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Interview: Akon Talks His Revamped Konvict Kartel Label, Why Today’s R&B Works & Plans For His 'Stadium' Project

Those who do great things often move in silence, and Akon is no exception to the rule with his Konvict Kartel label and forthcoming project, 'Stadium.'

Those who do great things often move in silence, and Akon is no exception to the rule.

Throughout his career, the multi-hyphenate artist has made music that has transcended into number ones in nearly every genre. As glow stick fiends jam his songs like “Play Hard,” with David Guetta and Neyo, he was also able to make hip-hop lovers pop bottles to “I’m So Paid” with Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne. Not only has Akon made massive hits for himself, but has also helped catapult some of best acts in music like Lady Gaga, T-Pain and unbeknownst to many, Young Thug. In addition to his multi-platinum career, he’s also helped bring light to millions in Africa with his philanthropic efforts. But the mogul isn’t one to keep the keys to success to himself.

With his newly revamped label Konvict Kartel, Akon is looking to bring forth new talent in hip-hop/R&B. After helping launching the careers of acts like Pain and Jeremih, the singer wants new acts to realize the path to success can be just as simple as a Soundcloud upload, but the business aspect is a long road traveled.

Instead of trying to force his formula on new talent, the “Heatwave” singer wants aspiring artists to vie for a career past a hit single. We talked to the Akon about Konvict Kartel, why viral musicians have short lifespans and his plans to release the five-album project, Stadium. Take out a notepad and grab all the gems you need for your aspiring music career.

 

VIBE: What inspired you to change your music label Konvict Muzik to Konvict Kartel?
Akon: It’s like the new generation Konvict music. Today is a new time, new sound, new artists, new thinking. These guys are a lot younger, more fun and the energy with the music is totally different. I think it was the perfect time to put a makeover on the label, especially the urban side of things, moving on the Konvict side and just recruit a lot of young artists, new thinkers, just people that think beyond artistry that want to take their brands to the next level.

Tell us about the acts on the label.
We have Young Greatness; he's out of Memphis. We have Tone-Tone out of Detroit and we have collaboration with QC (Quality Control) and Greatness, they have a single out now called "Moola."

What grabs your attention when you’re looking for an urban kind of artist?
When it comes to that side, I'm just looking for an amazing tone, a guy who works really hard and someone who is ready to understand the business. I think a lot of times artists come out and just put songs on YouTube, they blow up, get a lot of views, the label picks them up and they have no experience whatsoever on the game and how to stay there. Ultimately, what happens is the record comes out, the label takes it over, it does a little [bit of numbers] and you never hear from them again. I want artists who want to make a career out of this. They have to understand how this really works to the point of learning more about it and to listen. You have to gather all the notes pretty much of what I have acquired through my years and help take them to the next level.

I think today a lot of artists feel they still can do that on their own since you can promote on social media and you can even learn how to produce on YouTube. Do you think this can hold them back from the business aspect of their careers?
I think it can hold them back a lot. Especially to be a seasoned veteran that understands the business side of it. The creative side, you're absolutely right, they can definitely do it on their own. With today's technology you can make a song in an hour. You can make a music video in two-three hours. It does give you the opportunity to create the content.

You have the content, but what do you do with it? How do you saturate the content? How do you make it relevant? How does it correlate to a business? How does that content now make you money? These are things that you need people to help you realize. People who know the politics of the business and who does what. Now you can take your crew to the next level. Now there's a system. You can become a superstar, but you need a team around you that is going to help you make that long-term success.

And it helps that you're dealing with people that have had their own success, too.
Absolutely. There are a lot of things that you're going to go through that you don't know how to deal with. When that time comes you have someone that's been there and they can walk you through those steps before they even arise.

In the midst of all of this, are you still working on the Stadium album or working on other endeavors?
The Stadium album is done, it's now the matter of putting it out and what system I'll put it out through. I was dealing with a lot when it came to my deal with Universal and the changes they were making within their system. Currently I'm with Atlantic and we've put together a nice little plan as far as how we're going to put it out. So all of that is now being handled on Atlantic's side.

