BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer staff reporter email@example.com
JAMAICAN Grammy-winning reggae artiste Shabba Ranks arrived in the island yesterday to a rousing welcome from adoring fans at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
The ghetto boy, who made it big on the international scene after winning two Grammys, is here to perform at this weekend's Reggae Sumfest where he will on Friday share the stage with American R&B singer Trey Songz.
Shabba, whose real name is Rexton Gordon, was immediately reconnected to his roots when he was taken on a tour of Olympic Gardens in a motorcade organised by Red Stripe, after leaving the airport where he briefed journalists.
The visit to Olympic Gardens turned chaotic when the vehicle carrying the beloved Shabba pulled onto Olympic Way. An amplification of his recordings alerted his fans to his presence, triggering a mad rush by men, women and children shouting "Shabba! Shabba! Shabba!"
"A di best ting mi ever si fi a good while now... it look like a dis a celebrate Jamaica 50," said John Atkins, as he joined the throng to welcome their hometown musical hero.
Shabba has not performed in Jamaica since 2001.
"Pram! Pram! A di biggest artiste 'bout di place," shouted Esrene Williams, almost out of breath as she ran to catch up with the motorcade.
Shabba — adorned in a grey fedora and shades — was immediately swallowed up by some adoring male fans when he stepped out of his vehicle, but with mostly men running towards him, one woman shouted: "Di man dem just a flock him, wi caan even get a chance fi hug him up, dem fi back off!"
Known for his catchy dancehall lyrics, the deejay got loud cheers when he took the microphone. But he only wanted to acknowledge the crowd instead of giving a performance.
"Unno done know how it go," he said.
"Yeah!" roared the crowd in response.
"A one Shabba Ranks, a me mon, big, bad, dutty, stinking Shabba!" he said, repeating the line he coined that helped gain him popularity.
After more roars from the crowd, the 'Grammy Kid', as he is also known, told his fans to "part the sea" as he asked for privacy to greet his father-in-law. But even that proved to be a challenge with the impatient fans. "Di man soon come out, no go inna di people dem house," it was announced over the public address system.
Shabba's fans were not the only ones enjoying the presence of the man who recorded hits such as Trailer Load A Girls, Mr Lover Man, Twice My Age, Peanie Peanie, and Housecall. Fellow artistes made the trek from the airport to the community where the deejay was born.
For Jigsy King, it was a must for him to meet the deejay at the airport. "Nuff a di artiste dem shouda come out and meet Shabba a di airport 'cause a him kick off di door fi wi," he said.
For foundation artiste Screechie Joe, Shabba is the man. "Mi nuh too guh airport unless mi a fly out guh a one show, but when you si me reach here fi welcome Shabba, you know mi rate him," he said.
Shabba's presence in Olympic Gardens was also a chance for young ones to receive a first-hand 'history lesson'. One father, after making the comment "a have to get my children to see this", hastily pedalled away.
For 14-year-old Travis Heslop it was a chance to meet the artiste he had seen only on the television. "I am happy; now I have seen him in person," he said.