Carla Marie Williams Carla Marie Williams
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Introducing Carla Marie Williams, The North London Songwriter Penning Tracks For Queen Bey

With two Beyonce tracks under her belt, London-based songwriter Carla Marie Williams is ready to take on the world one song at a time.

Carla Marie Williams may not be a name you’re instantly familiar with, but as far as her words, you certainly will be. Having penned Beyonce’s gloriously politically charged track "Freedom," lifted from the epic Lemonade album, Carla Marie is a wizard with the pen. The rest of her songwriting résumé is equally as impressive, having worked under the British songwriting and production team Xenomania and now having formed her own writing collective New Crowd Media, Carla Marie has written tracks for the likes of Girls Aloud, Alesha Dixon and Kylie Minogue—alongside Queen B.

“I didn’t go to any special stage school or anything. I worked my way up, I was fearless about it,” she says during our 30-minute conversation. Carla Marie exudes this passion and hunger that not only is inspiring, but genuine; something that’s becoming rare in our social media age. Her 18-year-long career is peppered with lows and highs, but one thing remains constant: she keeps on going.

Inspired by the likes of Mary J Blige and Alanis Morissett and brought up on an R&B diet of Jagged Edge and Jodeci, Carla Marie comes from an honest place. Driven by social issues and a “rebellious streak,” where she wants “things to be right for people,” aside from writing "Freedom" and "Runnin" for Mrs. Carter, she’s also set up her own organization Girls I Rate, which champions female bosses in the UK music industry.

Now, with two Beyonce tracks under her belt, an ever-growing list of songwriting credits and now her own organization, the London-based "Freedom" writer is ready to take on the world, one song at a time. —Kamilla Rose Baiden (@KamillahRose)


VIBE: Your song-writing credits list is so varied. Can you describe your song writing style in three words?
Carla Marie Williams: I know! So varied. I would say I’m writing from the soul, singing from the heart. That’s where I’m at now. I feel I cross genres, I don’t have an exact style, but I would say soulful, definitely soulful.

You’re from North West London, how did growing up in that area give you experiences for song writing material?
It made me hungry. I wasn’t a songwriter when I lived in Harlesden [a town in North London], I was more into singing. Then later on, as I got a bit older, I moved into songwriting. I used to write poetry from young, it was a way for me to write about emotional things. Whether that was a break up between me and a boyfriend, or stuff home like my mum or dad, I just found myself writing poems about it. Then when I was around 17, I met this guy who turned my poems into a song. I read him some lines of my poems and he started playing the guitar and making a melody, I couldn’t believe it, I was like wow, that’s my song! It was crazy.

And before that, did you always keep poetry and singing separate?
Yes very separate, I never imagined them together. After my poem was put to a melody, I was invited 'round to make it a finished song and that was the start of my song-writing career, I was 17. I took all these poems I had and with a guitar, I made melodies and just put them all together. At the time I was also in a girl band. On my down days I used to sit and write songs. I would take them back to the girls and my manager and show him and he was like wow you’re writing songs, how did this happen? Nobody could believe it, when they were sleeping I was working. I would be up on the morning doing work. When they would go back to Glasgow and me back to London, I would be in the studio, writing recording and developing my craft.

Grindin’ from early, I love that. What sounds influenced you?
I’m so heavily influenced by Alanis Morissette. She’s coming from a political angle with her lyrics, which I love. Then Mary J. Blige, she’s more emotive and soulful. With the fusion of the two, I was just this rock-soul girl, with ambiguous lyrics and a rock-soul feel with the delivery and melodies. And that’s where it started.

So do you still perform as a singer?
No, I stopped performing many moons ago. When I started writing for Girls Aloud with Xenomania, I lost my voice for a year. I had severe muscular tension; I took that as a sign to focus on my writing. I was just starting to get more successful as a writer. So I decided to quit being an artist and to be honest, I found a lot of joy in writing songs, not having to worry about myself, what I look like, my sound, direction… I’m just given a brief, I deliver it, and then I can go home and watch EastEnders and Corrie at the end of it [laughs].