Congrats on that. New deals, new energy, new business.
Absolutely.

When you say, as a means of putting out Stadium, what do you think of the way music is being released today? You have people like Beyonce who reinvigorated the whole "surprise album" motif and Kanye West who dropped an album in real time while working on it. Do you think with the times, people are stepping outside of the box when it comes to releasing new music and how listeners digest it?
Personally, I think you have to think outside the box period, regardless of the times because you have to stand out. There has to be some kind of shock value that creates curiosity. When you're an artist like a Beyonce or a Kanye that already have a fan base, you know where your fans are. I can drop a project tomorrow as long as I have access to my fans and let them know the project is coming out tomorrow. By getting a hold of the data, which gives you the information of how to communicate with them. Once you have that, the sky is the limit on what you can do.

You have so many different sounds and I think that's something that's really amazing. You can make an R&B song, a pop song or music with Caribbean and African flavor. Do you think that your fans at the moment are expecting one thing from you or that they know they're going to get hit with so many different sounds?
I think they know they're going to get hit with a lot of different things. It's the reason why I'm deciding to put out the Stadium album the way I did. It's five different sounds, five different territories, and five different types of music because every genre has fans of mine. I've made records in every genre and have had number ones in every genre. So it actually worked out to my benefit because I have a worldwide audience and if one genre that doesn't attract at one point, then another one will. More than anything, I love music that's why I did it. I won't let one particular genre hold me back from what I want do it. I think the fans are pretty much know I'm hitting them from every angle for sure [laughs].

I think that says a lot about your talent and your longevity. For Konvict Kartel, are these are just urban artists?
Yes, Konvict Kartel is just for the urban market, hip-hop, raunchy and grimy R&B. Something that really speaks to the underground.

So for R&B, what do you think the genre today? Do you think the traditional R&B of yesteryear can ever come back as strongly as the airy mid-tempo sounds that are dominating the genre today?
I think it's a decision that the artist would have to make. Every time there's a new generation, they're into something else. My mom and dad were into disco, then you had Marvin Gaye, then the Isley Brothers so you know you even had different types of R&B back then. Then my generation had acts like Jodeci. This generation is totally different. You've got Trey Songz and those guys are totally hip-hop now. Chris Brown, it's really hip-hop with melody. It's really based on the generation that grew up under than genre so you can't really predict what R&B is going to sound like in the next five years. You just have to be in tune with the time and adjust according to the generation because that's what you really do this for, the people. So if the people are requesting one particular thing, then that's what you give them. It's not ever going to be what you personally like. Otherwise, you don't need a record deal you can just make music for yourself in your basement.

Do you plan on expanding your label to include other acts?
Absolutely, we currently do that now. For the last few years, I've been in Africa doing my main Konvict movement there so with there we have artists such as Wizkid, P-Square who's signed to us as well. Those are the top acts that have come out of Africa that are huge in the Afrobeat market in the UK. A lot of people here don't know that. They think music domestically is what really matters but when you travel across the waters you see they're acts in those areas that may not have crossed over yet. Ultimately, my end game is to bridge all that sound, all that music into one so people can open up and listen to music from around the world and not just focus on here in the United States.

Why do you think the artists from overseas have trouble finding success in the States?
I think people don't travel. When you don't travel, you close your mind to what's around you everyday and you really don't open your mind outside of your reach. I'd say three out of ten people I know personally have passports. Some of my friends didn't even know what a passport was. That's just the culture of the U.S. has always been that way. You have some people that are from certain corners who have never left that corner. We've never had a culture of travelers. Sure people go to Cancun or to Hawaii, but you're still in the United States. I think that's why the fear is so heavy here. It holds people down mentally and stagnates them from opening their mind to something bigger. You have to want to explore and taste different foods and interact with different cultures of people. There's so much fear and propaganda that pushes people from not even wanting to leave the United States. I think that holds us down as a people.

