"JUST REALITY" is a raunchy, sexist, one-man rap and reggae show by Jamaican ragga-star Shabba Ranks. Forget the music -- it's strictly standard issue stuff with the emphasis on synthesizer and programmed drums. The dance hall beat is pronounced at times, but by far the most compelling component of the mix is Ranks's raspy yet remarkably limber voice. He's a beat-box unto himself.
Unfortunately, the focus of the album is typically scattershot. By some counts, Ranks has released as many as 50 singles in the last few years, ranging from cultural anthems to slack party tunes. No surprise then that "Wicked Inna Bed," his most famous sexual boast, is followed by "Mandela Free," or that "The Rammer" presents Ranks in all his rank glory.
You get the feeling time and again here that Ranks would like to cross over into the pop-reggae mainstream, that he's aware of the limitations of his repertoire, but that he's still hedging his bet with enough titillating material to keep his current fans satisfied. Maybe that's why his more ambitious and well-intentioned songs tend to ring hollow.
SHABBA RANKS -- "Just Reality" (VP Records). Appearing Friday and Saturday at Kilimanjaro.