju started that trend. Another trend that was started by Shabba Ranks was the hitting out on bow cats. To my non-Caribbean friends, if you practice oral sex, you are a bow cat. Since Shabba Ranks recorded “Dem Bow”, there must have been at least ten thousands “Fire bun a suck pussy bwoy” songs.

The most important trend in dancehall that came about during the reign of Shabba Ranks was the DJ and singing combination, where a singer would sing then the DJ would chant some lyrics. This trend was not started by Shabba; I am not sure if it was started by Ninja Man and Courtney Melody with “Protection” or if it was Flourgon and Sanchez with “Dungle lover”. What I do know, is that Shabba took that style to the highest level reggae as ever seen with hits like “Mr. Loverman”, “House Call”, “Twice my age” and “Telephone Love”. It was not until Terror Fabulous and Nadine Sutherland recorded “Action” that I saw that style of dancehall being taken to the levels Shabba took it.

So with all those accomplishments, why is Shabba’s name not mentioned as much as other artists when these discussions come around? I think Shabba may have been a victim of his own success. Shabba was so huge and mainstream, that there were those who thought his style was being watered down (whether this was just hating or it was a fact is beside the point). So when the whole conflict with the gay community began, as Shabba lost his mainstream fans because of protests, he did not have the hardcore dancehall fans to fall back on. If we had continue to support Shabba inspite of the pop that was becoming evident in his music, he would have been immune to the homosexual onslaught just like Buju, Sizzla, Capleton and all the other dancehall artists who had to face the similar struggles.

In Shabba Ranks days, a dancehall artist and a big name American artist doing songs together was not as common as it is today, but still Shabba had songs with Johnny Gill, KRS-One, Chub Rock and Queen Latifah, that’s another trend he set. The end!

Oops! I forgot; Shabba won two Grammy awards.

Who do you believe is the greatest reggae dancehall artist of all time? Why?

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