Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sugar Minott: In Memorium

Lincoln "Sugar" Minott  has reportedly passed away in Kingston, Jamaica of an apparent heart ailment, he was 54. Of the many distinctive vocal stylists that Jamaica has produced, including Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Alton Ellis, Minott ranks among the best of its soulful talents. He was also  deeply attuned to the sensibilities of Jamaica's poorer classes and potently connected with mournful laments about daily life in the ghetto.

In addition to being a singer, he was a sound system and label owner, and successfully guided his daughter Fire Passion into the music business. Minott's Youth Promotions studio, label and sound system recorded early works by Junior Reid, Yami Bolo,  Saw, Nitty Gritty and Garnet Silk.

Born May 25, 1956 in Kingston, Jamaica, Minott (pron. My-Not) co-founded roots reggae trio African Brothers with singers Tony Tuff and Derrick Howard. The group was active throughout the mid-and-late 1970s. Minott went solo  and recorded the albums Live Loving and Showcase for Coxsonne Dodd's at Studio One, which yielded the enduring hits "Mr. DC" and "Vanity."

Over his career he recorded for every major Jamaican producer and label including George Phang, King Tubby, Bullwackies Sly & Robbie, Bunny Lee and others. Minott set up his Black Roots label in 1979, releasing singles including the Scientist-mixed "Informer." The 1980s were to be Minott's most prolific period, a decade in which he released some 30 albums, many of them of exceptional quality.

Four albums all recorded for different producers in 1984 sum up Sugar Minott's greatness. Buy Off The Bar, produced by George Phang and mixed by Peter Chemist features haunting instrumentation and highlight track "Strictly Sensi," a tune that rejected the 1980s cocaine and crack epidemic with a ardent defense of herbs. Wicked A Go Feel It, produced by Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes was another heartfelt set of slower roots and lovers rock numbers, with title track being a standout.

Herbsman Hustling  was a solidly dancehall affair, with tunes like "Dancehall We Deh," "Uptown Girl" and "So She Hot" hitting big at the time. The album's title track has become a signature tune, and was sampled recently for Mr. Vegas' "Old School Hustlin." Lastly, Slice of the Cake, produced by Sugar and Maxine Minott, was released by the US label Heartbeat and became Sugar's fist major US seller. The set is packed front-to-back with hits and remains a strong catalog seller for Heartbeat. The album features excellent  Channel One-built riddims and hard-hitting social commentary on songs like "We Ha Fi Live" and "No Vacancy."

In recent years Minott appeared with New York's Easy Star Allstars, recording covers of Radiohead and the Beatles, giving the familiar material his softly emotive Sugar-y touch. The world has lost another great singer whose music helped shape the Jamaican sound and whose good works for aspiring artists will not soon be forgotten.

Other Recent articles:
Sugar remembrance by Ron Nachmann on Dangerous Minds.
Guardian UK Obit.
Biography on Wikipedia.
Sugar Minott official site.