From Blacka Ranks To Black-er, Black-er Tells His Story

Black-er reminisced on his career that has spanned two decades, declaring himself as the only Dancehall artist to get the ‘buss’ in the genre in 2 different eras, the 90s and the 2000s. Formerly known as Blacka Ranks before he rebranded himself to Black-er, the artist born Donovan Blackwood summed up his career journey, highlighting his multiple hits and surviving a car crash that claimed the life of his friend and fellow artist Alton Black.

Black-er said that he first garnered the attention of music lovers in the 80s, including Rory from the famous Jamaican sound system Stone Love, who was impressed with a song that he had recorded for the less popular sound system Super Rock at a time in the music when it was dubplates that ‘bussed’ artists.

“The first bus me get was by Stone Love sound, dem time deh a dub plate a buss artistes and dem time deh Stone Love a do dubplates. Dem time deh mi deh pon a likkle sound name Super Rock. So one night Super Rock did a play outta arcade and when Wee Pow and Rory dem come down deh and hear super rock dem a ask a who tha likkle youth yah name Blacka him bad cus Super Roack did a play me with some mix up song. We Pow see me and Rory say come, come do some things,” Black-er shared with DancehallMag.

He said he had known Wee Pow before, but seemingly, We Pow did not know that he was so talented. He explained that back then, higglers used to gather at a popular spot in downtown Kingston on Kings Street on Fridays called Rock Bottom, where they would socialize, dance, and listen to music.

Dancehall artiste Black-er.

“It was like an after work jam, The place was named Game Fah but people called it Rock Bottom. We did play dub plates and mi did have songs like Gal Tek A gal man and defend it. It never matter if you did political or not, on Fridays when everybody come dehso, everybody had fun.  So a up dehso we did have dub plates a play, dem time deh mi about 14 because me out KC (Kingston College High School) in about 86. Dem time deh mi did just a deejay but mi never did a tek nothing serious,” he said.

He added, “One Saturday now mi deh arcade where Stony Love was, and Super Rock sound passed through, and Rory from Stone Love did a hear a Blacka Ranks song played for the first time by Super Rock selector Quench Aid and the song that played that night mash up the place and the girls gwaan bad and Rory was very impressed. When Rory heard that song, he told me to come to Stone Love because he would make me get some dubs.”

He said he went and was given the opportunity to record a dub for Stone Love.

“From Rory get that dub people start see me and mi school friends dem a praise me and a say mi ago buss because dem hear Stone Love a play it but mi still never did a tek it serious only Ninjaman came out with a song when him a say mad Ninjaman and I took the melody and say mad Blacka Ranks but the style that I did was a style that said him haffi request yuh wuk, it’s a song that says any man a female is with , him haffi come back because she is good and that song lift up the place, Rory let me do that song,” he explained.

Black-er said the song that got him the biggest break was No Donkey No Bite You.

It was bigging up the girls dem whose skin no cut cut up. In those times a lot of females skin was cut up so a girl wud curse another girl and tell dem dat dem skin cut up donkey bite dem and that was a topic right across Jamaica, he shared.

His momentum continued as his popularity burgeoned with tracks like Name Brand and Request The Work.

“ Every weh you go girl did a say dem no need no pickney fi hold no man a dem good body a dweet,” he said as Request The Work enjoyed heavy rotation.

In 1989, he performed overseas for the first time as his popularity spiraled beyond Jamaica.

Black-er formerly Blacka Ranks

“I finally got a big break to fly to America in 89 when Chicago Bull did win the NBA and mi get a Chicago Bull suit fi wear go the stage show. Mi go New York that was the first place mi go at Parkside Plaza in the Bronx. I never know I had so many number 1 songs until I go to the venue and see how many people came out to see me . Rory from Stone Love had already tell me that mi did a run New York,” he shared.

It was while in New York that he met the singer Alton Black, with whom he later recorded the track Gal A Watch You.

“I meet Alton Black in Brooklyn at Hit Factory and also that day we met Claude from Afreek Sound and at that time Johnny Gill had the biggest r and b song My My My. Alton Black was like a Sanchez in Jamaica. When he sang over the r and b songs dem sound jus like the original singer,” he said.

“We linked up at Hit Factory and he said him want we do a combination and we come up with the song Gal Jus A Watch You. That was the biggest song under the name Blacka Ranks I’ve ever done.”

The enjoyment of the song’s success was ephemeral as not long after Alton died tragically.

“We were leaving Bronx going to Brooklyn and we were on the eastern parkway interborough. Right when we were exiting the interborough right near the cemetery, we crashed.Alton was driving and died on the spot. I didn’t have on my seatbelt, so I ended up in the backseat of the vehicle. The most hurtful thing I remember was hearing Alton take his last breath and I didn’t hear anything else. I only came out of the accident with a broken foot(left) and spent a month at the Jamaica hospital in Queens, New York,” he recounted.

He returned to Jamaica in 2002, where he was given the name Black-er by popular Jamaican media personality and host MC Nuffy.

“I was doing some promotional stuff that was done every Sunday called Links On The Beach and that’s when I met MC Nuffy,” he said.

“I went to Big Yard studio when Birch had the thrilla rhythm and I took Macka Diamond with me, she was Lady Mackerel at the time and just change out her name to Macka and I took her to voice on the rhythm, she even voiced before me and she did the song’ baby you really stop already, the steam fish inna yuh back done already’ .I was the last one to voice on that rhythm and I did the big song tek off something fling it pon the ground step up pon it because you know a your own. This was Black-er’s first hit,” he shared.

He then went on to record on the Strip Tease riddim, also recording a fan favorite, Attitude.

He then recorded a song in response to Leftside and Esco’s Tuck in Yuh Belly, as he claimed the lyrics of that song made women who did not have flat stomachs sad. “Black-er came and saved dem with girl leggo the belly , anno the belly weh yuh have but a yuh good body a dweet,” he recounted.

“Inna dancehall yuh have more big belly gal than flat belly, so I had to look out for them,” he said.

“After that, Macka Diamond and me link up now wid the big monster Bun Him and then Dave Kelly come with the 85 riddim and me do Later Fi She, we dweet it bout yah man even though sometimes dem wah go round it,” he said.

Black-er now hosts a top 20 countdown that is aired on tv that can be viewed on Flow and Ready TV as he aims to diversify his talent. Viewers can tune in on channel 100 on the Flow network on Saturdays between 10 p.m. and midnight and on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 2 to 4 p.m. while the show is aired randomly on Ready TV on channels 109 and 110.

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