Born Lincoln Minott on May 25, 1956, in Kingston, Jamaica. Education: Attended Sir Coxsone's Musical School. Addresses: Studio--King Jammy's Recording Studio, 38 St. Lucia Road, Kingston, Jamaica.
A highly versatile reggae master, Sugar Minott is beloved as much for his social consciousness as he is known for his exceptional musical ability. As a singer, musician, and composer during the 1970s, he was a member of Kingston's African Brothers trio. Minott recorded some of the great classics of reggae, including "Party Night" and "Torturing." Many of his hits were characteristic of the dancehall music style that was popularized during a period of excessive civil unrest in Jamaica during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Minott was in fact widely accepted as an innovative force behind the dancehall phenomenon and is generally recognized the originator of an associated popular dance riddim(reusable rhythm pattern) called rub-a-dub. During the 1980s, Minott spent time in the United Kingdom among the denizens of England's reggae underground; there he also proved adept at lovers rock reggae. It was his rigid personal devotion to his own social and political ideals, however, that prevented him from realizing the full potential of a commercial career. With dozens of albums to his credit, he was nonetheless heard on a variety of popular record labels throughout the latter part of the twentieth century and into the 2000s.
Sugar Minott was born Lincoln Minott on May 25, 1956, in Kingston, Jamaica. The neighborhood where Minott was born, called the Mayfield Avenue district, was a home to many dance halls; it is a neighborhood that historically has spawned many singers. Minott grew up idolizing the work of Studio One mastermind Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd and Treasure Isle Studio producer Duke Reid. However, it was Ken Boothe, a singer, who had perhaps the most profound influence on Minott's upstart talent. Minott, by his own admission, took pleasure as a child in mimicking Boothe's style. Also admired by Minott and his peers during those early years were the artists who recorded with the American Motown label--the Delfonics and the Temptations, among others. Records and tapes remained a commodity of high premium in Jamaica and were particularly rare in the poverty-stricken ghettos of Kingston, the home of reggae.
As an adolescent, Minott met Tony Tuff, an accomplished guitarist. A friendship developed between the two amateurs, based on their mutual interest in music. Later in the 1960s, the two met Derrick Howard (also known as Eric Bubbles), and formed a trio called the African Brothers. Minott, who was barely into his teens at the time, availed himself of the invaluable opportunity to make contacts in the music business. He proved himself adept as a singer and lyricist in a specialty field called sound systems (record-mixing facilities), which was unique to Jamaica at that time. Sound systems, largely the innovation of the late Osborne "King Tubby" Rudduck, laid the foundation for a new reggae music form called dub, which flourished in Kingston's Waterhouse district after 1970.
Before long, the African Brothers were recording songs for Micron Music. It was an atmosphere of intense competition, but by the early 1970s the trio migrated to the popular Studio One label. As Minott's work and lifestyle revolved around the sound systems of the Kingston ghettos, it was inevitable that he eventually became acquainted with his childhood hero, Sir Coxsone, through associations in the Delamere Avenue district, a neighborhood that Minott frequented along with his musical colleagues, Tuff and Howard. Due to a preponderance of musicians in competition for the spotlight, the potential to achieve fame and financial reward was limited; yet Minott's ability was readily apparent, and Coxsone was eager to make use of Minott's talent both as a singer and as a lyricist.
By the mid 1970s, the African Brothers had splintered into separate solo acts, and Minott turned to Coxsone for inspiration and professional support for approximately the next five years. Minott recorded his first solo release, called "Wrong Doers," at Studio One. The single was issued under his given name of Lincoln Minott, although the singer by that time was already well known to his friends and colleagues as "Sugar," a reflection on the smooth sweetness of his singing voice. Thus it happened that with Coxsone's blessing Minott recorded a follow-up tune, "Is It Time?" under his nickname, Sugar Minott, and the nickname endured. Minott's full-length debut album, Live Loving,was released by Studio One in 1978 and reissued later on other labels.
Minott's career was deeply intertwined with dub reggae from the 1960s. He was a master of dancehall music and a contemporary of Barrington Levy, Tristan Palma, and Linval Thompson. Critics praised Minott's ability to recycle old tunes with creative mixes and new lyrics, a talent that formed the basis of dancehall reggae. Live Lovingis generally recognized as the precursor of all Jamaican dancehall recordings. He was credited also with inventing a dancehall rhythm called rub-a-dub, which became his trademark.
The term "dancehall music" may pose somewhat of misnomer to the non-Jamaican ear, because in contrast to the carefree sound of the words, the dub took the form of political commentary. Dancehall consisted of pre-recorded music that was subsequently mixed; it was characterized by drastic, explicit, and harsh "non-lyrics," which were superimposed in the background of records by means of overdubbing by disc jockeys. The popularity of dancehall mixes increased steadily in Jamaica throughout the 1970s as the island nation teetered on the verge of civil war. Whereas reggae was founded originally in social protest and until that time was characterized also by religious overtones, dancehall evolved during a particularly degenerate time in Jamaica, when gang violence ruled the streets of Kingston and other Jamaican towns. Dancehall by nature embodied the violence of the streets and surfaced as a particularly vicious art from by the 1980s. The popularity of dancehall dub ultimately led to a ban by Jamaican authorities on the explosive lyrics, called "gun lyrics," in an effort by the government to curb violent crime on the island.
