VP Records (2007)

Gangsta For Life is the first full-length album from up and coming dancehall artist Mavado, a.k.a The Real McKoy. Signed to VP Records alongside the likes of Sanchez, Wayne Wonder and T.O.K., Mavado continues in the vein of slickly produced independent dancehall.

Citing Bounty Killer as his Godfather and mentor, Mavado follows in the Killer’s tracks as a hardline gangsta MC with a ghetto mentality.  Don’t be fooled by the guns and ammo though, Mavado has a sweet and compassionate side too.  

Like many Jamaican artists, Mavado began his singing career sitting in the church pews with his grandma.  His first single, Real McKoy, was released in 2004 with the help of Bounty Killer.  Yet it was his single, Weh Dem a Do (produced by Delly Ranx), which projected him into stardom outside of Jamrock.  Featured on the album, Weh Dem a Do combines vocodered vocals with sparse dancehall beats and a chorus about murdering bloodclaats, flexing and being a gangsta for life.  You get the idea.

With 25 tracks on the album, Gangsta for Life is a bold entry into the competitive dancehall scene.  Mavado draws on his various influences and doesn’t neglect to remind us he is a true gangsta.  On first listening, the gangsta theme is a bit overwhelming, but give it a chance.  Sadness is a sweet piece of contemporary roots lamenting the murder of his father. Born and Raised touches on the singer’s Christian roots, using a gospel chorus which off sets the harshness of the other tracks.  Dreaming will be a bashment favourite with its driving beat and peaking crescendos. There is a smattering of love songs, Heart Beat; the arbitrary slack punaany track, Squeeze Breast, and a whole lot of interludes with news reports, phone messages and gun talk.

Gangsta for Life definitely steps up the dancehall game and puts out a challenge to those artists who call themselves ‘gangsta’.  This hard-hitting release pushes the boundaries of dancehall music, leaving a gritty taste in your mouth and something to think about.

Definition of a Gangsta sums it up – ‘A true gangsta is more than just an image, it’s a mindset. We honour our elders, protect our women and children, and respect the innocent’.