Effortless, unconcerned, cool. Shabba Ranks’ relevance has taken a notable spike these past two years and justifiably so. A stand out figure of 90s’ dancehall and frankly pop culture too, this week’s Style Icon foray delves into the Champion Lover’s fantastic, unparalleled island flair.
We’ve had Harlem’s A$AP Ferg pay homage to the dancehall legend this summer, even Kanye gave a nod to the Caribbean casanova on his latest project Yeezus. In years past, Hip Hop has particularly shown Shabba much love (as well as teasing jibes), with the likes of ATCQ, KRS ONE, Cam’ron and many before them, drawing influence from him. There’s an admirable air to the Jamaican deejay, born Rexton Gordon.
With leather vests over saturating the game right now, a little digging and it’s clear to see that in fact, Shabba Ranks may have been one of the first to do it. And do it better. Donning the iconic yardie leather vest piece – with the cut out back – he did so in a manner of style that precedes the likes of Hit-Boy, Kendrick Lamar (remember the En Noir piece) and especially A$AP Rocky and his overzealous enthusiasts.
With his deep and distinct vocals, Mr Loverman’s stylings were ahead of the curve, setting the pace for fashion-forward, flashy, somewhat sartorially adventurous fellas of his generation. While 2013 hasn’t necessarily favoured his familiar oversized suits and mesh-sleeved jackets, there have been pointed borrowings from Mr Ranks. It goes without saying that the trend picks of the gyrating Wicked Inna Bed artist, played an underlying influence in the wardrobe compositions of dapper guys.
Gotta hand it to him for that seminal all-white shirtless suit combo in his Mr Loverman video. Yeah, Diddy may be the king of all-white parties. And I mean he rocks an all white ensemble pretty well, but there’s no neglecting Shabba Ranks’ sick twist on the look. Considering the resurgence of white as a super trendy shade for summer just past, it was a look he repeated in a perfected fashion throughout his career, a merit to his trademark style. Along with his baggy sweatsuits, mixed material favourings of leather, velvet and even bits of garish print too, Shabba kept it interesting.
Ranks’ style sway didn’t stop with his own sartorial pickings. Accompanying visuals for international mega-hit Mr Loverman spouted trendsetting style tips for the ladies as well. With floral swimwear, Brazilian cut two-pieces, shortened hem lines and laid back beach hair, Ranks’ stye reach lent a thing or two to females too. Our own Lily Mercer regularly rocks her own yardie style leather waistcoat.
He also could be said to have popularized the sloped fade hairstyle, a signature of his, along with his neat eyebrows, Shabba set the pace in terms of a look that maintained masculinity despite his grooming preferences. His explosive aesthetic included his love of sunglasses, which came in quite a few shapes – remember the vaguely winged tortoise shell glasses? Not forgetting his circular black sunnies, a glance at some 2012 2Chainz public appearances would suggest a distinct bit of mooching from the Spendin’ rapper. Even Kendrick was seen rocking a pair on more than one occasion the same year.
With a drink in hand, countless hard-to-miss gold rings, chains and his blasé vibe, Shabba Ranks came together to create the image of a super cool, referential style don for the daring, sonically attuned among us. May his style live forever.
Words: Laura Arowolo