Our featured redhead is Jessica Rabbit. Her exaggerated features and over-the-top sexuality well represent the 1992 album X-tra Naked by Jamaican star Shabba Ranks. All boobs and butt, Jessica would fit in nicely with the dancers featured on the Jamaican dancehall videos playlist on Rockers TV.
X-tra Naked was Shabba Ranks’ most popular release, and won the 1993 Grammy for Best Reggae Album. Categorizing this album as reggae is misleading as it is more a mix of hip-hop, R&B, and West Indian dancehall, and its cross-over appeal made Ranks the most internationally recognized Jamaican artist since Bob Marley.
Shabba’s style and lyrics are raw. You might want to be mindful of your audience if you plan to blast this album off your back deck. However, if the neighbors are not up to speed with their Jamaican patois, they likely will not understand half of what they hear.
Ting-A-Ling is a good launch point to get a feel for the patterns and beats common in dancehall, two quick phrases, followed by a double-length third line.
Ting-a-ling a ling, dancehall it swing, DJ head stuck up when hear boom riddim.
Ting-a-ling a ling, schoolbell a ring, knife and fork ah fight fi dumplin.
Shabba shouts the intro to Slow and Sexy which blends reggae and R&B, and features New Edition alum and 90’s crooner, Johnny Gill, growling and scatting alongside Shabba’s booming vocals.
Will Power has a throwback rub-a-dub style, both in the instrumental arrangement and rhythm, while Muscle Grip is Shabba’s take on tenderness as it his most restrained performance on the album, and opens with a sample of Earth Wind & Fire’s Reasons.
Rude Boy is a Jamaican anthem that draws from the spirit of Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud by James Brown. Read unrepentant for rude and man for boy, in dealing with authority.
The lyrics to Cocky Rim are so crude and nasty that I’ve yet to listen past the first verse. 5-F Man provides much of the same. There is no subtlety to be found anywhere in this collection. While the message in Bedroom Bully varies little from this theme, musically it is intriguing. Shabba leads in with raw scratchy vocals while a sinister descending synthesizer riff plays over the top, then switches to a deep baritone echoed by a pounding drum beat.
What’cha Gonna Do? displays Rank’s skills as a rapper. He spits lyrics at breakneck speed, rivaling Busta Rhymes and Rakim. Shabba briefly shares the beat with Queen Latifah, back when she was more hip-hop artist and less movie star. It’s a fine performance, and after her verse is complete, Shabba blazes off, leaving everyone in the dust.
While What’cha Gonna Do? is a hip-hop track with Jamaican flair, Ready-Ready, Goody-Goody is the flip side, contemporary Jamaican dancehall with an R&B influence. Another One Program is more traditional dancehall, complete with its unique instrumentation and sound effects.
Rounding things out are Two Breddrens with Chubb Rock launching into the lyrics with his best impersonation of Shabba, and Mr. Loverman, the most popular single from this album.
Mis-ter Lover-man, Shabba!
This album is Shabba Ranks at his finest, and a great synthesis of Jamaican dancehall and hip-hop. Wind ya body!
- Ting-A-Ling – 3:52
- Slow and Sexy (Featuring Johnny Gill) – 5:18
- Will Power – 3:35
- Muscle Grip – 4:01
- Rude Boy – 3:54
- Cocky Rim – 3:37
- What’cha Gonna Do? (Featuring Queen Latifah) – 3:50
- Bedroom Bully – 4:13
- Another One Program – 3:39
- Ready-Ready, Goody-Goody – 4:07
- Two Breddrens (Featuring Chubb Rock) – 4:25
- 5-F Man – 4:14
- Mr. Loverman (With Chevelle Franklin) – 5:58
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