Ranking Trevor, an influential deejay or toaster, as Jamaican patois rappers were called during his 1970s heyday, died in the Olympic Gardens area of Kingston yesterday morning, Aug 7. According to reports, he was returning home from a dance when a collision with a car threw him off of his motorcycle; as he lay on the ground another vehicle ran over him. Trevor's fatal accident occurred just nine days after Brooklyn based Jamaican sing-jay Sluggy Ranks, 44, lost his life in a Kingston car crash.
Ranking Trevor was 53 years old.
Possessing a precise yet easy going delivery reminiscent of his primary inspiration, the godfather of Jamaican deejays, U Roy, Ranking Trevor influenced several toasters of his own generation including Johnny Ringo, Welton Irie and Burro Banton, the latter having a profound effect on the style of Buju Banton whose rose to dancehall superstardom in the early 1990s.
Ranking was best known for his late 1970s recordings at Kingston's Channel One label, which introduced the 12-inch 45 rpm record to the Jamaican market (also known as the disco mix) an essential component of reggae in that era as sung vocals, deejayed versions and instrumental cuts of the same rhythm were all included on a single release. Ranking Trevor has the distinction of contributing a spiritedly toasted verse to the debut Jamaican 12'' single "Truly", a romantic pledge sweetly harmonized by The Jays.
Although he released several solid albums throughout his career, much of Ranking Trevor's best work can be found on 12" single format, including "Trod On," a combination with vocal trio Culture and "War/Jah Give Us Life" with harmony group The Wailing Souls, the latter serving as the inaugural release for Greensleeves 12" vinyl reissue series.
Born Maxwell Grant in on January 20, 1960, Ranking Trevor was barely in his teens when he started DJing with Gold Soul sound system and shortly thereafter, King Attorney Hi Fi, which became known as Socialist Roots. But to quell any perceived political party affiliations, as election related violence-gripped Jamaica throughout the 70s and 80s, Socialist Roots was often referred to as Papa Roots. At 15, Ranking Trevor cut his first record "Natty A Roots Man" for Channel One (backed by in house band The Revolutionaries), which commenced a steady stream of hit singles for the label including "Cave Man Skank," "Three Piece Chicken & Chips" (a witty response to deejay Trinity's "Three Piece Suit") and "Auntie Lulu"; all three hit the Jamaican Top Ten before landing on the British reggae charts.
In 1978 he signed with the UK's Frontline label, a Virgin Records imprint, and released the album In Fine Style, which featured the hits "Rub a Dub Style" and "Masculine Gender".
Meanwhile, Channel One continued to release well-received albums by the DJ including the humorously titled Three Piece Chicken and Chips, which pitted Ranking Trevor against Trinity. In 1980, Trevor released Repatriation Time for singer/producer Linval Thompson recorded at Channel One and backed by the Revolutionaries.
As the 1980s progressed and reggae's digital revolution took hold, Ranking Trevor's star wattage began to flicker; in the 1990s he left the UK and returned to Jamaica. Despite his success with Channel One, Trevor told the Jamaica Observer Newspaper in February 2012 he had received little remuneration for his efforts. "People out there now collecting my money by selling my songs in (all) kind of ways," he said.
In 2008, after 35 years in the music business, Ranking Trevor made his US concert debut at the annual Reggae Culture Salute in Brooklyn, sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music. In a promotional interview leading up to the event aired on New York area Caribbean cable program ZYNC TV, the veteran deejay summarized his ongoing endeavors towards reclaiming his musical rights and highlighting his vastly underrated cultural contributions, by simply telling host Richie Rich: "Ranking Trevor is still campaigning, we don't give up the fight."
Maxwell 'Ranking Trevor' Grant is survived by his mother, four brothers, four sisters and at least 15 children.