As Minott's name became increasingly associated with the dancehall style of dub, he rejected the commercialization of the art form. In the midst of his soaring professional popularity, he elected instead to cultivate his loyalty to the poor citizens of Jamaica. He focused his efforts on the plight of the ghetto, which he considered to be his home. His decision to defer to the needs of his community led to a rejection by the mainstream media powers that usurped reggae music for commercial exploitation during the 1970s and 1980s. As pop music culturists turned increasingly to dub for inspiration, the genre set the basis for the mainstream American music forms of hip-hop and rap. Lucrative recording contracts loomed, but Minott turned his attention to the needs of Kingston's ghetto youth. He built his own sound system, called Black Roots, in conjunction with a collective project called Youth Promotions, also founded by him in 1979. Minott's first compilation on his own label, an album called Black Roots,was praised as a masterpiece by Rough Guideand other critics. Contributing artists on the album included Don Carlos, Lacksley Castell, and Ashanti Waugh. A highly respected lineup of instrumentalists graced the album also: drummers Albert Malawi and Horsemouth Wallace, guitarist Bingy Bunny, bassist Junior Dan, organists Ansel Collins and Steely, pianist Gladstone Anderson, and percussionist Zoot "Scully" Simms. Minott's classic hit single, "Hard Time Pressure," was taken from Black Roots, and another popular single from that album, "River Jordan," was particularly well received among devotees of the underground reggae culture in England. Minott subsequently moved to Britain for a time.
Although his presence in mainstream reggae was diminished during the 1980s, Minott never abandoned the art. Many questioned the prudence of his altruism, yet he persisted in his refusals to sign with large commercial recording firms because the deals excluded the members of his Youth Promotions collective. For more than a decade he invested his talents within the confines of his own studio, in an effort to improve the quality of life for new recording artists in Kingston. By the 1990s the collective had launched a number of new careers, not only in dancehall reggae, but also in other dubs. Many moved out of the collective and into the commercial music culture. Among the artists who benefited from Youth Promotions were Yammie Bolo, Junior Reid, Tennor Saw, and Nitty Gritty.
Minott resurfaced on the fringe of the commercial arena in the mid 1990s, by which time the violence of dub reggae had abated considerably; musicians to a large extent had abandoned the slackness(explicit violence toward women) and drug-laced lyrics of dancehall. In its stead the music reflected a greater humanitarian concern and a growing spirituality. Minott regardless was publicly rebuked even by various church organizations for his adherence to personal principle, but he steadfastly refused to abandon his calling to work with the less fortunate. He continued to oversee his mission, even while recording into the twenty-first century.
by Gloria Cooksey
Sugar Minott's Career
Widely recognized as the father of dancehall reggae and rub-a-dub; recorded as a member of the African Brothers, late 1960s and early 1970s; established Black Roots/Youth Promotions in Kingston, 1979; albums, songs, and mixes issued on a variety of labels and by various artists, 1979--.
- Selected discography
- "Hard Time Pressure," Black Roots, 1979.
- "River Jordan," Black Roots, 1979.
- Live Loving , Studio One, 1978.
- Showcase , Studio One, 1979.
- Black Roots , Island, 1979.
- Bittersweet , Ballistic, 1979.
- Ghetto-Ology , Trojan, 1979.
- Roots Lovers , Black Roots, 1980.
- Give the People , Ballistic, 1980.
- African Girl ,Black Roots, 1981.
- Good Thing Going , RCA, 1981.
- Dancehall Showcase , Black Roots, 1983.
- With Lots of Extra , Hitbound, 1983.
- Herbman Hustling , Black Roots, 1984.
- Slice of the Cake , Heartbeat, 1984.
- Wicked A Go Feel It , Wackies, 1984.
- Leader of the Pack , Striker Lee, 1985.
- Rydim , Greensleeves, 1985.
- Time Longer Than Rope , Greensleeves, 1985.
- (With Leroy Smart)Rockers Award Winners ,Greensleeves, 1985.
- Inna Reggae Dancehall , Heartbeat, 1986.
- Sugar and Spice , Taxi, 1986.
- Them Ah Wolf , C&F, 1987.
- Jamming in the Streets ,Wackies, 1987.
- (With the African Brothers)Collectors Item , Uptempo, 1987.
- African Soldier , Heartbeat, 1988.
- Buy off the Bar , Sonic Sounds, 1988.
- Sugar Minott and Youth Promotion , NEC, 1988.
- Lovers Rock Inna Dancehall ,Youth Promotion, 1988.
- Ghetto Youth Dem Rising , Heartbeat, 1988.
- Best of Vol. 1 (compilation), Black Roots, 1988.
- Sufferer's Choice , Heartbeat, 1988.
- Ghetto Child , Heartbeat, 1989.
- The Boss Is Back , RAS, 1989.
- The Artist (compilation; double album), L&M, 1989.
- 20 Super Hits (compilation), Sonic Sounds, 1990.
- Smile , L&M, 1990.
- A Touch of Class , Jammys, 1991.
- Run Thins , Exterminator, 1993.
- Dancehall Business ,UNI/Heartbeat, 2000.
- Greatest Hits , Dressed to Kill (U.K.), 2000.
- Simply the Best , World Records, 2000.
- "An Explanation of the Dubbers" http://www.debate.uvm.edu/dreadlibrary/saunders.html (November 22, 2000).
- "The Change of Messages in Dancehall," http://www.debate.uvm.edu/dreadlibrary/thielen.html (November 22, 2000).
- "Dub Revolution," http://www.debate.uvm.edu/dreadlibrary/bush.html (November 22, 2000).
- Rough Guide to Reggae, http://www.niceup.com/discographies/rough_guide_to_reggae (November 21, 2000).
- "Sugar Minott," Encyclopedia of Popular Music,1998, http://www.econodesign.com/Reggae/Sugar_Minott.htm (November 21, 2000).
- "Sugar Minott--Ghetto Child," 2000, http://www.members1.chello.nl/~j.van.der.meulen01/choice0004.html (November 21, 2000).
- "Sugar Minott" (Interview from BSL), January 1992, http://www.freespace.virgin.net/russell.bell-brown/bslp8e.htm (November 21, 2000).