Caricatures

What Went Right With… Red Rat?

A caricature of reggae dancehall artist Red Rat by What Went Wrong Or Right With...?

Red Rat is a very unique artist, both in terms of look and sound, if you’ve never seen or heard him, I can only describe him as a larger than life, almost cartoonish reggae artist from Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. During the latter half of the 1990s, Red Rat, real name Wallace Wilson, unleashed his very distinctive voice onto the world. With his loud, slightly high-pitched delivery, almost shouting his lyrics at the listener, coupled with his trademark catch phrase “Oh No!” (and his affinity with the colour red judging by his album covers) he left an indelible mark on the Reggae Dancehall scene.

Red Rat released two albums; Oh, No… It’s Red Rat in 1997 and I’m A Big Kid Now in 2000, both released on legendary UK Reggae label Greensleeves Records. His debut album is the LP that many people will remember since it contained his most famous songs; “Tight Up Skirt” and “Shelly-Ann” among others. Here’s the man performing his song “Shelly-Ann” on the short-lived Channel 4 TV show “Get Up, Stand Up” back in the mid-90s…

For over a decade, people seemed to have forgotten about Wallace, but in 2017 there has been a slight Red Rat revival given that Chris Brown referenced his track “Tight Up Skirt” in “Privacy” and Nadia Rose incorporated the entire chorus of the same track for her song “Tight Up”. It’s great to see a new generation appreciating this sometimes overlooked musician but having said that, regardless of a few new artists sampling Red Rat’s 1997 hit, there’s nothing better than the original…

The late 90s will always remind me of the reggae dancehall music that I listened to, and because of my almost constant playing of albums such as Oh, No… It’s Red Rat, the genre became an intrinsic part of the decade for me. Along with Degree and Mr. Vegas, Red Rat was one of the dancehall artists always playing on my Hi-Fi and Discman back in the day and hearing their music today instantly transports me back to that time.

Very similar to Hip-Hop, Reggae music has recently become heavily reliant on autotuned vocals and there has therefore been a stagnancy of creativity, in fact many songs these days are indistinguishable from each other. In a time of mediocrity within the genre, it’s nice to look back at the golden era just like Hip-Hop fans have done since the mid-2000s. Hip-Hop’s golden age was undoubtedly the 1990s and arguably Reggae’s golden age was the 1980s, but Reggae Dancehall became a force to be reckoned with during the 1990s and thanks to the originality of an artist like Red Rat it will forever be remembered with fondness now that it’s firmly in the past.

With two decent albums and a handful of classic tracks, Red Rat should always be mentioned when people bring up Reggae music, there was nobody else like him and there hasn’t been ever since.

Oh Nooooo!

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1 reply »

  1. Say word…..I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly….Red Rat was ill, it seems like after he grew older his voice changed quite a bit…Which is unfortunate because part of his appeal was his extremely unique voice…..I truly miss this incredible period in music – MAD COBRA, MASSIVE B, BOUNTY KILLER, SPRAGGA BENZ, RED FOXX, MERCILESS, and too many to mention getting busy over the right type of explosive Hip Hop beats…..

    Thanks for writing about this era, it doesn’t get the pros it deserves…

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