Words by Richard “Treats” Dryden
It has been three years since A$AP Ferg recorded “Shabba,” a tribute to Shabba Ranks that more than just namechecked the Jamaican dancehall legend: It also featured the dutty stinkin’ deejay on the remix, in one of his only appearances this decade. While that record still rings off like it’s summer of 2013, we’re now seeing the rise of a new wave of Shabba-themed anthems. While Shabba himself hasn’t given us any new music, songs that namecheck him have practically become their own micro-genre, and trend clearly isn’t dying down. Here’s six tracks vying for the top spot in the growing pantheon of Shabba tunes.
Dexta Daps – Shabba Madda Pot
Dexta Daps has one of the biggest dancehall songs of the year in “Shabba Madda Pot.” Although the song and video reflect the turbulent side of Jamaica, where beef often escalates to senseless killing, Daps compares those heated confrontations to the pot used by Shabba’s mother, Constance Christie. In a recent profile in the Jamaica Gleaner, Mama Ranks spoke about her longstanding reputation for feeding the hungry in her community of Seaview Gardens, Jamaica. Daps, who grew up in the area, told The Gleaner, “The pot ever hot. Who nuh know bout her pot nuh come from bout yah. All when me nuh get no food, the pot still smell good and still hot, right round a di side.” Mama Christie also made a cameo in the video, wearing a Dexta Daps T-shirt that also pays tribute to her legacy with the picture of a steaming pot.
Kasanova feat. Vybz Kartel – Like Shabba
Dancehall newcomer Kasanova doesn’t mention Shabba Ranks by name on his new song, nor does he seem to take much inspiration from the ’90s don. Instead the strongest influence comes from Vybz Kartel, whose voice is sampled on the track. And his high-pitched vocal tone, similar in frequency to how alien figures are depicted in TV and movies, is more comparable to his former partner and high school classmate, Alkaline.
WizKid feat. Chris Brown, Trey Songz, French Montana – Shabba
A “Shabba” song comes out, watch it pass around like a spliff. This 2016 salute from Nigerian artist WizKid, who is currently featured on Drake’s No. 1 single “One Dance,” has racked up verses from Chris Brown, Hoody Baby, Section Boyz, Trey Songz and French Montana. The record, which was produced by Mike WiLL Made It, but samples Hit-Boy’s beat for “Wonderful,” crosses regions in the way Shabba himself did in his days as an international pop phenomenon. A version of “Shabba” is expected to be released on Chris Brown’s next album, Heartbreak On A Full Moon, but until then, this one featuring some yardie talk by Trey Songz, is available on iTunes here.
DJ Norie feat. Young D, Ayo Jay, Kerwin Dubois, Konshens, Timaya – Shabba
DJ Norie, resident reggae/dancehall DJ on New York City’s Power 105.1FM, is at the helm of “Shabba,” an international collaboration uniting the Caribbean with Africa. Producer Young D, Timaya and recent One Nation/RCA signee Ayo Jay, whose “Your Number” recently hit No. 24 on Billboard’s Hot R&B chart, provide the Nigerian connection; Kerwin Dubois reps Trinidad and Tobago; and Konshens brings the Jamaican flavor. The chorus declares it’s a “dancehall ting,” while Ayo Jay compares his prowess with the ladies to the famed bedroom bully, Shabba Ranks.
Tory Lanez – Shabba Ranks Freestyle
When he was still just starting to build a buzz, Canada’s Tory Lanez did just what any hungry rapper would do, jump on the hottest records of the moment. So his recent freestyle on “Controlla” and “I Got the Keys” is no surprise, nor is the Shabba reference, given his Caribbean roots and musical inclinations.
Safaree – Shabba Ranks
According to Safaree Samuels, best known as Nicki Minaj’s ex-boyfriend and long-time hypeman, he would like to be in Jamaica, with his family and his dogs, making music. The rapper from Brooklyn expressed his aspirations to The Breakfast Club last year, but wasn’t taken very seriously, at least not by host Charlamagne the God. While Safaree hasn’t earned much points for his musical acumen, he has earned acknowledgement for his Jamaican influence, having dubbed his most recent mixtape, featuring the likes of Ward 21 and Bounty Killer, Real Yard Vibes. On this freestyle, from an earlier 2015 mixtape, he takes Curtis “Snugsworth” Samuels’ (no relation) beat for A$AP Ferg’s “Shabba” for a ride, adding some patois and vintage quotes from Mr. Ranks.