Christian Hansen

Maxwell's Return Marks A Romantic Breath Of Fresh Air For R&B

Maxwell talks new music, the death of his cousin, the inspiration behind his haircut and why he was so surprised a fellow Brooklynite actually liked his music.

If we're to fairly parcel out responsibility for the current state of music, then the fans need to own up to this insatiable desire of now. The demand we've placed on artists to crank out an EP, mixtape or album has primed us for tasting--not savoring--a body of work. We expect singers and entertainers to deliver high-quality records in commercial breaks, and then throw titty tantrums when they take longer than what we deem sufficient.

Singer-songwriter Maxwell doesn't--or maybe doesn't know how --to subscribe to the theory of now. Despite his third album bearing the name, the Brooklyn-born, Puerto Rican and Haitian hybrid has never been an instant kind of dude. Listen to his discography and you'll hear him toy with deeper subject matters that morphs into different meanings as you mature. He understands there's nothing more potent, consistent, confusing or alluring then love, pain, jealousy or betrayal, which is why he takes his time. So seven years ago, when Barack was still young in the face, and had a full head of black hair, Maxwell returned to music after an eight year hiatus with BLACKsummer'snight. 

After realizing his trademark 'fro was gone, many wondered if R&B's Samson would be able to woo us without his mane. Maxwell calmed our fears and reassured us all with his delicate yet breathtaking performance of "Pretty Wings" at the 2009 BET Awards. The album was released shortly after providing a romantic soundtrack to anyone in need, and for a while we thought Maxwell would take his coat off, have a drink and stay a while. But this is Max, and other than Helen Folasade Adu (Sade for those who don't know the Wi-Fi password) we've accepted that his experiences infuse his art, so we must let him experience so we can indulge in the art, and true to form, he quietly slipped out of the public eye and for the next seven years simply...lived.

Now he's back. A little older, and still handsome. On the heels of the 20 year anniversary of his debut Urban Hang Suite, Maxwell returns to rhythm and blues, an undeniable young man's game, with "Lake By The Ocean," the first single from the second installment to the BLACKsummer's trilogy. The mid-tempo track finds the R&B crooner in a place of peace and gratitude. "For me, it’s about being able to be satisfied with even the smallest body of water with the great body of water across from you. You can feel happy and you can feel secure and alive, and you can feel love with the least amount next to the most around."

With an interview time constraint I was adamant about not abiding by, Maxwell spoke candidly about the death of his cousin, meeting Harry Belafonte and that VIBE cover he shot with Lauryn Hill that never made it to the stands. Maxwell has returned ladies and gentlemen, savor it while it lasts.

VIBE: What content--like books you’re reading or travels or different flavors in food that you tasted--during this time between your last album and what will be your future album?

Maxwell: Good question. I’ve been all over Africa. I’ve been to Dubai; I’ve been traveling to all these different places, Angola, a little bit of Miami. I went to Kazakhstan, ate there, which is in Russia. So I’ve been running around, you know, and at the same time, I’ve been trying to make sure that I stay grounded and that I write for the common, for the all, not just for a certain lifestyle living type of person. So I basically have always believed that you should just stick to the rules. Talk about love, pain, and desire, and suffering, and the hopes that people have for love and for family, and for security because those things never change.

I read you unfortunately lost your cousin. How did the loss effect how you now live your life?

I’ve learned forgiveness more and understanding. More so because my cousin was always such a big big champion of just let things go more. I used to have to fight his bullies for him and I taught him how to ride a bike. And he was definitely cross-mixed as well. So we kind of dealt with the whole having two different kinds of people and types of cultures kind of clashing, yet we’re Brooklyn people. So we had those similarities. And it definitely changed me. He always looked at me, like a hero type of thing, and then he came back into my life later on after the music was going down. And he kind of did the same for me in an incredible way. It’s amazing because our last conversation was so powerful because it was almost as if I knew that his final days were there. That conversation was like magic. It was almost like I got to say everything that I’m saying to you right now, I got to say to him a couple days before his passing. So he left knowing how much I felt about him.

So I heard your knew single, “Lake by the Ocean.” And whenever I’m near any body of water, whether it be a lake or an ocean, I always feel very small. Complaining about not being able to post a photo to Instagram because I don’t have any service, just always feels really useless. I realize just how small my problems are compared to how big the world is. Is the record about feeling small in the wake or true love, or am I completely wrong?

You know what? This is about the music for me: I want your interpretation to be the most important interpretation of the song. It’s like if I tell you what you’re supposed to think about something, it takes the fun out of it for you. But at the same time, for me, it’s about being able to be satisfied with even the smallest body of water with the great body of water across from you. You can feel happy and you can feel secure and alive, and you can feel love with the least amount next to the most around.

As you know Urban Hang is 20 years old. Your debut album –

I’m old.

You’re absolutely not old. Your debut album stood the test of time, and now in essence you’re competing against time, not so much talent. How do you creatively digest that?

