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Album Review

Single-handedly putting the U.K. reggae scene on the map for the first time since the early-'90s golden period of Maxi Priest, Bitty McLean, and General Levy, North West London toaster Jacob Lee Williams, aka Gappy Ranks, slightly risks alienating his underground fan base with his second album, Thanks & Praise. While his critically acclaimed debut Put the Stereo On was a throwback to the Studio One sounds of the '60s/'70s, his first release through his own Hot Coffee Music imprint is a much more contemporary affair, inspired by the love of dancehall and hip-hop he formed while in Harlesden crew Suncycle. "Tun Up" is a ragga-fused floor-filling collaboration with hotshot Jamaican producer Russian about living life to the max, "Stinkin' Rich" and "English Money" fuse hypnotic industrial synths and crunk beats with bling-obsessed lyrics more suited to the macho bravado of gangster rap, and "The Road" begins with Balearic trance riffs before merging into an anthemic slice of Akon-esque R&B. While his forays into more modern territory are perhaps inevitable if he's to progress his previously retro sound, Ranks occasionally pushes the boat out a bit too far, thanks to the unnecessary use of Auto-Tune that ruins the authentic riddims of the Jazzwad-produced title track and laid-back lovers rock of "Sweet Love." Indeed, Thanks & Praise is much more convincing when it goes back to basics, as on the lilting "One Day at a Time," an appeal for forgiveness that samples Bob Marley & the Wailers' "Small Axe"; the one-drop reggae of "Longtime," which references everything from Maradona to Irish potatoes; and the simple acoustic lullaby-esque closer, "Better Must Come." Thanks & Praise's slightly jarring mishmash of old and new suggests Ranks hasn't quite figured out whether he wants to embrace the mainstream fully or to maintain his well-received revivalist reputation, but it's a solid effort that indicates he's fully capable of achieving whichever path he eventually chooses. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi


Born: Harlesden, London, England

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Recalling the '90s -- the heyday of British artists like Maxi Priest and Bitty McLean -- singer Gappy Ranks brings U.K. reggae to the world. Born Jacob Lee Williams, the London-based artist was struggling to keep from being homeless when his career began, but working with radio and playing numerous live shows helped him step up. In 2009 he signed with Greensleeves, releasing his debut album for the label, Put the Stereo On, in 2010. The throwback effort was filled with nostalgia for the reggae of...
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Thanks & Praise - Single, Gappy Ranks
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