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Showdown (Mesa, 1992)

Louie Rankin is one of the plethora of dancehall DJs prematurely scooped up in the early '90s by major labels seeking to capitalize on the dancehall "trend."  The result was two shoddy albums and a career that has likewise been largely swept under the rug.  This is no real indication of Rankin's talent as a DJ, however.  He had a hard-edged, O.G.-style appeal not unlike the Rankses -- Cutty and Shabba.  Cutty Ranks is the artist I mostly compare Louie Rankin to, as they both have that aged gangster, "been there done that" persona, and frankly both look like they’ve been through some shit.  Vocally, Rankin is reminiscent of Cutty but not quite as gruff or intimidating -- perhaps add a dash of Tiger and someone more generic sounding, like Johnny P (who's probably lying in the same ditch as Rankin -- figuratively of course).  As with many of the early '90s American major-label dancehall albums, this one is liberally peppered with hip-hop beats, as if the American public couldn't handle a straight dancehall album...and quite frankly, they may not have been able to, as it took until the early 21st century for American tastes to catch up with dancehall and make it a viable commodity.  Actually, Showdown doesn't have as many hip-hop beats (most of which of course sound quite dated when listening to them today -- break out the Cross Colours!) as other sets from the same time period.  Only 4 of the 11 tracks are thusly inclined, including perhaps Rankin's biggest hit, "Typewriter," a decent cut hurt by the mediocre skills of Red Hot Lover Tone, a rapper so forgettable that I'm actually annoyed to be reminded of his existence.  The best hip-hop tune here is probably "Perpetraitor," while the most consistent work here is the dancehall tunes, namely "The Muscle," "Jamaica," and "Monster Move."  The latter easily is the standout track on Showdown; even today, its pounding beat and party-starting vocals threaten to set the dance floor aflame.

Track Listing
1. Typewriter
2. Showdown
3. Poison
4. The Muscle
5. Starett City
6. Jamaica
7. The Sting
8. Drug Abusing
9. Monster Move
10. Everynight
11. Perpetraitor
Showdown
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Lethal Weapon (Mesa, 1993)

Not to be confused with Cutty Ranks' Lethal Weapon, this album is comprised largely of generic hip-hop reggae.  While the blend of hip-hop and dancehall can be a natural, refreshing one, this album goes to show that just because you throw a hip-hop beat into a dancehall chat, it doesn't guarantee a fresh sound.  The beats here -- whether they're hip-hop, dancehall, or R&B -- are generally tired, and Rankin's style isn't so hot as to lift the material's quality much.  The best tune to me is the jazzy R&B romp "Sex Me Down," whose flow is reminiscent of Pharcyde-like hip-hop one hit wonder Questionmark Asylum's "Hey Lookaway" (I'm sure that doesn't help.).  The rest is like white bread -- enough to sustain you, but plain as, well, white bread.

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Track Listing
1. Put on Your Negligee
2. Bed Talk
3. Stretch Out
4. Girls Perform
5. Miss Goodie Goodie
6. Sex Me Down
7. Fat Nuff
8. Louie, Louie
9. Heartbreaker
10. Buenos Dias
11. Lethal Weapon
12. New Jack City

Lethal Weapon
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