When putting together this retrospective box set, the Greensleeves label made an interesting decision: instead of carefully selecting hit singles and representative album tracks from the full course of Shabba Ranks' career, along with rare versions, remixes, and previously unreleased material, they instead used the box as a package for a four-part reissue. Reggae Legends contains four of Shabba's VP and Greensleeves titles from the late '80s and early '90s: Rappin' with the Ladies (1988), Just Reality (1991), Golden Touch (1991), and the remix-and-combination collection Mr. Maximum (1992). Each is presented in a cardboard sleeve that replicates the original vinyl packaging (or the front of it, anyway), and all four are placed in a box without any additional booklet or notes. This approach means that the final content of the box is going to be somewhat uneven, but the budget-line pricing ensures that, even with a handful of clunkers, the bang-for-buck quotient is still quite high. At his best during this period, Shabba was both a pioneer of ragga dancehall and a virtuoso of rhythm-riding -- and on tracks like "Lovable" and "A Nuh Me She So" he also helped blaze the way for dancehall-hip-hop collaborations that would only expand and blossom throughout the 1990s. His celebrated slackness seems a bit tame and even quaint now, though his bedroom boasts are as sly and witty as ever, and the rhythms from Bobby Digital and Gussie Clarke still hit as hard as they ever did, even if they sound a bit dated 20 years later. Anyone looking for an introduction to Shabba himself or to the flavors of early ragga dancehall could do much worse than starting here.
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