Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Rodent in the rockers

Published:Sunday | April 17, 2016 | 4:00 AMMel Cooke
Red Rat

The rat is entrenched in Hollywood lore as the Rat Pack is the stuff of legend. Although the 1998 movie The Rat Pack centred on a group of performers led by Frank Sinatra and including Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, the original unit was headed by Humphrey Bogart (who died in 1957).

None of the members and associates actually had the rodent's name, but in Jamaican popular music, where names are as unusual as they come, there is an outstanding example in the deejay Red Rat (real name Wallace Wilson). Having an especially good run in the 1990s with the Main Street Crew, his trademark slang then was "oh no!"

His Tight Up Skirt (which is on the 1997 Greensleeves album, Oh No... It's Red Rat) was referenced heavily by Samantha J in Tight Skirt (released in 2013), identifying herself as the type of persona Red Rat was referring to over 15 years earlier.

While Red Rat continues to be active, much less known is the late Black Rat, who often used an extended "nyeh" on stage. Black Rat (real name David Bingham) was shot about 20 times in July 2002 and killed after having survived a previous attempt to murder him. Among his better-known recordings is Fraud Brand, done with Max Wayne.

A mouse is a much less ominous creature than a rat, and one of the tallest men in dancehall chose to go by a name that evokes the image of a small creature. Eek-A-Mouse's (Ripton Joseph Hylton) hits include Wa Do Dem and Virgin Girl and is on Khaki Suit with Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley and Bounty Killer, which closes Marley's 2005 album, Welcome to Jamrock.

There are mice names to some of his albums, including The Mouse and the Man (1983), Mouseketeer (1984), and Mouse Gone Wild (2004). He is six feet six inches tall.

JOHN MOUSE

Cocoa Tea is a standout performer with band or sound system, having a slew of hits (Sonia, Come Again, Rikers Island), which he augments during performances with spontaneous, extemporaneous lyrics, and R&B cuts laid on reggae rhythms. However, at one point during the 1980s, there was a sound-alike named John Mouse, who played upon his vocal similarity to the man from Clarendon. He sang:

"Dem a talk bout me soun' like de one Cocoa Tea

Cocoa Tea a Cocoa Tea an' me a me"

To that, Cocoa Tea swiftly replied that any Tea "a mus de one whe sell a shop, a coulden me."

Taking the rodent name one step further into multiples was the singer White Mice, whose True Love is the title track of his 1988 album.

The rat has had a hand in Jamaican film as well. In the 1999 action movie Third World Cop, Mark Danvers' character is called Ratty, who is tempted to be a rat (as the police informant is called in the United States) but changes his mind and is killed by policeman Capone (Paul Campbell).