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.
I grew up as a Christian so to Jah I give thanks/Collect my banks, listen to Shabba Ranks/I sing, and chat, I do all of that…
Trini-American MC Phife Dawg was known for dropping a patois line or two on a Tribe Called Quest cut. In fact, Phife, along with Busta Rhymes (and sometimes Queen Latifah, who collaborated with Shabba on “What’Cha Gonna Do”), brought the Caribbean flavor to the Native Tongues’ groovy cultural hip-hop blend. The Five-Footer bigged up Shabba on the group’s 1991 single “Jazz (We’ve Got), after spitting a bit of (Ninjaman-inspired) patois at the top of the song’s most memorable verse: Competition dem try fi come sideway, but competition dem must come straightway….
Well I’m the jibber jabber, jaw like Shabba
The boogety-woogety Brooklyn boy Skoob and his Jamaican-born, Jersey-raised partner Krazy Drayz, collectively known as Das EFX, made a name for themselves in the early 90s with their confusingly quick-paced ‘jibber-jabber’ rhyme style. Around that same time, Shabba was blowing up the airwaves and the charts in America with his own fast-paced lyrical style which probably sounded like funky jibberish to the non-patois trained Yankee ear. The sewer-dwelling rap duo shouted out Shabba on their 1992 single “Jussumen,” noting that they, like him, were dropping a brand new linguistical style on the masses.
Room is proper, now I’m passed off to Shabba/Shabba’s voice gets low like a tuba/He said, “Me no follow no the rumor” and passed me to Grand Puba.
On this DJ Premier-produced track from 1993′s Return of the Boom Bap, KRS One’s first official album as a solo artist, the former Boogie Down Productions chief imagines himself as a “blunt getting smoked.” Specifically, a blunt getting smoked by various rappers, from House of Pain to Cypress Hill to Das EFX to Black Sheep, who eventually pass him off to Shabba. What can we say. KRS has made some weird moves over the years, but this might be his trippiest.
The Rugged Child lock shit down like Rikers Isle/And got more girls than a trailer load with Shabba/More Super than Cat, I’m the punani Don Dada
Rap prodigy Shyheim (aka “The Rugged Child”) was among the guest MCs on “Show and Prove,” a “posse cut” from Big Daddy Kane’s 1994 album Daddy’s Home also featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard and a pre-fame Jay-Z. On his verse, the then 15-year-old Shyheim posits himself as a ladies’ man through references to Shabba and Super Cat’s dancehall hits “Trailer Load A Girls” and “Don Dada,” respectively.
Smoke a Spike Joint and watch “Clockers”/Get rude like Shabba, make moves behind my blockers
Rapper/producer Lord Finesse’s verse on Big L’s “Five Fingers of Death” included a reference to Shabba—and specifically his propensity for wearing dark shades.
Who was the first to produce gangster shit? Put out gangster hits with a gangster click? Not no prankster shit. Steady B, Mad Lion, Just-Ice, Shabba Ranks and shit.
KRS-One has never been one to let his due credit slip by unnoticed. Sensing that his role as a pioneer and innovator was being slept on in 2001, the Boogie Down MC decided to remind everyone of his influence and accomplishments with the Sneak Attack track “Attendance.” Among other rhetorical questions voiced on the song, KRS asks: “Who was the first to hit that hip-hop reggae on the nail?” Have to agree with him on that one, as his patois delivery and dancehall inspired tracks on BDP’s Criminal Minded really was the first example of rap borrowing from reggae without sounding corny. Just as importantly, KRS was the first rapper to collaborate with and produce a song for Shabba, on “The Jam,” playing a key role in introducing the deejay to American audiences.
We the movie Shottas/But it’s really rude boys and rastas/With a Trailer Load of Girls, excuse me Shabba
Cam’Ron and the Dip Set have made some entertaining references to dancehall and Caribbean culture over the years. Not the least of which is this couplet connecting the movie Shottas, “rude boys and rastas” and Shabba’s classic hit “Trailer Load A Girls.”[NOTE: You must have Spotify to launch the audio below; track is not available on YouTube].
I hit her with Jamaican dick, I’m the new Shabba
Chi-Town’s greatest certainly seems to have a thing for dancehall. From sampling ‘Dust a Soundbwoy” on his G.O.O.D. Music debut single “Mercy” to using Capleton’s “Forward Inna Dem Clothes” and Beenie Man’s “Memories” in his most recent creation, Yeezus, Kanye appears to be just as influenced by Jamaica’s musical culture as he is of Chicago’s. (Read about Kanye’s Top 10 Jamaican moments here). It’s not surprising that he would shout out dancehall’s “big, dutty, stinkin” giant in “Guilt Trip” (which also features a chopped-up Popcaan sample from Pusha T’s “Blocka”). The self-proclaimed “bedroom bully” Shabba is probably honored to pass that torch to the Yeez.
Sha-Shabba Ranks, Sha-Sha-Shabba Ranks/Eight gold rings like I’m Sha-Shabba Ranks/Four gold chains like I’m Sha-Shabba Ranks/One gold tooth like I’m Sha-Shabba Ranks
Rappers have referenced Shabba for years, but Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg went out all out and made a whole song inspired by Mr. Loverman and his bold fashion sense. Ferg, who recently emerged from the shadow of fellow A$AP Mob artist A$AP Rocky with the single “Work” has certainly elevated awareness of Shabba among a younger generation who aren’t old enough to recall Shabba’s hits being new. (While Ferg cites Shabba’s fashion sense in the hook it’s Rocky who makes the best lyrical reference, quoting from Shabba’s “Ting A Ling”)
With the song widely covered across the music media and Shabba even turning up in the video, he may now have a whole new audience he can tap into…if he wants it, that is.
Nigerian-British rapper Sneakbo definitely reps dancehall culture. He dropped a Naija version of Stylo G’s U.K. bashment anthem “Call Mi a Yardie” and rhymed on a remix to “Pon Time” with Vybz Kartel from our friends Orange Hill. His latest tribute to the culture is an update of one of Shabba Ranks’ most classic tunes. Sneakbo doesn’t actually mention Shabba by name but the hook of the song is jacked straight from Shabba’s “Ting A Ling”:Ting a linga linga ling, dancehall and swing/DJ’s ears pop up when they hear my riddim/Ting a linga linga ling, schoolbell a ring/Knife and fork ah fight fi dumpling/Booyaka, booyaka, the gyal dem sing/Sneakbo is di don, number one inna di scene.
You remind me of my feet lookin’ girl/Somethin’ in yo teeth lookin’ girl…Stipper with a bullet wound lookin’ girl/SHABBAAA!!!! Female Shabba Ranks lookin’ girl
Shabba references have not always been kind. In fact, a few operate on the premise, immortalized byMarlon Wayans’ “Mr. Uglyman” skit on In Living Color, that Shabba is not the most handsome pea in the pod. That’s the perception R. Kelly invoked when he hopped on a remix to Hot Stylez’s “Lookin’ Boy,” a Dozens-esque comedy record that consists of rhymes telling you how hideous they are.