There's that notion of generalization. So if you think it's one way here then you assume it's like that somewhere else. I wish it was generally known, but there is growth in traveling when it comes to young African-Americans.
It only makes the confirmation a lot stronger from a mental standpoint. When you go out, you come back with things that stay with you for a long time.

You've been able to travel and give back with your lighting initiative in Africa. How do you feel about other artists like Big Sean who have given back to their cites in light of the Flint Water Crisis?
I applaud them to the fullest because ultimately with your artistry you can spread that wealth and spread that extra blessing to someone to who can possibly need it. Some musicians, athletes and high profile people really care about the people and the environment, and really want to do something powerful. Those are always the ones who stick around for a long time and the blessing always come right back to them. Sometimes it's not hard to question someone's morale or integrity. Just by being around them for a minute but you can also see what they do other than what they're known for and that right there is their legacy.

Phife Dawg of a Tribe Called Quest passed away recently. He's one of the recent black men in the hip-hop community that passed at a fairly young age. The bigger conversation coming from this is the idea of health in the black community. Do you think this is a problem that is left largely unsaid?
I think there's over 40 people that have died in the hip-hop community that I know personally. It's all been from health issues. Cancer, heart attack, unknown diseases. The health issue is serious. We have to start taking it serious or none of us will live past 50. People are now just eating to live and not living to eat. We have to be in the position to know that after a certain age, your body doesn't function the way it normally would. Whether it's fighting a disease or burning off fat as fast. It's just habits you have when you’re younger that you have to switch out when you get older. It's so important, especially if you want a longer life. We have to have more nutritional type of diets even in the workplace because a lot of these people are eating the same foods at work, the bodegas, the restaurants, these things are the same foods that affect your body.

Speaking of being woke, what do you think about Donald Trump’s winning spree during the primaries?
It's a scary feeling. You would think that people were a lot smarter. Trump is like another Hitler with his agenda. I know that he is a very smart businessman and everything, but I just think there are certain parts that he's lacking that he doesn't even know he has. I think he's more into the cameras and the popularity of the celebrity. He knows there are certain things that people want to hear that more than everything; the people have to know how is he going to go through with all of this? He can tell you everything but how is he going to package it? If all fails, he was going to get publicity out if it. Now it's hitting him. He's probably thinking, "Oh, I'm actually starting to win," to "Wow I'm winning" so know it's starting to switch up. I don't even think he himself would get this fair. Before when he ran no one cared. Now they care.

What’s the most important thing you want people to know about Konvict Kartel?
This is a movement and I just want to be in position to offer that platform to artists who understand who they are and where they want to be in the next ten years. That's what we want. We're trying to build careers here.

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Then & Now: Common Details How He And J Dilla Collaborated On The "Thelonious" Track With Slum Village

J Dilla and Common had a really tight creative bond and, at one point, lived together in L.A. So you know that Common got dibs on all of his hot beats first. They were hip-hop brethren just trying to work together and of all of their collaborations, living and posthumous, the track “Thelonius,” is the sharpest intersection of the two legendary artists' careers.

A singular song fit for two albums, the cut was placed on Common’s fourth studio album Like Water for Chocolate and Fantastic Vol. II, Slum Village's classic sophomore album. “Thelonius” as we know it was in a way an accident...a soulful snafu that we get to enjoy forever. In this excerpt of VIBE's Then & Now video franchise, Common shares how the song manifested unplanned, willed into existence by Dilla’s uncompromising creative compass.

The story is brought to life with artwork by visual artist supreme, Dan Lish (@DanLish1), the man behind Raekwon’s The Wild album artwork. The illustrations you see in this video are a small fraction of what you can find in his upcoming book: Egostrip Vol 1 – The Essential Hip Hop Art Book, a psychedelic visual history of hip-hop to be enjoyed by the genre’s oldest and youngest fans alike. 

