Ring the alarm! Cutty Ranks is “Back With a Vengeance” on his Artists Only! Records 2001 release. Produced by the legendary King Jammy and featuring several cameos by top artists, Cutty’s latest release is his best to date and is sure to be a number one.
I can remember back in the late 80’s wondering if American radio would ever embrace any other Jamaican dancehall artists other than Shabba Ranks. The answer to my wonderment came in the summer of 1991, when Cutty Ranks released “The Stopper” on Profile Records. The title track rocked the airwaves and helped make dancehall more accessible to the mainstream listener. He has since worked with mega-producers Beenie Man, Sly and Robbie, and Buju Banton, serving to boost his career and gain a broader audience.
“Back With a Vengeance” gets things started with the hip-hop infused “Shake the Thing.” It is a call for all women to shake “the thing” regardless of their color and size–“slim or fatty.” There are many opponents of “gun talk” in some of dancehall’s rudeboy lyrics, but Cutty’s second track “Eye For An Eye” (a combination style with Wayne Marshall) is just too wicked to be bridled by political correctness, even if he is singing about drinking Hennessy with his friends before going out to “bust off some informer crowns” with a hundred rounds.
On the title track, “Vengeance,” Cutty puts down the gun to assert his lyrical dominance-anyone test “me know him must bite the dust.” Cutty teams up with the prolific dancehall singer Frankie Paul on “My Girl” with Frankie’s distinguishing soul vocal complimenting Cutty’s deep voice. Cutty shows his sensitive side on “Needs,” by expressing his needs in a relationship, “x amount of kisses, x amount of hug, x amount of lotion fi rub down mi body.” Females with a weak constitution may want to skip past “Slap.” No it is not about domestic violence; it’s just that it has a sexual explicitness that would make Tipper Gore cower.
One of the finest tracks on “Back With a Vengeance” is Cutty’s collaboration with Dennis Brown on “No More Will I Roam,” a nice roots number (play loud for maximum effect). Cutty turns on the rudegirls with the anthem-like “Haa Lio.” You’ve probably already heard this one in the dancehalls with its sing-a-long chorus. “Fi Wi Gal” is a surprising and good number. Its sparse techno charged “Fat Nash Riddim” is a refreshing diversion that is impossible to sit through; one must dance to this bass thumping track. Dean Fraser’s sax gives a modern R&B feel to the anti-gangbanger “Road Block,” a song that not only showcases Cutty’s singing ability but also demonstrates his songwriting savvy.
Rarely do you see an album end just as hot as it began but this one does. “What A Session” sums up the album, bringing Frankie Paul back for one last scorcher. Some may deem Cutty’s lyrical content as controversial, but then so is life and reality. I for one cannot condemn a man’s art for reflecting that which is around him and that which affects him. Besides, controversy sparks dialogue and communication, and no doubt the world could use more of that. “Back With A Vengeance” is the next stage in the diverse evolution of dancehall–don’t get left behind.