Gappy Ranks was born and grown in Harlesden NW10, London. Father Jamaican, Mother Dominican, a good combination like Rice & Peas. Early support and recognition of this rising young talent who had made his studio debut with the Ruff Cutt band aged 11 came from local sound system operators and pirate radio stations and soon led to his link up and studio baptism with Stonebridge stars Suncycle Crew.
It was his initial hit for the legendary Peckings crew “Mountain Top” that really lit the blue touch paper and when the follow up “Heaven In My Eyes” bust international Gappy found himself in the driving seat of an unstoppable rocket to stardom. “Stinking Rich” & “Rising Out The Ghetto” consolidated his success, his impact on the dancehall world mirroring fellow Londoner Amy Winehouses revolutionising of the world R&B scene.
The release of his eagerly debut Greensleeves album “Put The Stereo On” in 2010 upped the ante to another level, the album saw Gappy completing his project with the Peckings crew and like that best selling set “Put The Stereo On” is launched on authorised versions from Studio One, Treasure Isle & Bunny Lee. In 2011 the UK Dancehall star is back with his second LP entitled “Thanks & Praise” which included tracks featuring Delly Ranx and Russian on Gappy’s new single “Tun Up”.
Gappy is also proving to be one of the most popular live draws on the planet headlining shows across the globe and before he jumped on the plane to Australia we caught up with him to have a chat.
Describe growing up in Harlesden, London?
Jamaicans make up 90% of the population so I was always surrounded by Reggae music and the culture. For a very long time it was deprived so there was an increase of drugs and violence in the area and through that there was a lack of investment.
But things are a lot brighter now people are coming back and there is investment. People like myself are coming out of Harlesden so it just goes to show that there is positive people in the area and a lot of talent.
What got you into music and was Reggae your first love or did you try other genres?
Reggae music was my first love and always will be but growing up in London which is such a multi cultural city I was exposed to a lot of genres of music and I didn’t shun away from it. Reggae taught me to embrace them because Reggae has a big influence on all those other genres so that’s what makes me versatile and eclectic as an artist.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
People like the legends Bob Marley, Alton Ellis, Gregory Isaacs but I also grew up in the era of Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Notorious BIG and Tupac so they were influential to me as well as artists such as Al Green even Brandy as I listened to a variety of music growing up.
How did sound systems and pirate radio help in the early stages of your career?
Pirate radio definitely helped me in my career but not so much sound systems as at the time I was starting my career the sound systems were in a decline so I really came up in the pirate station era and it has done well for me and still does. Pirate radio can be a springboard for any artist of any genre and it still continues to play a big part in Gappy Ranks career especially in London which has the most pirate radio stations in the world.
The UK Reggae scene reached a peak in the late 80’s and early 90’s then it seemed to disappear what do you think caused the demise?
I feel like there was a lack of investment and people left the scene but I also feel like some of the established artists of that time didn’t want to pass on the torch to the new generation that was about to come up so that definitely didn’t help. Reggae music is for the people and by the people but sometimes people don’t always agree.
When you hear people like David Rodigan talk about Gappy Ranks bringing back UK Reggae music to the forefront what does that mean to you?
David Rodigan is someone that I grew up listening to on the radio playing Reggae and being an ambassador for the music so its a great honour and I just build on comments like that and prove them right.
The tracks “Mountain Top”, “Heaven In Her Eyes” and “Stinkin’ Rich” are some of the first tracks that got you global attention were you surprised by the reaction you got?
When I make music I make it for no other reason than that I love making music and that’s the first feeling I have making any song. Anything that comes after is a blessing and a testimony to what you are singing about and who can connect to it. If my music is going all around the world and touching people then its only because they can connect and relate to it. You can’t fool people in the music business people can smell a rat a mile off in that sense so I just try to keep it real and I am not perfect I’m still maturing but I feel people embrace that.
“Put The Stereo On” was the debut release and featured you over some classic riddims how did you come up with the concept for making the album?
I was approached by Peckings Studio and they have the rights to Studio One recordings through their father the late great George Price. They first approached me to do a Dancehall track but when I was in the studio session with them they were voicing another artist on some Studio One riddims so I asked them to give me some of the riddims which were “Mountain Top” and “Heaven In Her Eyes”. From that the whole concept came into place and I had a story that had to be told so that album to me is like a time capsule.
One of the things that stands out in your music is that it touches on topics that people from all walks of life can relate to. How do you approach writing your lyrics?
I approach it by not approaching it if you like! It sounds crazy but understand it in a way that Reggae music is a thing that is real and you are not supposed to think too hard you are just supposed to let it come out naturally. When I go into the studio I never go in with the thought of making a particular style of song its more of a vibe I am feeling or what kind of mood I am in at that moment or whatever I can reflect on from mine or someone else’s story. Anybody can sing or perform but not everybody can unlock the talent that they have inside of them and that’s something I can do.
You are signed to Greensleeves how did this come about and what does it feel like to be signed to the label that has such a rich history in Reggae?
I have a publishing deal with Greensleeves and it just shows you Reggae is still relevant and still at the forefront of music. It also shows the past can still embrace the present and the future. Gappy Ranks is a new artist but Greensleeves has been around before I was born so its great to be working with them.
The new album “Thanks and Praise” has just been released was it a conscious decision to come with a more current Reggae sound?
Definitely. As I said before “Put The Stereo On” was a time capsule and can’t be emulated maybe in the next 10 years I will look to do a similar project but this is my story and music has taken me to places I never thought so I have to give thanks and praise for it. That’s what the second album is all about the same Gappy Ranks with the same positivity just a slightly different vibe and to me music is about creating and as an artist if you don’t choose to use your whole creativity to the best that you can be don’t be surprised to see your fanbase shrink. I am not afraid to experiment musically and that’s who Gappy Ranks is
As a UK Reggae artist how have you found the response in the Caribbean to your music especially in Jamaica?
Its been growing for the last year or so and I will be out there again soon. Reggae has taken me to many places in the world and I am happy to perform everywhere giving them the same Gappy Ranks. It also shows you how powerful Jamaica is as a West Indian island and it brought music to the whole world so its always a good feeling performing there.
You recently started your own record label what are you trying to achieve and who should we be looking out for?
I love all parts of the music business and this is something that I wanted to do. So to start with I have my first artist REDD who has released a couple of tracks on the Starbucks and Tsunami riddims but there will be much more coming out through the Hot Coffee label soon.
You were recently on tour in Japan when the earthquake rocked the country how was it being there during that traumatic time?
I believed I was supposed to be there and from that experience I wrote a song “I Was There” which I also shot a video for when I was still in Japan. Regardless of the earthquake it was such a great experience of being in Japan performing to the people and the earthquake was another experience in itself and I am still praying for them now.
You constantly tour the world what have been some of your most memorable experiences of your career so far?
I’m a Gemini so I’m a peoples person so everywhere I go I like to meet different people and embrace the cultures. To me the world is beautiful place and everybody should get a chance to see it.
Name one artist you would most like to collaborate with and why?
That’s a hard question as there are so many great artists but I would like to collaborate with Alicia Keys as she is a great artist and musician who’s work I admire.
What is the best piece of advice ever given to you?
To be myself
What does the future hold for Gappy Ranks?
However I want it to go I am just trying to keep it positive and keep my feet firmly on the ground. We are all human and go through all different things but I am just trying to live life be positive and productive.
What is your definition of Grindin’?
To me it’s simply working
Friday 30th September – Goodgod Small Club, Sydney
Saturday 1st October – The Espy, Melbourne
Sunday 2nd October – Mojo’s, Perth