Today is the last day to support Lish's Kickstarter for the incredible project. Click the following link for a copy of your own: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dan-lish/egostrip-book-1 

“I picked up on what inspired me about the artists, whether it be a certain lyric from a classic song or my perception of what may be going through their mind at the moment of creation,” says Lish.

There is much more to be said about all of these artists. For more stories on Common’s catalog, including several more Dilla cuts, stay tuned for the upcoming episode of Then & Now, where we dig deeper into notable tracks in the career of one Lonnie Rashid "Common" Lynn, Jr.

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Courtesy of Biz 3 / FCF

Quavo Is Introducing 'Fan Controlled Football' To The Culture

From their penchant for popping tags and name-dropping designer brands in their rhymes to the obsession with diamond-encrusted neckwear, the Migos are the modern-day poster-children for decadence and opulence. But when it comes to balling, group member Quavo is a seasoned veteran, literally and figuratively. Notorious for his appearances in NBA all-star celebrity games, where he routinely dominates the competition, Huncho has built a rep as one of the athletically gifted hit-makers in music today.

Although he's known for his skills on the hardwood, football is definitely among his passions. His newest endeavor, an ownership stake in Fan Controlled Football (FCF), the first professional sports league to put the viewer in the coach's seat and the general manager's office, in live time, finds him putting his focus back on the gridiron. Having inked an exclusive, multi-year streaming broadcast partnership with Twitch, the FCF will be the first professional sports league to be fully integrated with the streaming platform with the potential to explode in the digital age, where user interest and participation is the main recipe for success.

Having tossed the pigskin around as a Georgia high school football star, to Quavo, it was a no-brainer to get involved with the innovative league on the ground level. “We are building a brand and something different in our league – with the fans. They are in control and get to pick the team names, colors, logos, and more,” said Quavo said in a press release. “I’m really excited because FCF is fast-paced, high-scoring 7v7 football and you are in control. You go from sitting on the couch watching TV and pressing buttons on the remote to actually pressing the buttons on the plays.”

Played on "a 35-yard x 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones,” the Fan Controlled Football league will kick off in February 2021, with a four-week regular season, one week of playoffs, and a Championship week. The league will consist of former elite D-1 athletes, the CFL, XFL, and the Indoor Football League. Broadcasted live from the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility in Atlanta, each game will be 60 minutes in length and will allow the viewers to play a hand in the final outcome on Twitch.

Aside from sports, Quavo has been relatively lowkey on the musical tip as of late, with two years having passed since a solo release or a Migos album. However, according to him, this delay can be considered the calm before the storm, as he assures him and his brethren are primed for one of their biggest years yet. VIBE hopped on the line with Quavo to talk Fan Controlled Football, what he's got cooking in the studio, and his foray into TV and film.

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You're the newest team owner at Fan Controlled Football (FCF). What about the league piqued your interest and made you wanna get involved?

It's just showing my interest in the game of football and just trying to put a twist to where it's fan-controlled, fan-involved. A lot of times we watch the game, you watch the game, you just have some concerns. Sometimes you feel you can make the plays or call the play, [with FCF], you can sit on the couch and make the play. I just think we came together to make something crazy like that. I feel like it's something hard, it's something new, it's something fresh. It's a new beginning to something, like giving ni**as a chance. Giving D-1 players who couldn't make it to the league a chance, giving ex-NFL ni**as a chance if they still got it, [and] to go with the fans. When we saw the Falcons lose the Superbowl LI, we [fans] just knew what plays to call, we knew to run the ball. We were up 28-3. All we had to do was hold the ball, but we wanted to air it out and we made a mistake and lost to Tom Brady. Just like when Marshawn could've won a Superbowl. If they'd have given him the ball on the two-yard line. We knew that Marshawn Lynch was supposed to get the ball, [but] they wanted Russell Wilson to win it and the New England Patriots caught an interception. So that's how we're trying to shape it, we're trying to make something new.

