One of the biggest reggae stars to emerge in the ’80s, Eek-a-Mouse (born in Kingston as Ripton Joseph Hylton) has no trouble maintaining a high profile. Not only is he six-foot-six, his distinctive voice is hard to miss: he sings with a nasal twang (like a higher-pitched version of Michael Rose), but punctuates his vocals with all sorts of syllabic thrusts, like reggae’s answer to scat. The effect is both melodic and percussive — it keeps the groove moving forward. Eek’s success is also attributable to the high quality of his records. He works primarily with Roots Radics, a popular Jamaican session band that’s played behind Gregory Isaacs and countless others. With Eek, however, the chemistry is unique — they seem to play better with him — and the power of their collaboration helps keep his albums consistent and special.
Above all, Eek is funny, a comic as well as social critic. Wa-Do-Dem, a smart debut, features the hit single of the same name. (“Wa do dem stare? Because she’s too short and he’s too tall.”) Skidip! also has its share of hits (“Modelling Queen” and “You Na Love Reggae Music”), though the second side is a little thin. Assassinator is steady and strong, but boasts no outstanding tracks.
The Mouse and the Man and Mouseketeer are his best albums — assured and versatile. The first includes the epic tale of Eek’s meeting with Mickey Mouse, “Modelling King” (a follow-up to his earlier hit) and a curious ditty called “Hitler.” Mouseketeer features the journalistic “Star, Daily News or Gleaner,” a song about anorexia and, for all who wondered, “How I Got Me Name.” Not to be missed.
Eek’s reign continues on The King and I, but he’s stretching out a bit. Working with a number of musicians besides Roots Radics, the instrumentation is fuller (and includes some synthesizer), but hardly a drastic departure from his successful formula. Mouse-a-Mania is a CD-only compilation of tracks from The King and I and Assassinator.
The front cover of Eek-a-Nomics shows Mouse decked out in a tux, top hat and champagne; the back finds him on the skids, with ripped hand-me-down clothes. Besides the “The Freak,” a hilarious, out-there dance single with Addams Family overtones, the album contains more of Eek-a-Mouse’s usual stories and ravings.