Gappy Ranks, formerly of north-west London dancehall collective Suncycle, is best known for his collaboration with grime MC Lethal B and US rapper Twista on the Kray Twinz hit What We Do. His surprise appearance came courtesy of garage producer/DJ Sticky who spotted his talent via a dubplate recorded for
DJ Dr. Psycho. Flavour caught up with the UK reggae and dancehall scene’s hottest property, whose star is rising fast after the release of lovers’ favourite Heaven in Her Eyes and bashment banger Stinking Rich in 2009.
It’s clear why he’s known as Gappy when you meet him; there’s a distinctive gap between his front teeth. Initially Daddy Gappy, Ranks’ name change was inspired by ’90s dancehall DJ Cutty Ranks. Did he get hassle in the playground about his teeth? ‘Never! We too boasty for that!’ he declares. ‘If a youth wanted to clash me [in school], we killed them lyrically. I was taught a gap in teeth means riches, so I’m happy with that.’ We’re sure orthodontists nationwide agree!
With the majority of the current home-grown success coming from artists that honed their craft as grime MCs (Chipmunk, Wiley, Tinchy Stryder, and Tinie Tempah), Gappy still feels inspired. ‘It benefits me because I know they’re doing [big] things; I’m doing [my] thing; they are doing one genre, I’m doing another genre, [but] we’re all in the UK. Reggae music is the mother of all the funky, garage, jungle, rap, R&B that are here, and this is a fact.’
Both grime and dancehall receive frequent criticism for a perceived negative influence on young people, and Ranks walked the rocky road of gunplay in his lyrics. He later realised the error of his ways, vowing to be more responsible with his lyrics. ‘I had to know who I am, know who I’m speaking to and understand things better before you can do it.’
Heaven in Her Eyes, laid on the same riddim track as Bob Marley’s Soul Rebel, is an essential lovers’ tune amongst DJs in the ‘big people’s dance’ circuit. ‘I always loved to sing, I’ve always had the swagger and the mood to sing but I never had the voice,’ which possibly explains the Autotune-assisted vocals. He cites reggae greats such as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Sanchez as singing influences, as well as, more surprisingly, Michael Bolton, Céline Dion, Phil Collins and John Lennon.
Last year concluded with a performance in Jamaica at Sting – the greatest one-night show in reggae and dancehall. This is notoriously one of the most hostile crowds to perform in front of anywhere in the world, and events prior to Gappy going on stage brought home that reality. The two artists before him got booed, and following on from that is hard enough – tougher still when you’re viewed as a foreigner on somebody else’s turf. But Gappy stayed confident, stepping out in a sharkskin suit and performing his two tracks before exiting stage left. ‘I never got any torches or any fireworks, but I never got booed or clapped [off].’ That’s not bad for Sting; a show where thousands of people are looking for a clash.
Does Gappy have a message for young people in the UK? ‘My final words for the youths are respect yourself, believe in yourself, see your dream and others will see your dream – and brush your teeth before you go to bed and in the morning.’
Gappy’s as-yet-untitled debut album is slated for release later this year
For more info on Gappy Ranks visit www.myspace.com/gappyranks
Interview by Marvin Sparks