Sugar Minott one of reggae’s foundation artistes dies at age 54. Minott passed away on
Father of Dancehall Music
By Dennis Howard
Sugar Minott began his remarkable musical career back in 1969 with a group known as the African Brothers. African Brothers also included Tony Tuff and Derrick Howard who later became a producer. The group recorded with some of the day’s top producers including Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Rupie Edwards and Winston Blake of Merritone fame, however they had no success and later split to see if solo careers would bring the badly sought after success. Sugar linked with Sir Coxsone in 1974 and began a successful collaboration which brought back some of the prestige of Studio One. Studio One had by then lost a lot of its sting due to the departure of the giants such as Ken Boothe, John Holt, Alton Ellis and Bob Andy.
Big hits for Studio One include Vanity, which revived the I’m Just a Guy rhythm, and the very witty
However, at the same time, he was recording for other top producers such as Sly and Robbie, Niney Holness, George Phang, King Jammys and Hawkeye. His hits included No Vacancy, Herbman Hustling, Lovers Race, Devil Pickney, Tune In, Every Little Thing and Riddim. It was also during this period Sugar was very instrumental in giving birth to the dancehall phenomenon.
Youthman promotion has the distinction of starting the first dancehall crew, a phenomenon which has been emulated time and time again. The Youthman crew included Yami Bolo, Michael Palmer, Junior Reid, Garnett Silk, Andi Livingston, Shalome (then known as Steve Harper), Nitty Gritty and Tenor Saw. Among his production team were Nabbie Dread and Maxine Stow (his love interest).
These artistes honed their talents at Youthman Promotion under the guidance of Sugar, and showcased their talent alongside a sound system of the same name- Youthman Promotion, which was also owned by Sugar Minott and was used to promote the stable of artistes.
The sound system was one of three sounds which participated in another first for the dancehall- the first ever sound-clash. The landmark clash was held at Cinema ll in New Kingston. The other two sounds were King Jammys and Black Scorpio.
Youthman Promotion with it battalion of young artistes led by Sugar Minott, crushed all opposition and took home the crown. This was the beginning of a trend, which has made clashing an art form with famous encounters, which are talked about even today.
During this period Sugar made two very important songs- Dancehall Stylee and Dancehall We Deh, the latter produced by veteran DJ Jah Thomas. The songs became Dancehall, which at the time still meant the venue where the dance was held. Famous dancehalls were Foresters Hall, Success Club and Glass Bucket.
The naming of that genre of music as dancehall music came about in 1984 when a popular promotions company called inner City Promotions started a concert series that featured artistes who were popular in the dancehall but were mainly played by sound systems.
Mike Tomlinson and Lois Grant called the series Dancehall. The first concert took place at Harbour View Drive-In but was later transferred to Cinema ll. Sugar’s song Dancehall We Deh was the theme song for the series.
After this, the word dancehall took on a new meaning and has developed into what we now regard as simply dancehall.
Minott was not only a master of the dancehall but he was a brilliant lovers-rock singer, in fact his biggest hit was a remake of the Jackson Five’s Good Thing Going, which did a stint on the British charts. Whether it was protest, satire, dancehall vides or love, Sugar dealt with it with consummate ease, and is one of the few artistes who have had a major hit in every country where reggae is popular. He has toured