"I'm a sexy girl. I just dress sexy, sexy clothes...body suits, short shorts. I do the Cleopatra thing sometimes, an African style. Sometimes no bra, just some chain over my boobs."
Sex sells and, in the '90s, nobody sells more than the Jamaican DJs. Shabba Ranks has been catching contention from the American media, probably for getting white kids all hot and bothered with lewd lyrics and steamy videos. But if white moms and dads across America are worried about their daughters stripping down to bra and panties for some skin-out ecstasy à la Shabba, wait until legions of frustrated, horny young boys set their eyes on one of reggae's lustiest female imports, Patra.
Born in Kingston, grown in Westmoreland, and returned to Kingston, Patra began her singing and DJ-ing career as Cleopatra at age 11, making appearances at small community dances. Patra's first release was "Yankee Doodle Do" in the late '80s, produced by Music Works/Anchor producer Gussie Clarke, who also held the controls on the later releases, "Man Me Love" and "Lonely Am I". With the quality-control production from Music Works and regular appearances with sound systems like Scorpio, Jack Ruby, Stone Love, Bodyguard and Jammys, Lady Patra, as she was then known, quickly became one of Jamaica's most rated female entertainers, alongside Lady G, Sister Charmaine, Sister Nancy, Lady P and Carla Marshall. Streetsound linked up with Patra in her new apartment in Manhattan--financial support and career boost courtesy of her new major-label deal with Epic...
How are you keeping your JA connection now that you're living in Manhattan?
I've got my friend in Jamaica who sends me my Stone Love tapes every week and listening to my tapes in Manhattan helps me to bring back the vibes. And I still go home for four or five days and all I have to do is go to the sound system because that's where the real vibes are in Jamaica.
Why are you now Patra instead of Lady Patra?
It's because there are too many ladies in the reggae industry and I didn't want to be just another lady.
Was it difficult coming up as an entertainer being a woman?
The only difficulty I had was with my mom, 'cause she didn't want me to go to any dances. I was her only girl child so she want to protect me 110%. Usually she lock up the house so I can't get out, but I went through the window one night to a little community dance in my area where I DJ and win $50.
What about the producers and promoters--no sexual contention from them?
They can't because they're scared of me. I put myself in the position for producers to respect me because the only thing they deal with me in is as an entertainer. They didn't really get a chance to disrespect me as they do with other females.
What about the competition between women? Will you be clashing with Carla Marshall now that she's on Columbia?
She's doing a whole different thing. I'm a singer, a DJ and an actress. I do everything different, but I respect her a lot.
What about other female entertainers? What happened to you at Sting in '89?
In Sting '89, when it came to the clash, I didn't bother to go with the competition because I was a little bit shy then. It was Lady G, Sister Charmaine and Lady P. I guess you have to go down a little to come up.
So what kind of style will you be letting off now that you're on a major label?
First off, I have to say thanks to Shabba because he's the one who really made this happen. Because before Shabba, nobody really knew what reggae music was all about. But Shabba is for the girls and I'm for the man. As for the music, it's a two-way thing. As a DJ, I go for the raggamuffin stuff and I got real background crowds that are behind me 110%. My singing is terrific. Sometimes I can sing soft and sometimes I sing like Tina Turner. Men like when I sing.
'Cause I sing sexy about love and romance.
Are you just a sexy singer or are you a sexy girl?
I'm a sexy girl. I just dress sexy, sexy clothes. Sometimes I wear body suits, short shorts. I do the Cleopatra thing sometimes, like an African style. Sometimes no bra, just some chain over my boobs.
So is this sexy style going to come out on your record with Epic?
Yes, it will be a very sexy record. I recorded one song with Christopher Williams called "Sexual Feeling", one song about long-distance love with Yo Yo called "Long Distance Call", and more of a conscious song called "Think" with Lynn Collins, who used to sing with James Brown.
With working for a bigger record company, did you have to take a new approach to how you present your music or perfect your skills as an entertainer?
I've never had to take vocal lessons because I was born to be a star. When you're born with it, you don't have to go and holler your voice out. But every day I go to entertainment class to learn how to walk, how to talk when taking interviews, how to apply make-up in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Are there some tips you would advise to up-and-coming artists?
It's more of a personal choice. But I want everybody to make it, and to make it they've got to act like me. Keep your head on your body, no screwing around, and keep the more skeptical people respecting you. I think it is going really well for the DJs in Jamaica, but some of them let it get to their heads. They talk two minute slackness and they don't really think about the lyrics they write. I'm not there for the slackness. I'm just sexy, not slack.
UPCOMING: Recently released "Hardcore" (Epic/Shang in Jamaica) from an upcoming LP; appears on Richie Stephens' "Body Slam", to be released on his Pot Of Gold (Motown).
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