You make it sound so easy!
[Laughs] No… well for me, that’s how I equated my love for it. I love writing for other artists, getting into their headspaces and writing from their perspective. I realized that’s exactly what I love.

When you do write songs, do you write from the artists perspective or do you write from you own? And if it’s your own, do you find it weird someone else singing about your personal experience?
It’s a bit of both. For example, with Beyonce’s "Runnin’" that was from my perspective. I was at a very low point in my life, and I didn’t know where else to go or what else to do at that time. So "Runnin’" came from a personal place of searching. But at the same time, when Beyonce heard it and Naughty Boy, they both related to it. That’s the beauty with writing, people relate. But then with some of the other artists I work with like Girls Aloud, they’re a fun act, so I write and tailor songs to them. It depends on the person. If it’s a young artist, I have to write young stuff, not too mature. Then sometimes you have down days, when you just write for yourself, and then it fits an artist. But then if you’re writing with an artist in the room, you take on their persona and tailor it to them.

Now, moving on to Beyonce, you wrote "Runnin’" first, produced by Naughty Boy back in 2015. How did that come about?
I wanted to get back into writing songs after being part of the pop factory. And I started a writing collective called New Crowd. In the collective is Jonathan Coffer, the guy I originally started with, and Arrow Benjamin. I just set up a whole load of sessions. I set up a session with us all to write purely on the piano. That song ["Runnin'"] was one of the songs that came up on that, and Beyonce and Naughty heard it. It was a bit of a tug of war who wanted it, and then we all ended up on it.

That’s so crazy. Moving on to "Freedom" featured on the brilliant album Lemonade, how did that come up? Did you know you were writing it for Beyonce?
Yeah we did. She heard "Runnin'" and she really wanted to meet us and meet with me Arrow and Jonny. I went to L.A., I’ve never really been there to work before. I went and saw her A&R and he was like, Beyonce wants you guys to write for her, and he showed me an email from her with my name in it. I was like, oh my God. He was the first one to play me "Lose It All"—sorry "Runnin’"—because that’s what "Runnin'" was called before. When I heard her voice on it, I felt so emotional, like literally tears running down my face. I didn’t even try to get a record with her, and she took her own initiative to record it. She really is one of the best artists in the world. She wanted to hear more from us, and her team set up some sessions. I’m very pro-woman and pro-black, it doesn’t mean I’m anti-man or anti-another colour. And Arrow, he’s very spiritual, and Jonny is just a musical genius. And the three of us in a room just merged together and took it to the church.

You can really hear the church and I guess the connection you all have in that track.
Yes, Arrow and me have been friends for over 10 years. When we we are together in a room writing, we have this synergy, we just… it’s magic. He comes from the same place as me, I used to listen to Jagged Edge and so did he, and Jodeci and Mary J. We’re really like coming from a singing place. We’re trying to take it all the way. When you’re writing for someone like Beyonce, you know you can take it all the way as she is a vocal acrobat, so we started with an idea. We presented to her a basic idea, then we went back and forth for a bit. She’s very much about female empowerment, so we incorporated some of that into it and within 24-48 hours she had recorded it and the rest is history. She killed it; she’s a workaholic, she literally just goes for it.

Wow. So within like 48 hours the entire thing was done?
From the time she first heard it, she had already gone in and done her thing.

So did you know it was going to make the cut on the album?
Nope, no one knows, it’s Beyonce! I didn’t have a clue, I was in L.A., and I was asking my friend to get HBO so we couldn’t miss it. We had to borrow someone’s password to get online [laughs], it was so funny. Then it came up and we looked online, and we saw "Freedom" on it, we were watching the film, and we was like where is it—because it’s quite late down—then I saw it and was screaming.

