Top 10 Merciless songs (our picks)

Dancehall vetaran Merciless passed away on Tuesday, July 19 at the age of 51. The deejay, born Leonard Bartley, was often praised for his skilled rhymes and lyrics, and leaves behind a lasting legacy in dancehall.

OBSERVER ONLINE remembers 10 of the late deejay’s biggest songs.

1. Mavis - Many music critics believe that the Mavis single is Merciless' biggest song because of its international appeal and the romantic sentiments expressed about what women need: a good lover and tender care. As Merciless declared: 'Mavis wants a man who is romantic (well well)'. Merciless' name-dropping of international stars Chuck Norris, Wesley Snipes, and Sylvester Stallone helped the song to become the top reggae single in Jamaica in 1995. Mavis was released through Dynamic Sounds and, according to Merciless’ longtime manager Gadaffi, sold well locally even though Dynamic Sounds printed limited amounts. The song could not be released internationally because it was on the same rhythm as Shaggy's 'Boombastic' and his management was unable to get the song to work on another rhythm track, or even a remix. To show how popular the song became, Gadaffi claimed that Merciless got the biggest forward of his life at the Notting Hill Carnival in England with the line: 'gal ah fly all the way from Paris and tell me how she fraida Chuck Norris'.

2. Ole Gallis - This song is a favourite of many male dancehall fans because it is an affirmation of their ultra-macho belief that they are the greatest gifts to women which in the local parlance is a 'gallis'. There are many single men who sing the refrain, "ah long time we ah ole gallis” as they shower in the mornings while recalling past conquests and plotting future ones.

3. Gal Dem Gizzada - The power and infectious nature of Merciless' delivery is on full show here as he boasts about his sexual prowess using a food analogy that is guaranteed to tickle the ribs of anyone who has ever enjoyed this turbo-charged sugary confection- the gizzada. Riding the Stink rhythm like a true mad genius, Merciless shows he is the master of machismo sexual behaviour as a source of pride for males. His affirmation of the ‘gallis’ trait being hereditary – and as such some men are blameless in this regard (check the line: anno slack mi slack, mi tek it offa mi father) – makes this a firm fan favourite. Best line: So the father, so the son/mi father was a gallis, and ah same way mi come.

4. The Letter/Reply - One of Merciless' best known songs is The Letter, a heartfelt recollection of his 14-month incarceration in a Florida prison, a reality song that struck a chord with the public. The Letter is a statement to his mother, Ruby Ettle Bartley. He said he refused to call her by phone, fearing she could not cope with the news that the last of her seven children had been imprisoned. Best four bars: Ah Federal prison so mi have mi own room/mi read mi bible everyday and watch cartoon/but mi inna ya ah do some heavy thinking/When mi come out, mi done wid the drinking.

Check out The Reply from Ms Ettle where she warned him not to 'drop the soap', and updated him on the state of dancehall that year, 2010, winning over Gaza fans with the line: right now, ah Gaza run the place.

5. Len Out Mercy - This was Merciless’ first hit and was released on the Stone Love label on the Sea of Love rhythm. After Wee Pow of Stone Love played the song nine times at a House of Leo dance, the legend of Merciless was born. The following day, Merciless bussed and began to generate large amounts of dub plate cash from eager selectors. From the intro, this song is a hit as he says almost conversationally: 'the reason dem call mi Merciless is I lend out my mercy and mi don't get it back yet'. Best line: mi give away mi pity/mi will destroy a city/oonu check say a joke mi a mek/mi nuh have no mercy at all/mi bitter like call/mek sure anno my name yu call.

6. Mama Cooking - This song is a major hit, a guaranteed tear-jerker for anyone who has ever loved his mama as Merciless sings an ode to his mother's cooking with another instant fan favourite. Some millennials have admitted that they never knew about 'blue drawers' when they heard this song for the first time. The chorus: I will always be thankful and always be true/for all the things that mama taught me to do/mama mama, I love you true/nobody coulda ever mek me disrespect you.

The line is a perfect example of foreshadowing for his future incarceration as he deejays: Coulda exile for a while and spend time abroad/mi nah go forget say mama de a yard. That's why he had to write The Letter.

7. When Bad Man Phone Ring – Merciless’ dry humour is evident on this hilarious song done in the style of the timeless R & B classic, Members Only. His performance of this song at a recent edition of Boom Box was a major hit on social media, and helped to fuel his resurgence. Merciless asserts: when bad man phone ring, gal alone ah call me, nah use my minutes to call no guy/nah read no sex book/mi nah fi watch blue movie cause when bad man text her/she reply

8. Badman Questions - Merciless' incredible wit is on full display with the hilarious Badman Questions which seeks to establish the street credibility of ‘yu ever make one pop outta bicycle bar yet/mek police bwoy run lef him car yet/yu ever rub outta serial number/when yu likkle, mek a gun outta lumber?’ Merciless continues with the interrogation by asking pertinent questions that speak to boxes that every bad man should tick off on his resume, questions like ‘yu ever cut a shotgun in half yet, and the equally hilarious, ‘yu name ever mek Headline News yet?’ Merciless is a one of a kind tour de force, a perfect storm of dry wit, dark humour and brash confidence, easily one of the best rhymers dancehall has ever seen.

9. Mr Houdini - This song shows the range of Merciless’ genius. The song, which was released on the Stampede rhythm, starts out with the standard braggadocio about his sexual prowess. Merciless deejays: gal dem ah call me Mr Houdini/anywhere mi go the gal dem need me/mi ah dance wid Jeanie, she ah try push eenie/promise me a Lamborghini, ....and then out of the blue, he goes off on a brilliant musical tangent, changing the key, phrasing with a weird interjection 'oh she ah knock pon mi door (pause) inna so so bikini'. Brilliant.

10. Let Them Have It - Merciless is up to his old tomfoolery on this lyrical gem as he narrates a blood-curdling tale of a disrespect and attempted robbery at a nightclub, and the deadly consequences afterwards. He is at the height of his powers on the Kiki rhythm as he shows that in any altercation, there are no rules, anything can be employed: small common pins, garbage pans or even a mackerel tin (snigger). The chorus is legendary: Out of the matic/Let dem have it!Pop off your three star ratchet/Let dem have it! If it's even a bicycle sprocket/Let dem have it! Or all a pen knife inna your pocket/Let dem have it!

RIP to a true icon.

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