When dubwise (often described as reggae's equivalent of rap) evolved into dancehall in the 1980s, Shabba Ranks became one of the style's leaders. Most dancehall has come out on small independent labels, but in the early '90s, Epic saw how popular it had become and signed Ranks. Hard-edged, abrasive and tough, As Raw as Ever thrives on rhythm for its own sake. Listening to such cuts as "Gun Pon Me" and "Fist-A-Ris," one can hear the impact that classic dubwise artists like I-Roy, U-Roy, King Tubby and Big Youth had on dancehall. But while those greats could be very melodic, Ranks usually has little or no use for melody or harmony. Ranks is joined by artists ranging from rapper KRS-1 to reggae/pop singer Maxi Priest on this generally enjoyable, although limited, disc.