That’s wild. Did you know Kendrick was going to be on it?
I heard through the grapevine, but I didn’t know until that day. It’s crazy, I heard whispers that Kendrick was on it and Just Blaze was producing. But I never heard. I heard the Just Blaze version, minus Kendrick. But you can never know, things always change, and then it came through. I’m just so happy we got to make such a legacy song.

It’s just a really fitting song and ties in nicely with so many of the movements happening across the world.
It has a real message and sentiment to it, and I’m all about that. I have my thing Girls I Rate, all bout embowering women in the UK music industry. I’ve been self-managed for about 10 years. I took on management for about a year and to be honest, it is tough, being a black woman in a male dominated industry. I started Girls I Rate on International Women’s Day, nominating girls I rate within the UK Music industry. And they nominated women they rated. It was really good to see women celebrating each other. We had a final even where 95 of us met on the Embankment, Channel 4 came down. There were just a lot of people in the UK scene there. Off the back of that, I’ve launched Girls I Rate Arts Academy for 16-25 girls who want to get in to the industry; I’m doing that with MOBO and Metropolis. I’m doing a song-writing weekender. The girls will have an opportunity to work with me for a weekend, sit with me in the studio, [see] how I write and craft a song. It’s going to be great.

That’s so fitting with the "Freedom" track, too. At the moment, both in music and a lot of other creative industries are realising that women and also women of colour need to be recognised, so it’s the right time for it.
Exactly, it’s all about supporting each other. It’s a vehicle, it’s about helping each other and building a great network of women within the industry. I used to be a youth worker, so I have this like social element built into me. I have this rebellious streak, where I want things to be right for people, things needs to be equal. I’m quite outspoken.

What is your personal favourite song Lemonade, aside from "Freedom"?
I love "Hold Up," I love "Sorry" and "All Night." Thing is I heard some of the songs before. The place we was coming from, she [Beyonce] wanted something more similar to "Runnin'." I’m Jamaican, and when I hear things like "Hold Up" I’m like damn, I could have written that! But you know, wasn’t meant to be this time.

Next album man!
[Laughs] Definitely. I’m also thinking Rihanna too. I would love a Rihanna cut man. I think it’s year of the diva. I would like to work with anyone from Jennifer Hudson to Pink. I would love to work with Kelis on her new album. Things with Brittany, icons like Gwen Stefani. I like working with icons and diva’s, the ones who can really sing. UK wise I love Rudimental, but I’m also a fan of the girls coming up from the UK like Ray BLK and Nao, Ms. Banks. I want to embrace the UK black girls coming through, it’s hard!

You’re so pro-women, it’s great!
It is great. Like it’s weird, everything makes sense now. I have the biggest advocate in the world saying the message I want to say for myself for women. It’s weird because even if you look back on my Instagram and Twitter, you’ll see me ranting on about women or black issues, and I truly feel passionate abut it. I’ve been in a mostly male industry, and when I was in the pop writing camp I was the only black person at the production company for three years. So to come through that, sometimes you sit and ask why am I the only one here.

I think sometimes people also forget about the songwriters. It’s good to see people now getting credited.
We create the music for these people, we’re their voice, we write for them, we create their vehicle. It’s weird because often a lot of girls don’t realise there’s other things you can be doing instead of being in front of the camera. You can still do things; feel satisfied and still get paid.

So, what else are you working on?
Ah, I’m not allowed to say! I work with so many high profile artists I sign so many disclaimers, I often find out on the day like everyone else. I’ve got something hot coming out in the next few months which is hot. I’m just happy I’m flying the flag for the UK. You know I’m a girl, I didn’t go to any special stage school or anything. I worked my way up; I was fearless about it.

Even in you music you highlight your ups and downs and you make them relatable for everyone.
Yes, it’s like a roller-coaster, you have to hold on through the ups and hold on through the downs, keep your vision in front of you. I always say, never put your eggs in one artist, if you can write songs do it, give the songs away! There are so many things you can do that amount to creativity!

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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

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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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