Throwback Thursdays: Spragga Benz, “A1 Lover”

Words by Jesse Serwerโ€”

spragga-benz-a1-lover

Today is the 44th birthday of one Spragga Benz. It’s also the 20th anniversary of Spragga’s career in the music business (We’ve seen records by him credited to earlier years, but 1993 was the year Spragga really broke out with tunes like “Mark Death” on the Answer riddim). It’s also Throwback Thursdayโ€” so who better to spotlight than one of dancehall’s most underrated and versatile deejays?

As DJ Autograph noted in his Throwback Thursdays post on Spragga’s “Good Day” video, Spragga is one of the few artists to successfully generate hits across dancehall’s three key categories: girls, โ€œshottas,โ€ and culture tunes. And the early/early-mid ’90s was a good time to be a rough and rugged deejay with grimy tunes for the guys and love sounds for the ladies.

In the wake of Shabba Ranks’ crossover success, major record labels were still signing up such artists left and right. Of course, this bonanza would soon come to an end, with somewhat disastrous repercussions for the dancehall industry, which saw its best talents snapped up by big U.S. labels who then left them in limbo when under- and mis-promoted albums failed to deliver desired results. No one illustrates this cycle better than Spragga, who was quickly snapped up by Capitol Records following his success in Jamaica ’93 and ’94.

But 1995’s Uncommonly Smooth, Spragga’s second album, would be his first and only for the label, despite several strong singles. In addition to the aforementioned “Good Day,” a video was also shot for “A1 Lover,” Spragga’s big “girl” tune from the album, featuring Chevelle Franklin. The single for the tune featured some cheesy cover art with an A-1 sauce bottle painted on Spragga’s (or is that a stand-in?) abs.

The video has a fairly typical look for the mid ’90s, albeit one that’s more R&B than dancehall, with Spragga in a restaurant full of enthusiastic girls and dudes in typical ’90s fashions. (Remember the backwards/upside down visor look?) In hindsight, there’s nothing particularly memorable about this clip, but it certainly brings us back to the era in question, while giving us a look at baldhead-era Spraggaโ€”who sounds exactly the same as dread Spragga but looks almost like a completely different person.

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