Harlesden’s home-grown reggae hero Jacob ‘Gappy Ranks’ Williams went to the foundation with 2010’s Peckings-produced debut album Put the Stereo On. There’s likely to be more of a generational divide over the heavily-treated vocals, big-hearted boasts and slick one-drop and dancehall rhythms of follow-up Thanks & Praise – but the quality is just as strong.
Issued under Gappy’s own Hot Coffee Music imprint and distributed by Warners and VP, the record is a tapestry of international producers. Five of the 14 songs will be familiar from previously released singles and his Rising Out of the Ghetto EP.
We get the overflowing gratitude of the title-track – voiced for the UK’s Jazzwad. Special Delivery’s soaring ballad Long Time and Italian Macro Marco’s hardnosed dancehall number Stinkin’ Rich look back wistfully on youthful days and forward to material success. Then there’s the thumping Tun Up, featuring Jamaica’s Russian, celebrating living life to the max.
While Gappy, who never writes his words down, might laugh at the idea of a strategy to his art, the topics seem less universal and more autobiographical than those found on Put the Stereo On. Could a Runaway, with gruff-voiced deejay Delly Ranx, recalls the challenges Williams faced on his route from a tough childhood to where he is now. Once again there is a Wailers relic, One Day at a Time (on Small Axe), which asks forgiveness for past transgressions. Like smash Heaven In Her Eyes, the update takes a moment to click before attaining contemporary classic status.
The Road’s Balearic build-up and fortified radio chorus will test reggae purists – but Gappy is clearly a product of the internet age who embraces all forms of music. Where Put the Stereo On brought everyone together with its timeless Studio One, Treasure Isle and Bunny Lee platters, Gappy here showcases the eclectic and unashamedly commercial sounds of today. So judge this album for what it is: a more personal work, and one that could carry those who loved Stereo, yet fear the new ways, into the modern world.