The FCF will be live-streamed exclusively on Twitch, which has become one of the leading platforms for eSports live-streaming and will kick off in February 2021. Do you feel the FCF has the opportunity to fill that NFL void during the spring, particularly given the fan engagement that FCF enables?

Most definitely, cause after the Super Bowl, it just feels like you just want another game. You feel like you want one more game. and coming from something [where it's] eleven on eleven players to seven on seven, I feel [there’s] still a difference. After coming from watching the game and the regular politics, the regular structure of the game, now you're getting to be involved in a game that you can control. You can pick the jersey, you can pick the helmets, you can pick the jerseys, you can pick the coaches, you can pick the plays. I just feel there are two different dynamics [between the NFL and FCF). You come from sitting on the couch and pressing the remote to actually pressing the button on the plays."

Speaking of fan engagement, the FCF is the only professional sports league that enables fans to call the plays in real-time and puts the viewer in control of a game’s outcome like never before. Have you ever had that experience, as far as fantasy football?

Nah, but I'm into Madden. You can sit at home and pick your plays [with FCF], it's just like the lifestyle of Madden. It's like a reality of Madden. You're playing with people at home, with these unique athletes, and it's seven-on-seven.

As an Atlanta native, how significant was the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility being in your hometown in your decision to come on board as an owner?

It's very important. We got top-tier talent here, so it's opening up opportunities for a lot of guys. We're just glad it's in the south, it's like a hub. Everybody loves Atlanta and everybody wanna be here. Everybody wanna play and the weather is good.

NFL Super Bowl Champions Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, boxing legend Mike Tyson, and YouTuber and podcaster empire Greg Miller are among the FCF's team owners. How does it feel to be competing against some of the most accomplished athletes and entertainers in the world? Have you had the opportunity to meet with any of them?

Most definitely. I have a good relationship with Mike Tyson. I've met Marshawn Lynch, it's a blessing. I feel like we're not competing right now, I feel like we're building a brand. I feel like we're building a league. I feel like we're trying to make the world understand what we're bringing to the table and what type of game we bring to the table, you feel me? I feel we're trying to create something different. Once we get the ball rolling, it's all together and moving into a real FCF league, then we'll get to compete. Of course, we all wanna win, but right now, we're just trying to get the foundation and the basics going and letting the strength of the owners and the relationships show on the field.

Being that you'll all be working with your respective fan bases in shaping your team’s personality and identity, any thoughts about what the team’s name will be? 

Man, I wish I did, but it's so straight strictly fans that you never know. Just like with music, can have an idea that is a smash, and then the fans don't think it is. You gotta strictly listen to the fans on this one. You gotta listen strictly to how they want it because it's the point of the game, that's the point of the league. We gotta let them control this game and then we the players and we the people that's listening to the people, the culture. FCF stands for culture, too, you feel what I'm saying? We listen to the culture, we're letting the culture run the field.

How involved will you be in the drafting and scouting process for your squad?

The fans make the draft, fans get to see everything. Open books, everything. It's an open thing, it ain't nothing to hide over here. The fans control it all.

In addition to sports, you've also been delving into acting, with cameos in shows like Atlanta, Star, Black-ish, and Ballers. Earlier this year, you appeared as yourself in Narcos: Mexico. How did that opportunity come about? 

Narcos reached out. We [Migos] had this song called “Narcos” on the [Culture II] album and we went and shot [the video] in Miami and everybody thought it was a Narcos movie scene and it ended up being Madonna's house. So we just shot that there and then they reached out to us. I think Offset had a performance somewhere and Takeoff had to do something and I just ended up being free that day and I went and shot it in New Mexico. I had fun, I loved it.

Do you have plans to pursue any supporting or leading roles in film or television?

