Uptown Top Ranking, Althea and Donna

The song “Uptown Top Ranking” was written by Alethea Forrest and Donna Reid and released in 1977, when the Jamaican teenagers were just 17 and 18 years old. The song is sampled from Marcia Aitken and Trinity’s “Three Piece Suit”/“I am Still in Love With You Boy”, which is in its turn sampled on Alton Ellis, “I am Still in Love With You Girl”. The song “Uptown Top Ranking” is an answer to “Three Piece Suit”. I tried to understand the lyrics in “Three Piece Suit” but I couldn’t and I couldn’t find them anywhere either, so if you have them please please please can you share?

Anyway, apparently, the song was written as a joke reply song but was played by mistake by BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, and immediately people started asking for it! It became a hit and reached #1 in the UK charts. The lyrics are as follows:

See me in mi heels an’ ting
Them check so we hip an’ ting
True them no know an’ ting
We have them going an’ ting

(People see them in heels and think they are hip, privileges, sophisticated, but they don’t know anything)

Nah pop no style
I strictly roots
Nah pop no style
I strictly roots

(They are not hip or pop, they are strickly “roots”, Jamaican reggae style)

See me ‘pon the road, and you no call out to me
True you see me in me pants and ting
See me in my halter back
Say, me give you heart attack
Give me little bass, make me whine up mi waist
Uptown top ranking

(When other Jamaicans see them in their pants and alter back they do not reach out and say they give them a “heart attack”, but they are just like other Jamaicans and will dance to the right rhythm.)

See me in me Benz an’ ting, uh!
Dolly through Constant Spring
Them check so me come from Cosmo Spring
But a true dem no know an’ ting
Dem no know so we top ranking, uh!
Uptown top ranking

(They see them in their fancy cars in Constant Spring — a residential neighborhood in Kingston Jamaica, and they don’t know that they are top “ranking”, part of the reggae culture, even though they are “uptown”, sophisticated.)

Should’ve seen me and the ranking dread, uh!
Check how we jamming an’ ting
Love is all I bring
Inna me khaki suit an’ ting

(They should have seen them with Ranking Dead, a Jamaican reggae DJ who grew up in the ghettos of Rema and Tivoli and was a respected Rastafarian. They were partying with him. They bring love like the others, no matter how they are dressed.)

Watch how we chuck it an’ ting
Inna we khaki suit an’ ting
Love is all I bring
Inna me khaki suit an’ ting

(See them hanging out with the other Jamaicans with their Kahki suit, a typical Rastafarian outfit).

The love inna your heart just a bawl out for me
When you see me in me pants an’ ting
See me in me halter back
Say, me give you heart attack
Give me little bass make me whine out mi waist
Uptown top ranking

(You will have love in your heart for me when you see me with my uptown clothes dancing and being part of the Jamaican culture).

I am not at all knowledgeable of Rastafarian culture, but in order to understand this song, I looked into it a little. Rastafarianism appeared in Jamaica in the 1930s as a modified Christian movement. Rastas believe in a God and some think that Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia between 1930 and 1974 could have been the second coming of Jesus, Jah. The khaki suit referred to in the song, had its origins in this emperor). Rastafarian believe in a natural way of life and typically shun consumerism, which may be why the writers try to justify their “uptown” appearance.

Apparently, (and I am just going by Wikipedia here), Rastafari's promote the restoration of African manhood and espouses patriarchal principles, including the view that women should submit to men. The song seems to be criticizing this attitude several times. When the men see them in their “halter back” they say they “give them a heart attack”, they are sophisticated, “uptown” women and they are not apologizing for it, but neither are they renouncing their roots. They are claiming their place by saying they are just as “top ranking” as anyone else in Jamaican culture! At least this is how I interpret it, I would love to hear your interpretations in the comments!

Bless up!