Oh wow, it’s interesting that you talk about time and how you’re very philosophical. I really appreciate your frequency. I would say that the best way to compete with time is to be in the moment because you can’t know the future, the past already left, but that moment is where you know what you feel. And that moment is when you can actually change everything before the end or done or whatever. Does that make sense?

It does make sense.

I just live in the moment. I just live in the moment.

When you smile, I can kind of see that.

I’m just lucky. I came from some seriously bizarre stuff. I had cross panels experiences with regards to family and culture. And for me to have been given this blessing of being able to make music… I know what real work is. I know what a person has to do and what they have to try. I was a busboy at a restaurant. My mom used to clean homes. This is not work; this is a joy to do. The only work part for me, about what I do, is being able to stay true to the situation, remember where I started, remember what the codes are for what I’m trying to do, timelessness, you know, trying to make music that lives to the test of time, that stands the test of time. And in that regard, I guess that’s why I stay in the moment with every experience.

My editor-in-chief, Datwon Thomas said that Biggie was a huge fan of your music. Is that true?

You know, it was maybe 1992. It was like when all those records were popping. Like when Faith Evans was “I Remember.” I was just starting my move through labels and all the publishing people. I was just getting my feet wet. I was working at restaurants and then folks were hearing about me, and the word was kind of about that this guy is doing this type of music and none of it made sense because of what was really popular at the time. It was like Mary J. Blige and their whole Bad Boy era, and the whole Dre era.  So it was weird. We shot the cover of VIBE, me and Lauryn Hill for that month. And then [Biggie] passed a way. And of course there was no denying that he had to be on that cover.

So you never physically met Biggie?

Yes, you know, we said hello in passing at awards shows, but to say that I know him like how I know Beyonce or Jay or even Nas, is a little bit- it’s not like that. I just was shocked that he loved my music. I couldn’t believe it.

Why were you shocked?

Just because at the time, I was so bizarre looking and I was so left of center. You have to know, I was not rocking Tims and baggy clothes. I was in suits and nobody was really doing that. So when people looked at me, I thought I’m going to keep rocking what I’m rocking and I’m going to keep being what I’m being, but I hope the people that – because I loved their music so much – I hoped they could connect with me and support what I’m trying to do.

You recently met, and he's my husband in my head, Mr. Harry Belafonte.  What was that like?

What can I say about him? He’s the man. I got a call from a good friend of mine who works in connection with him and then I got invited to his house. I brought him some really good Japanese Whiskey because you know, you can’t go to somebody’s house without bringing something. It’s just manners, especially if it’s someone like him. And we just sat down and we talked about his experiences, what he had been and gone through. It was pretty incredible walking through those hallways and seeing those pictures of him sitting with Martin Luther King, pictures of him protesting, pictures of him being. It was like being in a museum, and it was a person’s home. And then he was sharp, I mean he’s so sharp and so lucid. I can’t even express it because at times, I don’t know how to put it in words. I saw the future in his eyes when I looked at him. I saw the potential of what I could be as a man by being there. And I think people know, but I think this generation, they don’t realize that a lot of what I do visually, is totally inspired by him.


Yea. Cutting my hair, the whole thing…

Wait, wait, wait. So you’re saying you cut your Afro because of Mr. Belafonte?

I could say yeah, him and Sam Cooke and people like [Sidney] Portier. It was like, I didn’t want to be a hair cut and I kind of looked at those people and thought to myself, well it’s time to shift. I’m 35 and you don’t want to be a look really; you want to be what you do creatively. And so in some ways, when I started looking at all these old photos and things, and thought to myself, yeah, you know, this is going to work. It’s going to piss a couple people off for sure, because I got some crazy messages from people at the time about how my career is over because I changed the most definable thing about who I was, but you know it’s just hair, who cares really?

Yeah, it’s just hair. It’ll grow. One last question and then you can go, if that’s okay?

Sure, sure of course.

You take your time between albums and yet your fan base is still super loyal to you. The only other counterpart I could think that can make music and go and live and come back is Sade. Why do you think your fans still hang around? And I don’t ask that pretentiously, I ask honestly. 

I don’t know. Again, it’s not me. I’ve worked with Stuart Matthewman, who is part of Sade, which is weird. So there’s obviously maybe something about the kind of choices that we make musically that connect with people in a way where they feel like it’s alright to wait. I want things to be classic. I’m just grateful that people can sort of sense that with each album and with each song, that we really put love and time into. And we really want you to be able to play it and get married to it, and conceive children to it. We really put that level of care into it. We hope that this is what will happen. So that’s why I take time with it because at the end of the day, you only have one time to save something musically, and once it’s out there, it’s out there. It’s out there forever. I could’ve went ham and just every year had something out, but I write a lot of this stuff, and it’s not the easiest thing for me to do to come up with a lot of this stuff because you can’t just fake it and write whatever just to appease the situation, and I don’t want to carbon-copy myself. So I have to wait for real experience to really really infuse the records with that feeling that hopefully you get when you see yourself.

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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: 

“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.


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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