Hell yeah, most definitely. I've been sitting down and having real great meetings with directors and people that got some movies in the works for 2021. I feel like I’ve got some good spots. I don't wanna tell it cause they’re gonna make some announcements. It's coming soon.

It's been two years since you've released a solo project or one with the Migos. Can fans expect any new music from you anytime soon and what are your next plans on that front?

Most definitely, hell yeah, we're shooting videos right now. We’re vaulting up a whole lot of videos so we can give you music and visuals at the same time. “Need It," the song came first and then the video. Right now, we wanna get a lot of videos and a lot records in the vault and smash [them] all at once 'cause it's been two years.

Pop Smoke's passing was one of the more tragic events in rap in recent memory, but his debut album, which you appeared on throughout, has been one of the most successful and acclaimed projects of 2020. How has it been seeing how the album’s been received, especially after you and him developed such a bond in a short time?

I'm happy. I'm proud of him, that was my partner. We did a lot of records, we spent a lot of time together and I feel like the album would've did even more with him being alive. A lot of people's album just go crazy when they die, I feel like his sh*t would've still went crazy. He had the momentum, he had the buzz. He was having fun. He was hot, he was fresh, he had everything ready.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Toots Hibbert performing at Hammersmith Palais, London in 1983.
Photo by David Corio/Redferns

Remembering Toots Hibbert

The best singers don’t need too many words to make their point. Otis Redding could let loose with a sad sad song like “Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa” and get you all in your feelings. Bob Marley got pulses pounding with his “Whoi-yoooo” rebel yell. Gregory Isaacs melted hearts with nothing more than a gentle sigh. Toots Hibbert, who died last Friday at the age of 77, could sing just about anything and make it sound good. One of the world's greatest vocalists in any genre, Toots paired his powerful voice with the understated harmonies of Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias to form The Maytals, a vocal trinity that never followed fashion and remained relevant throughout the evolution of Jamaican music—from the ska era to rock steady straight through to reggae, a genre named after The Maytals' 1968 classic “Do The Reggay.”

Whether they were singing a sufferer’s selection (“Time Tough”), a churchical chant (“Hallelujah”), or the tender tale of a country wedding (“Sweet and Dandy”), The Maytals blew like a tropical storm raining sweat and tears. The lyrics to Six and Seven Books,” one of The Maytals' earliest hits, are pretty much just Toots listing the books of the Bible. “You have Genesis and Exodus,” he declares over a Studio One ska beat, “Leviticus and Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, Judges and Ruth...” Having grown up singing in his parents' Seventh Day Adventist Church in the rural Jamaican town of May Pen, Toots knew the Good Book well.

The Maytals broke out worldwide in 1966 thanks to the song “Bam Bam,” which won Jamaica's first-ever Independence Festival Song Competition, held during the first week of August as the island nation celebrated both independence from Great Britain in 1862 and emancipation in 1834. They would go on to win the coveted title two more times, but “Bam Bam” was a singular song with a message every bit as powerful as Toots' voice. “I want you to know that I am the man," Toots sang. He was young and strong, ready to "fight for the right, not for the wrong." The trajectory of "Bam Bam" would not only transform Toots' life but make waves throughout popular music worldwide.

"Festival in Jamaica is very important to all Jamaicans," the veteran singer stated in a video interview this past summer while promoting his latest entry into the annual competition. "I must tell you that I won three festivals in Jamaica already, which is “Bam Bam,” “Sweet & Dandy” and “Pomp & Pride.” Toots described that first festival competition as a joyous occasion. "Everybody just want to hear a good song that their children can sing," he recalled. "Is like every artist could be a star."

In 2016, on the 50th anniversary of "Bam Bam" winning first place, Toots looked back over the legacy of the tune that made him a star. "I didn’t know what it means but it was a big deal," he told Boomshots. "You in the music business and you want to be on top and you write a good song and you go on this competition and if they like it then it becomes #1." After The Maytals won, the group was in demand not just all over the island, but all over the world. "We start fly out like a bird," he says with a laugh. "Fly over to London."

