Gappy Ranks

Put the Stereo On

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The second full-length album from the young British deejay Gappy Ranks finds him working with one foot in the dancehall and the other in vintage roots-and-culture reggae. He and his production team demonstrate excellent taste in rhythms: Ranks takes not just one but two separate runs at Bob Marley's classic "Soul Rebel" rhythm (once with the hit love ballad "Heaven in Her Eyes" and then again with a straight deejay cut on a dub mix), and elsewhere he mines the Studio One catalog of classic reggae backing tracks; the album's title track is, in fact, an explicit homage to that studio and its producer, Coxsone Dodd. Like many modern singjays, Ranks seems to have been spoiled by the availability of Autotune; when his singing is most effective (notably on "Heaven in Her Eyes" and "Happiest Day of My Life") it's usually because his tentative sense of pitch is being audibly helped along by that electronic crutch. But when he settles into a more conventional deejay style and chats over the rhythm rather than singing, he really comes into his own. On "Pumpkin Belly" and "Heavy Load" he rides the rhythm with almost arrogant skill, sliding all over the beat without ever losing his grip on it. And on "Rude Boy" things get very interesting indeed: the backing track is heavily dubbed up, and Ranks' toasting is grimly powerful. Gappy Ranks is already a major young talent; if he tightens up his singing and can wean himself from the Autotune, he'll be a major double threat in the dancehall.

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