Today, May 25, 2023, would have been the 67th birthday Lincoln “Sugar” Minott. A National Honour for this son of Jamaica and Icon of its music is long-long overdue. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, he was christened Lincoln Barrington Minott and was one of eight children for his parents. Raised largely by his mother, after his father grew tired of the hard life in Kingston and returned to the country to live and farm. According to Minott, the name “Sugar” was given to him by his friends as he was a chubby kid, and his friends reasoned that he ate too much of his mother’s sugar. Early Years Sugar Minott began his career in the sound systems while still a child, working as a selector for the Sound of Silence Keystone outfit, before launching his own Gathering of Youth sound system just as he hit his teens, honing his skills as a selector. In 1969, Minott decided to take the mike himself, not as a DJ, but as a singer, for the Trio “The African Brothers” which included himself, Tony Tuff, and Derrick Howard. The group would enter the 1969 Festival Song competition with a Tony Tuff penned entry but was dropped in the second round. In 1970 they released several singles on labels such as Micron and their own Ital label. They provided an early example of the Rastafarian's influence on the Jamaican music scene as they followed closely in the footsteps of the Abbysinians. Studio One The African Brothers recorded the single "Mysterious Nature" for producer Rupie Edwards, and shortly before breaking up in 1974, recorded "No Cup No Broke" for Studio One. Minott then teamed up with Clement Dodd as an apprentice at Dodd's Studio One, where he worked as a singer, guitarist and percussionist, and soon began recording his own singles. Drawing on his sound system experience and his familiarity with the Studio One catalogue, Minott developed a talent for writing new songs to fit Coxsone’s existing rhythms (which at the time was common when singers performed live, but rare in the studio), often proving more popular than the original songs. This approach would become the precursor to the emerging Dancehall style. Departure from Studio One
Sugar Minott would experience a fair level of success at Studio One with hits such as "Vanity", "Hang On Natty", "Mr. DC", and "Jah Jah Children." His debut LP “Live Loving” increased his popularity and is regarded as the effort that pioneered the dancehall style that would later dominate the early 1980s. Minott's desire for independence led him to leave Studio One in 1978 and form his own Black Roots Records label and Youth Promotion organization, the latter with the aim of helping young singers from the same ghetto background as himself. Minott also ran the Youthman Promotion sound-system, giving young performers their first public exposure. Move to the United Kingdom
In 1979 he released the album a second album, Showcase, which included his singles that had been omitted from the first album. This was immediately followed by the “Bittersweet” album and then the roots reggae classic “Ghetto-ology” in that same year. His “Roots Lovers” album released in 1980 was a big hit in the UK where he became a bigger star than he was in Jamaica. His self-produced "Hard Time Pressure" also became a major UK reggae hit in 1980, and resulted in Minott relocating to the UK, where he became a focus for UK reggae.
In the years that he was in the UK, Sugar Minott would release a plethora of singles including "Run Come", "Not for Sale", "African Girl", "Lovers Rock", "In a Dis Ya Time", "Africa" and "Make It with You" (which featured Carroll Thompson). He covered the Michael Jackson1971 recording “Good Thing Going” and this was picked up for distribution by RCA, reaching Number 4 on the UK Singles Chart in March 1981, an effort which led to an album of the same name. This was followed by the classic “Herbsman Hustling” album, which represented not only a return of Minott to the Roots Reggae and Dancehall genre, but a return to Jamaica where he took control of his labels and his Youthman Promotions operation. Return to Jamaica
Meanwhile, Minott also returned to Jamaica to look after his labels. They were not merely vanity outfits, but real concerns, where the singer nurtured young talent. He financed his efforts by freelancing around the studios, cutting tracks for numerous producers and labels. But in truth, Minott loved the workload and would have inevitably been just as prolific even if he didn't have a business to support. He celebrated his return home to Jamaica in fine style with a scintillating performance at Reggae Sunsplash in 1983 and would appear annually at the festival for the next three years. Jamaica goes Dancahall
In the period he had been overseas, Jamaica had undergone a dancehall revolution, and now that he was back home Sugar Minott was keen to participate, releasing the Dancehall Showcase album that year, 1983. By 1984, Sugar Minott was back in top form, releasing a trio of albums and a string of hit singles. The earlier mentioned Herbsman Hustling album featured a sublime blend of dancehall styles and roots sensibilities, with a touch of lovers rock thrown in for good measure. The album “Slice of the Cake” followed but was overshadowed by its predecessor, although it was still a stellar dancehall record. Together with Lloyd Barnes produced “Wicked A G Feel It”, both embraced cultural and lovers' themes. A fourth album was recorded with Sly and Robbie, but this was not released until 1986. Business Interests-Nurturing Talent
The Youthman Promotion sound system performed regularly in Kingston's Maxfield Park, featuring Jah Stitch, and newcomers who had been nurtured by his organization including Ranking Joe, Captain Sinbad, as well as Ranking Dread. At the same time his Black Roots label featured his productions of these artists plus others including Barry Brown, Tony Tuff, Barrington Levy, Horace Andy, Tenor Saw, and Little John. Minott also produced early works by Junior Reid, Yami Bolo, Nitty Gritty, Daddy Freddy, Colourman, and Garnett Silk. Prolific Recording schedule
The 1980s saw him working with numerous producers in Jamaica including, George Phang, Fattis Burrell, Mikey Dread, Sly& Robbie, Prince Jammy, Donovan Germain, and even Channel One(which he had despised in the mid-1970s. as well as recording for United States-based Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes (the Wicked A Go feel It album from 1984). His biggest hits included "Herbman Hustling", "No Vacancy", "Jamming in the Street", "Rub A Dub Sound", "Buy Off The Bar", "Rydim", and "Devil's Pickney".
Sugar Minott continued to record on his Black Roots label, Youth Promotion Label and for Major and Independent labels. His albums receive increasingly exciting reviews. The fact that he released over 60 albums and hundreds of singles serves as a testament of his prolific and productive nature. Few artists have had the impact on Jamaica's dancehall scene as Sugar Minott whose releases provided the blueprints for the rise of the contemporary dancehall style, he was also equally influential as a producer, and his extraordinarily popular sound system helped launch numerous new DJs into the limelight. Death
Lincoln “Sugar”Minott died on 10 July 2010 at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica after being transported to the facility earlier that day after he complained of chest pains. The cause of death remains undisclosed.
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