Words by Gabriel Heatwave
Gappy Ranks is continuing to lead the way for UK dancehall reggae acts around the world. His world tour has been blazing up everywhere from San Francisco to Sydney and Miami to Montpellier. Next month he’s at reggae festivals throughout Europe–Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Spain–before crowning it all with an appearance at London’s Notting Hill Carnival.
Gappy’s also making waves outside the reggae world, earning a high profile appearance on Jools Holland’s highly esteemed BBC television show recently. Jools was effusive in his praise, saying “I love this man’s music. This man is a sensation…” Though he did inexplicably refer to Gappy as, “one of the great new artists of the ska and reggae music.” Not that he’s not great, but ska?! Genre mistakes aside, Gappy did a wicked job: he sang sweetly and came across very positively. “It’s good to hear reggae music on Jools Holland.” Real talk. More please, BBC! Here’s “Heaven In Her Eyes,” with the added bonus of Jools on the grand piano:
Reggae music can often be a family business so it’s no surprise that Gappy’s cousin is also a very talented artist. Dolamite founded the influential Suncycle crew that has nurtured some of the brightest dancehall talents in the UK: people like Gappy himself, Lady Chann, Lante, Redd Man and BabyBoom. Recently Dolamite has been concentrating on production and running the Suncycle digital label but now he’s back as an MC, which is really where he excels. I can’t imagine why anyone would doubt him after last year’s brilliant “African Oil,” but just in case people think he hasn’t “got it” any more, he makes it absolutely clear on “Still Have It” that this is not the case. I have seen a SICK video of him performing this in the studio, but sadly it’s not on YouTube yet. Watch this space!
I find that people say “dancehall nice again” every couple of years, sometimes more frequently. I’m happy to say “dancehall nice” pretty much every day. Especially if I’m listening to Mr Williamz.
Mandinka Warrior & Mr Williamz – Dancehall Nice Again EP
They call it “original dancehall vibes inna combination style” and they are absolutely right. Mandinka Warrior’s got one of those powerful voices like Luciano and Bushman, and works wickedly alongside Williamz. The nine track EP features the duo riding classic riddims like Revolution, Truths & Rights and African Beat.
One EP isn’t enough for Mr Williamz, though… he’s got another one out at the moment as well. Williamz has got style and pattern for days; I reckon you could listen to his timeless flow for days too. His version of John Holt’s “Ali Baba” is particularly outstanding.
Mr Williamz – Last Night EP
Mr Williamz was one of the artists who most impressed at our Showtime stageshow last month: he has a stage presence to match his delivery. Though picking out artists or moments that were particularly good at that event is pretty difficult. For about three days afterwards I must have said “one of my favourite moment was when…” about a hundred times. Everyone impressed me A LOT. And everyone was impressed that Wiley, famous for his no-shows, was there spitting like the big MC he is and getting mad excited like the music fan he is.
In addition to the fact he had a big hand in Showtime, this month’s other piece of evidence in the ongoing Cockney & Yardie campaign to claim Wiley as a ragga artist is a tune of his called “Straight Outta London.” OK, so it’s a hiphop beat and it was featured on his release with US mixtape man Whoo Kid, but check the sample. I would call it ‘clutching at straws’ if Wiley didn’t say himself that he was inspired to spit by the likes of Sugar Minott, Hawkeye and Lexxus aka Mr Lexx. Ahem.
Wiley, “Straight Outta London”
While Wiley is busy sampling Jamaicans chatting about London, Jamaica’s number one artist is trying his hand at deejaying in an English accent. He’s done it before, back in 2005 on Proper English, but this time Kartel goes further with a bunch of references that tickled our fancy over here. We especially like the line about having a cup of tea in the kitchen.
Vybz Kartel, “British Love”
Hiphop veteran Rodney P has been one of my favourite JA-influenced UK artists for over ten years, and his late 90s tunes with Skitz helped introduce me to classic 80s dancehall via samples and borrowed vocal patterns. Now Rodney has teamed up with garage producer Zed Bias and Manchester rapper Fallacy for a new project called Sleeping Giants. Let’s not call it a supergroup, but it’s certainly sounding super. Shall we call it hiphop, house or broken beat? Or bashment?
Sleeping Giants – “Badungdeng”
I love the storytelling on this one. Listen keenly:
Sleeping Giants, “Blaow”
Another big tune at the crossroads of dancehall reggae and UK rave music is David Boomah’s high energy drum’n’bass stormer “Bad Up The Town.” Boomah is a top quality singer and the production from Sly & Pacso is crazy:
Two tips for UK summer anthem business: Lady Chann takes on Mavado with her “Star Girl” version, while Serocee joins forces with super producer Tony Kelly for something very very catchy. He’ll definitely get you going, Oh na na oh na.
Finally, a couple of updates on two tunes that we featured in the Cockney & Yardie column back in April:
1) Stylo G’s “Call Mi A Yardie” has blown up a lot since we first featured it three months back, getting radio and mixshow play in the US, Jamaica and throughout Europe as well as tearing down raves all across the UK and being added to daytime rotation on BBC 1Xtra. Definitely gonna be a big big single over the summer and at Notting Hill Carnival come the end of August.
2) Asher Senator’s comprehensive and brilliant 8-minute tribute to his sparring partner Smiley Culture, which he performed acapella at the Justice for Smiley Culture march back in April, has now been recorded and it’s sounding enormous. You can hear it opening up a recent Heatwave show on Rinse FM.