Sluggy Ranks (b. Andrew Phillip Gregory), a deeply affecting vocalist who rose to popularity within New York City’s vibrant dancehall reggae circuit of the ’80s and ’90s with numerous socially conscious singles, Sluggy Ranks was killed in a car accident on Sunday morning July 29 in the Stony Hill area of Kingston, Jamaica.
According to various news sources in Jamaica, the car in which Gregory was traveling swerved several times before crashing into a cement light post. Gregory was taken to Kingston Public Hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 44 years old.
Born in the East Kingston community of Rae Town, Gregory moved to Brooklyn in 1981. According to his bio, he adopted the name Sluggy Ranks as a means of “shooting the slugs of destruction, murder and chaos with righteousness, unity and forgiveness.” His earliest singles “True Sound” and “Draw Fi Mi Bible” were recorded in 1984-85 for Brooklyn’s Jah Life Records. He refined a signature, compelling vocal style working with various prominent New York area reggae sound systems including Mini Mart Hi Power, King Custom Sound and African Love at such landmark (dancehall) venues as Brooklyn’s Biltmore Ballroom, Starlight Ballroom, Love People One and lower Manhattan’s Reggae Lounge.
A fertile reggae talent spawning ground, that era’s New York dancehall/sound system circuit also gave rise to the careers of
Shinehead, who signed to Elektra Records in 1988 and released three albums for the label and Shaggy who was signed to various majors throughout the ’90s and ’00s and has emerged as dancehall reggae’s best selling artist to date.
Sluggy shot to prominence in 1988 with the single “95% Black,” 5% White”(Music Masters) produced by Whitfield “Witty” Henry, a haunting condemnation of the racial imbalance between blacks and whites in the U.S. prison system.
In addition to numerous hit singles such as the biblically laced, cautionary “Sodom Gomorrah” Sluggy recorded three albums for New York based producers: Settle Sluggy produced by Delroy Francis and Flavior Francis for Park Heights Records; My Time produced by Ephraim ‘Count Shelly’ Barrett for Super Power Records; and Just Call Sluggy by Whitfield “Witty” Henry released on Witty Music.
A fourth album Ghetto Youth Bust, named for another significant early ’90s hit, was produced by Kingston’s Lloyd “King Jammys” James and released on the Manhattan based hip hop label Profile Records in 1994, which broadened Sluggy’s fan base beyond the dancehall core. He was also featured on the New York City based reggae independent Easy Star Records’ various artist compilation Easy Star Volume I released in 1997, and contributed to Dub Side of the Moon the label’s 2003 reggae homage to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, which spent an astonishing six years on the Reggae Album chart and has sold 126,853 copies according to Soundscan and 225,000 units worldwide.
“Sluggy sings the first song on Dub Side of The Moon “Breathe” and his stellar vocals set the tone for the rest of the album,” comments Michael Goldwasser, a cofounder of Easy Star Records and producer of Sluggy’s tracks for the label. “For those of us growing up in the New York reggae scene, he was an important vocalist and lyricist; Sluggy was one of the first artists that recorded for Easy Star Records and the song that we did with him then, “Ethiopia,” remains one of my favorite productions.”