Words by Jesse Serwer and Raine Martin—
It seems that Shabba Ranks’ name is buzzing in the hip-hop world once again. Kanye West called himself “the new Shabba” on his new, highly dancehall-influenced album Yeezus. Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg’s new single is one big extended metaphor comparing himself to the Emperor of Dancehall. The track is called, simply, “Shabba.”
Shabba’s name might be new to many fans of these artists, but references to Shabba Rankin’ in rap songs are, however, nothing new. The dancehall deejay, who collaborated with rappers including KRS-One and Queen Latifah in his early ’90s heyday, was a hip-hop touchstone back then too, thanks to his distinctive personal style and crossover success. Here’s a look at the complete history of Shabba references in rap.