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Gappy Ranks in California

Gappy Ranks in California

Gappy Ranks in California

By on - Photos by DJ Guacamole - Comment

California welcomed UK's latest dancehall sensation Gappy Ranks from L.A. to the Bay.


Back in April, a cloud of volcanic ash hovered between Gappy Ranks and his planned show in San Francisco. The Bay Area massive, eager to catch a glimpse of the UK’s dancehall darling du jour, were forced to wait. Area promoters, ever on their game, wrangled in a lovely consolation, the one Chukki Starr, who happened to be in California on his Most Wanted tour. Less than three months later, Gappy made it to the Golden State for a tour from Los Angeles to Humboldt.

“In 2005 I came here to do a video in L.A. with Twista, but I was only here for a week and I did the video and went back to the UK. Everybody knows I was supposed to come out here earlier in the year, but the volcano slowed it down. It’s been crazy though. We been to Sebastapol, Humboldt, back in L.A., San Diego, and we’re finishing up the show out here in San Francisco,” Ranks said.

On July 14, after a solid two hours packed thick with pure fire from resident DJs the Coo-Yah Ladeez, joined by invited guest selectors from Blessed Coast Soundsystem, Gappy greeted Bay reggae revelers with the easy rocking tune Mountain Top backed by Pierre Bost of French label Special Delivery Music on the controls. For his second selection, he blessed the crowd with Put the Stereo On, the title track from his upcoming album which will hit stores August 23.

Ferociously welcomed by the crowd, the British dancehall artist was in good company as nearly every tune he ran was layered with choruses, compliments of the roaring crowd.

“I just love it. The Redwood trees, the city, the people. [The people] have embraced my music and me so well, it’s an experience I’ll never forget,” said Ranks of his first ever string of shows in California.

And he wasn’t kidding; reggae people from all corners of the Bay Area rolled out to support, including selectors from reigning local sound champions Jah Warrior Shelter Hi-Fi Soundsystem, radio hosts, and some of the Bay’s hottest dancehall DJs. Also in the mix was local live reggae scene staple, Winstrong, a fierce up and coming artist based in California by way of Suriname. Oh, and Million Stylez was there too. Surprise! (More on that later.)

The dancehall scene here is thriving. It's definitely going up and the world is seeing it

“The dancehall scene here is thriving. It’s definitely going up and the world is seeing it. The world is recognizing it. I gotta big up artists like Winstrong, soundsystems coming out of here like Jah Warrior Shelter, Blessed Coast, the Coo-Yah Ladeez are doing big things right now, WBLK, all the radio DJs. A lot of artists that are touring are stopping through. They come here because the people here request the reggae music, so it’s good,” said Ranks.

Admittedly, when I first heard about Gappy Ranks, linked with his big banger Stinkin’ Rich, I wrote him off as another artist bringing the all-about-the-money vibe to the dancehall. I was immediately proven wrong when I actually listened to the song which is, first of all ripe with originality and more than bust-a-wine-worthy, but also talks about coming from nothing, getting money (nothing wrong with that, after all) and sharing with your mother, poor children and the homeless. That’s not to say it’s the most thoughtful of tunes in terms of content, but it’s big, it’s hard-hitting, and it’s got a raw, dirty flavor that makes you move your feet.

“I try to bring versatility and the positive side to the dancehall. But there’s a positive and negative side to everything you do. A lot of people stereotype reggae music, just how they stereotype hip-hop, and now hip-hop is one of the top consumed genres, but there’s a negative and positive to all. People just need to really understand the culture, understand the dancehall and look closer, and I’m sure they’ll find a little piece of themselves in reggae music. Everybody’s got a little piece of reggae music in them,” said Ranks.

As Angus Taylor recently wrote of Gappy’s performance at the Lambeth Country Show in London (which actually went down the weekend after the California tour, because Angus is a wizard like that while I’m still trying to pull this review together) the live versions of certain tunes “lacked something without the pitch correction.” Here, that cool clicking sound from the end of the “mi clothes them a custom” line in Stinkin Rich was missed. But not too much.

Performances of Pumpkin Belly and easy rock-back ganja anthem Roll it Up, which the selector pulled up twice with a nod to “Cali-culture,” were punctuated with Gappy’s seriously spellbinding slate-eyed stare. (You can just hear his publicist at VP prepping him, “Do the thing with the eyes! Do the thing with those eyes!”) Like two wishing wells, they’re definitely an asset all his own; and he knows how to work them. Conveniently, he also knows how to work the crowd, running through gigantic same-riddim tunes Heaven in Her Eyes and his adapted version of Soul Rebel during which he sings, “If you’re gonna be a rebel, be a rebel for your people, be a rebel for good, not evil.” (And the crowd goes wild.)

Evident in the live show, too, was that Gappy Ranks boasts some nostalgic Studio One-influenced lovers and rocksteady tunes, plus mindful bangers to boot like Give Thanks and Praise, and Life, which features Swedish artist Million Stylez. And speaking of Million Stylez, the Swedish, French-Japanese reggae sensation graced Paradise Lounge on Wednesday as well in the cooperative spirit of reggae music. His performance of Miss Fatty boosted Gappy’s set while building momentum for his own very first upcoming San Francisco show the following week. Yes indeed, two Euro-treats in one week. Delicious.

To wrap things up, Gappy did an encore that ran the place red (like Blood & Fire, not Richie Spice) in one of, if not the high point of the night. The problem was, no one seemed to know a thing about the tune, except that it got us all up. After a little bit of investigative journalism (a visit to a MySpace page, some google-ing, a quick message to Gappy’s e-mail account), the case of the mystery boom tune was solved: It’s called All the While. I’m assuming it’ll be on his upcoming album, 'Put the Stereo On' (August 23, VP Records). Look into it.


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