This '90s jam teams the Jamaican reggae star Shabba Ranks with the smooth-singing Maxi Priest, an Englishman of Jamaican heritage. The song finds them both in lover mode, letting the lady know they've got what her body needs. The word "housecall" doesn't show up in the lyric, but we can assume they're not paying a visit to provide medical attention.
"Housecall" helped to propel reggae sound systems into the mainstream in 1991. Reggae sound systems are diverse collectives of DJs, MCs, and various other musicians, famed for their street-party performative style. They're a huge part of Jamaican culture, and were also common throughout Britain in the '70s and '80s. Maxi Priest, who features on "Housecall," was a founding member of the leading British reggae sound system, Saxon Studio International.
This is the song where that ubiquitous "Shabba!" shout came from. Maxi Priest lets it loose a few times on the track, but then Shabba sampled it and used it on his song "Mr. Loverman
" in 1992, making it his calling card. For the rest of the '90s, "Shabba!" became a catchphrase, often used to show excitement or to punctuate an action. The ESPN anchor Stuart Scott sometimes said it in highlights, baffling some white viewers.
Shabba Ranks is one of Jamaica's most successful dancehall musicians. He shot to fame in the late '80s with his deep baritone and sexual appeal, earning crossover hits with songs like "Mr. Loverman" and "Ting-A-Ling." After "Housecall" took off, "Mr. Loverman" was re-released as a single and charted in both the US and UK.
In an interview with Songfacts, Maxi Priest said
he felt "Housecall" was his chance to introduce reggae sound systems to a larger audience: "For me it was just a no-brainer. It was something I felt I had to do, a must. I was on Virgin, he was on Sony – there was a massive opportunity for us to bring sound system culture to another level. This song is a groundbreaker, a trendsetter, the birth of a new format that opened many doors for sound system culture. Many successful songs came after that using this same format."
Maxi Priest also spoke to Songfacts about the recording of "Housecall," comparing the studio session to a sound system concert: "Myself, Mikey Bennett, and Brian Gold were given a day to write the song. We were in a Howard Johnson hotel banging our heads trying to find ideas for the track and bam... 'HOUSECALL!' The next day we were in the studio with a full house of 30-40 people. It was a party, like we were in a dance, literally doing a sound system performance. There was a real hype energy on that track! As we delivered our vocals there were people on the other side of the screen going crazy. It was a sound system session inside a studio, one I will never forget."
In 1993, "Housecall" experienced a second wave of success when it got a remix from the New York City producer David Morales. This version charted at #8 in the UK and helped increase the crossover appeal of the song. Speaking about the remix, Maxi Priest told us: "This gave the song wings to fly, taking the combination of hip-hop along with reggae to create an international dancehall vibe."
As Raw As Ever is one of Shabba's most successful albums, earning the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. This made him the first dancehall artist to earn the trophy.