Jan 12

SHAGGY – “Oh Carolina”

Popular72 comments • 6,684 views

#686, 20th March 1993

Shaggy’s take on “Oh Carolina” acknowledges its debt to the past right away – sampling the intro from the Folkes Brothers’ 1960 original. Not just a nod of respect, it’s a canny move, as the crackling, wheezing shanty-town piano sounded like nothing else on 1993 radio, giving “Oh Carolina” instant cut-through.

But everything about Shaggy’s breakthrough hit is shrewd. His “Oh Carolina” is shooting for crossover smash and party smash at the same time, which means that every touch the production adds – bells, brass, “Peter Gunn” bass – is trying to bring new people into the tent. It’s shameless, but it works. The Folkes Brothers’ track is shockingly raw – Count Ossie’s drums mixed aggressively high, so the group’s lilting song gets buried under their clattering, peg-legged rhythm. And you could argue dancehall works best when it’s stripped down likewise – the novelty of the riddims and the swagger of the MC mixing confrontationally, without compromise. “Oh Carolina” is comparatively eager to please, but the theme park version of old Jamaica it conjures up is still a terrific place to spend a few minutes.

If anything lets the track down, it’s Shaggy – at the start of his career, pushing ragga MCing out to an international crowd, he sounds more hesitant than you remember, with growls scattered around the track but less of the gruff brio of later hits. Never the flashiest of MCs in any case, Shaggy here is having to spell out what ragga is and does for a big chunk of its new audience: at two decades distance, with that educational work done, his patience doesn’t seem so much of a virtue.



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  1. 61
    AndyPandy on 11 Feb 2012 #

    @41 etc
    I always thought popular hardcore act the Awesome 3 (Don’t Go, Hard Up, Headstrong etc) were just crying out to be called the Awesome Foursome/4some (especially as there seemed to be 4 of them).

    Didn’t Dick Dastardly win once but he was disqualified/not all car over the line or something?

  2. 62
    Wizi on 15 Feb 2012 #

    I saw this style as the beginning of bad rap and hip hop, the like of which continues to curse the charts today. Basically, someone could gabble away about how fantastic they were whilst displaying little if any musical talent. In the meantime, someone talented with a lovely voice provides a vocal and the track can then actually call itself music. The person who can actually sing is usually a woman and she is expected to sing the praises of the bloke lacking in ability, but who has a massive ego.

    The bunny prevents me from providing a example of how a wonderful and successful singer degraded herself IMHO by fawning over yet another pathetic rapper.

    It is a great shame as I enjoyed so much hip hop from earlier days and was heartened to see Public Enemy being so critical of the current crop in a recent documentary.

    We did see another documentary on hip hop, and my husband pointed out that the music was good when it was performed by poorer people who really had something to say as that is what it was all designed for. Now it is for show offs with nothing to say except how great they think they are and who use rap as a way to get around actually having talent and studying to become a musician.

  3. 63
    punctum on 15 Feb 2012 #

    It’s all been downhill since Louis Jordan. Now that guy could blister four walls with his alto! Two coats! And still play the changes! And fry up a decent chicken! How can today’s so-called kids etc

    But then I wasn’t raised to expect a world in which DJ Fresh Featuring Kia-Ora reigned supreme.

  4. 64
    flahr on 16 Feb 2012 #

    question not the integrity of the triforce!!! (er but also spoilers)

  5. 65
    ciaran on 8 Jul 2012 #

    As a 10 year old who was indifferent to music this was sort of a big deal.the chugging beat, the tropical vibe of the whole thing, not to mention shaggy himself,sort of an unlikely star.friends loved it and if it came on the radio I didnt complain.given the dross in 1993 it was good that shaggy had come good.

    I can see why others didnt like shaggy but the mystery surrounding him in 1993 made him stand out.even more so his many vanishing acts only to triumphantly return that only Tom could match – more on that to come.

    I havent heard it in a long time but had fond memories of it, especially the girl in the video. I thought it might be panned by Tom, a sort of ragga version of Vanilla ice in retrospect but its still good enough for me.I would give it an 8.

  6. 66
    Vince Modern on 31 Aug 2012 #

    Hello Tom and fellow poptimists,

    I’m an avid reader of (and occassional poster to)this blog. Thanks Tom (and all the commentators) for all the marvellous insight into this wonderful place we call the hit parade.
    I’ve recently started a blog that celebrates one of the more misunderstood genres of recent years, Nineties Reggae (or Neggae). Around 94/95 you couldn’t swing a pretend rasta hat/dreads combo for fear of hitting a Neggae chart hit. It was everywhere. And so were the compilations, which have worryingly made a comeback (with the recently released Now That’s What I Call Reggae). We’ve collated the definitive Neggae tracks from between 1992 and 1996 and are working our way through them, reviewing and rating one a week. It’s a collaborative effort between myself and four friends (all fellow Neggae enthusiasts).

    For those interested in substandard writing about throwaway pop music, you can follow it all here:


  7. 67
    Tommy Mack on 31 Aug 2012 #

    Will check it out, Vince. I loved this stuff when I was a kid and am still a massive reggae fan – look forward to reading it.

  8. 68
    Mark G on 20 Apr 2013 #


  9. 69
    hectorthebat on 7 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Eye Weekly Canadian Critics Poll – Singles of the Year 18
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 13
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 43
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 34
    Spex (Germany) – Singles of the Year 14

  10. 70
    omalone1 on 11 Mar 2016 #

    Gw greatly appreciate this. Thanks

  11. 71
    Phaser on 17 Mar 2018 #

    Behold the power of necro!

    Through a few spare evenings and YouTube, I’ve been rediscovering my fondness for Shaggy lately. It isn’t, and wasn’t when I was a kid – I’m juuuuust old enough to have had the music video channels when It Wasn’t Me came out – terribly profound, but he’s a fun presence behind the mic and his music is always pleasantly relaxed.

    I think #50 has hit on something though, a realisation that started slowly crystallising listening to the first… let’s say twenty seconds of Boombastic and watching Shaggy in the video for this solidified, and that’s the Jamaican-ness or otherwise of this. In terms of its origin, that’s one thing, but I have the distinct feeling that Shaggy’s chart success is less because of his invocation of reggae tradition and more because his big songs, and especially Shaggy in his songs, fit into a Light Ent tradition going back to, well, maybe not My Old Man’s A Dustman but at least the “Two Old Ladies” bit in Cumberland Gap – burlesque, a bit smutty but also faintly polite, played largely for laughs. His purring (“Mr Lover-lover – prrrrrrr…”), gurning (watch him in the old-timey bits of the video for this) performance may, perhaps, have struck a different chord in a UK audience than the Shabba Rankses of the world…

    (This is no criticism, to be clear – that music-hall-esque aspect of his shtick is one of his most appealing features!)

  12. 72
    Gareth Parker on 2 Jun 2021 #

    Shaggy is a great character and good fun, but song is average imho. 5/10.

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