On his official Twitter page, dancehall icon Shabba Ranks is described as “Da Emperor, Big Dutty Stinkin Shabba, Emperor GRUNG.” However, fans refer to him simply as Shabba, although his mother christened him Rexton Rawlston Fernando Gordon, when he was born on January 17, 1966, in Sturge Town, St Ann.
Rexton and his family would move to Kingston when he was eight years old, and the youngster would go on to become a protégé of deejay Josey Wales and one of the most popular Jamaican musicians in the world. He has repped the dancehall genre and released a number of albums, including As Raw as Ever and X-tra Naked, which created history when they won Best Reggae Album at the Grammy Awards in 1992 and 1993.
The stylistic origins of the genre, reggaeton, can be traced back to the 1990 song Dem Bow from Shabba Ranks’ studio album, Just Reality. Produced by the late Bobby ‘Digital’ Dixon, the Dem Bow riddim became so popular in Puerto Rican freestyle sessions that early Puerto Rican reggaeton was simply known as Dembow. The Dem Bow riddim is an integral and inseparable part of reggaeton, so much so that it has become its defining characteristic.
Through his prominence in Jamaica as a dancehall artiste, he gained popularity in North America with his Just Reality album. His biggest hit singles outside of Jamaica are the reggae fusion smash, Mr. Loverman and Ting-A-Ling, which were globally acclaimed and deemed his signature songs.
Other big tracks include Housecall with Maxi Priest; Slow and Sexy with Johnny Gill; Respect; Pirates Anthem; Trailer Load A Girls; Wicked Inna Bed and Caan Dun.
Among his hits in 1992, exactly 30 years ago, are Love Punaany Bad (Jammys); Mr Loverman ; Ting A Ling (Shang); Slow and Sexy, featuring Johnny Gill and Shine & Crisis (Shang).
In 1993, Shabba Ranks scored a hit in the Addams Family Values soundtrack to which he contributed a rap/reggae version of the Sly and the Family Stone hit, Family Affair. His third album for Epic, A Mi Shabba, was released in 1995. He was dropped by the label in 1996. Epic went on to release a greatest hits album, titled Shabba Ranks and Friends in 1999.
In 2007, he appeared on a song called Clear The Air by Busta Rhymes, which also featured Akon. Shabba released a single on Big Ship’s Pepper Riddim called None A Dem in April 2011. In 2012, Shabba was featured on Tech N9ne’s EP E.B.A.H. on the track Boy Toy.
Shabba Ranks was among the individuals honoured by Reggae Sumfest in 2012 as the popular music festival celebrated its 20th anniversary. There were plans to crown him ‘Emperor’ at the 2020 staging, but the pandemic prevented the staging of the festival.
Shabba Ranks, the artiste who is credited with taking his beloved mother, Mama Christie, with him on his journey to superstardom by ensuring that her every wish was granted, visited Jamaica last year April to put her to rest. His tribute to Mama Christie went viral.
“Hear mi woman, I thank you for everything that you’ve done for me, everything that you’ve done for me, I thank you. I know I live I life, and I know I mother know me love her, ‘cause if it come for me to lose I life to let her live, mi woulda dead fi she live, brothers, mi woulda dead fi she live, sisters,” Shabba declared.
Shabba Ranks’s biography is available in 16 different languages on Wikipedia.
Since 2007, the English Wikipedia page of Shabba Ranks has received more than 1,087,674 page views.
Shabba Ranks married Michelle Gordon in 1992 and they have two sons, Rexton Jr and Jahwon.
His original stage name was Co-Pilot.
Shabba Ranks’s international career started in the late 1980s.
In October 2016, Shabba was invested with the Order of Distinction, officer, by the Jamaican Government for his contribution to music.
The 2013 tribute song, Shabba, by A$AP Ferg, featuring A$AP Rocky, as of October 21 last year, was certified double platinum, after crossing the milestone of two million units sold in the US. Shabba appeared in the official music video, which has so far racked up 100 million views on YouTube. He was featured in the remix alongside Migos and Busta Rhymes in November 2013.