Deeply touched by the passing of Jamaican actor and artiste Louie Rankin, multiplatinum-selling South African entertainer Menelik Nesta Gibbons has recorded and produced a song in honour of his life and name.
The entertainer said that after reaching out to Steadman Ford, the brother of Louie Rankin (given name Leonard Ford), to share his condolences, a tribute track was birthed.
Louie Rankin, who often referred to himself as the ‘Original Don Dada’, made a name in the music world, winning a Grammy Award in 1992 for his most popular song, Typewriter. However, it was his roles in the movies Belly and Shottas that got the attention of Gibbons, who, after watching Belly as a teenager, adopted the moniker ‘Don Dada’.
“It was important for me to pay my respects to Louie Rankin because it was him first that inspired my rap game as just like the Jamaican Don Dada, I would ‘battle’ my opponents,” Don Dada told The Gleaner.
He continued: “His characters, both as an actor and a deejay, gave him a larger-than-life personality, and his impact was made not just in the dancehall field, but in hip hop as well; through this I crafted a unique performance style in my genre which became reggae/hip hop.”
The tribute track is titled Don Dada and is produced by Reggae Powerhouse Band’s Leroy Scarlett and distributed by Beatroot Africa, but it is not the first of his musical tributes.
The reggae-hip-hop artiste has already won the hearts of the South African people by honouring the late Nelson Mandela with Viva Mandela , which was the official song for the 2017 Nelson Mandela Day, and another for the political leader’s second wife, the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, titled Long Live Mama Winnie Mandela.
The purpose of the tribute tracks, Don Dada explained, “is to make a public declaration as an ultimate sign of respect – as we say in South Africa, ‘ubuntu’, which means ‘I am, because you were’, and all the persons I write about all touched my heart, spirit and influenced who I am today in one way or another.” He also anticipates the latest track will help to keep the legacy of Louie Rankin alive.
He says that a number of Jamaican personalities, including reggae icon Bob Marley (after whom he is named) and Super Cat, who he sees as the ‘don’ of the dancehall, have inspired him musically, but it is Louie Rankin that stands out.
“He was so unique because he becomes his characters, or maybe it is the characters that become him; for me, the part of Belly that stood out was when he realised there were intruders and he was like, ‘Yu know who oonu ah ramp wid? You know me? I am the original Jamaican Don Dada. Jamaican rude bwoy’,” he said.
“The island boy proved that hard work could make it possible to rise from nothing to becoming internationally renowned; he continually diversified his portfolio dancehall and acting, and as a prominent figure in the US hip-hop circles not limited to age or genre.”
The thanksgiving service for the life of the St Thomas-born entertainer will be held today at the New Haven Funeral Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.