"Bam Bam" went on to inspire numerous cover versions, starting with Sister Nancy, Yellowman, and Pliers. It would also be sampled in numerous hip hop classics, and interpolated into Lauryn Hill's "Lost Ones." But according to Toots, he did not benefit financially from these endless cover versions. "People keep on singing it over and over and over, and they don’t even pay me a compliment," he told Boomshots. "I haven’t been collecting no money from that song all now."

 

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“This man don’t trouble no one... but if you trouble this man it will bring a Bam Bam” Original Maytals Classic @tootsmaytalsofficial 🎶 All them a talk, them nuh bad like Niya Fiya Ball ☄️🔥💥 via @tonyspreadlove . 💥💣🔫#Boomshots

A post shared by Word Sound & Power (@boomshots) on Sep 12, 2020 at 8:19am PDT

When Toots began singing in his parents' church, music was not seen as a career prospect, and the profits were slim for Jamaican recording artists in the 1960s. "Those days we get 14 cents for the record to play on the radio," Toots said. "I get three shillings and five shillings for a number one record, which I had 31 number one record in Jamaica... It’s not about money for me. It’s about the quality that Jamaicans need to go back in the festival jamboree... You gotta talk to the children."

On the poignant “54-46 (Was My Number),” Toots recalls the dehumanization of his arrest and 18-month imprisonment at Jamaica's Richmond Farm Correctional Center for what he always insisted was a trumped-up ganja charge just as his music career was taking off. The song's crescendo comes two minutes in when Toots breaks into a scat solo that cannot be translated into any language known to man, delivered with palpable passion that made his message universal. During Toots' ecstatic stage performances he would follow this riff by commanding his band to “Give it to me... one time!” Then the 'd make 'em say Uh!  (Way before Master P!) “Give it to me... two times!” Uh! Uh! And so on and so forth until Toots worked the place into a frenzy.

The Maytals' live show was so explosive that Toots began touring all over the world, opening for rock megastars like The Rolling Stones and The Who. While Bob Marley richly deserved the title King of Reggae, his friend Toots was performing internationally before The Wailers, and remained a force to be reckoned with throughout his life, blazing a trail for generations of reggae artists to follow in his footsteps.

On his Grammy-winning 2004 album True Love, Toots recorded some of his greatest hits with a host of legendary artists, many of whom were also good friends, including Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and Eric Clapton. His 2006 cover of Radiohead's "Let Down" was a favorite of the band's, who used to play it on their tour bus. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood called Toots’ version “truly astounding,” according to Easy Star Records Michael Goldwasser.

Toots supported himself and his family by touring all over the world. During a 2013 show in Richmond, Virginia he was singing John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" when a teenager in the crowd threw a vodka bottle at the stage and hit him on the head. He suffered a concussion and had to stop touring for several years. As his first album in a decade, Got To Be Tough was highly anticipated when it was released on Trojan Jamaica label August 28. On the cover the former boxer and lifelong fighter can be seen throwing a punch. Just a day after the album dropped, Toots came down with symptoms similar to COVID 19. Within a few days he was hospitalized where doctors placed him into a medically induced coma from which he never recovered. As his Tidal obituary pointed out, he passed away exactly 33 years after his old friend Peter Tosh died by gunfire.

Songs like "Just Brutal" from the hit different now, with Toots pleading for more love in a world gone wrong. "We were brought here," Toots sings. "Sold out. Victimized brutally. Every time I keep remembering what my grandfather said before he died."

“I’m feeling alright,” Toots said the last time we spoke, while he was still sidelined with stress issues due to the bottle-throwing incident. "I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling just cool because is Jah works. You seet?" I asked him if the song "Bam Bam," was about him—a peaceful man who should not be provoked—or else. "Nooo don't trouble him," Toots said with a laugh. "It’s gonna be double trouble, triple trouble. A lot of trouble."

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