Lizzo Lizzo
VIBE/ Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Lizzo Is Here To Lead The New Wave Of Girl Power

In this new wave of feminism and girl power, a new leader has stepped up: Houston-bred vocalist, Lizzo.

In the era in which the United States selected its first female presidential nominee to a major party, it's an exciting and empowering time to be a woman. It's been nearly 70 years since the fight for women's rights began, but since its beginnings with leaders like Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony, it has blossomed into this gigantic family tree, welcoming individuals of all different shapes, sizes and colors. And in this new wave of feminism and girl power, a new leader has stepped up: Houston-bred vocalist, Lizzo.

Lizzo struts into the VIBE headquarters with a larger than life personality. She charismatically scoots past her four-woman posse and slides into a rolling chair at the Editor-in-Chief's personal desk. She isn't Taylor Swift, Emma Watson or the "typical" feminist we see broadcast across our televisions, magazines and news feeds. The rapper-singer is a black woman with curves that Kim Kardashian can't touch and Poetic Justice braids that can't be appropriated. Although pop culture is slowly transitioning into this realm of self-acceptance, you can tell Lizzo's confidence has always been there. She celebrates her quirkiness and bubbly personality in a way that only seems authentic. And once she begins to dive into her upbringing, it's clear to see how she got to that state of being.

Born Melissa Jefferson, Lizzo grew up in the Cogic Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal Christian denomination in Detroit. Growing up surrounded by a large extended family of great grandmothers, aunties and cousins came with its fair share of restrictions. "There were a lot of things you couldn't do," she recalls. "You couldn’t go to certain movies. You couldn’t go to baseball games. You couldn’t listen to any secular music—music that is not about the Lord. We couldn’t wear pants to church. They had their eye on me."

She admits that her loyalty to the Christian faith kept her grounded, but it was the freedom that came with her big move to Houston that thrusted her into her music career. "Houston had a huge influence on my music and my sound," she says of the Texas metropolis. "It was the city that turned me into a rapper because rap and screwed-up music was happening. It was just an amazing time to be young, ready and hungry."

And finally, it was the open-mindedness of Minneapolis that made her well-rounded. "Minneapolis will embrace you and all of your weirdness," the MC says. "It will take who you think you are, break it up and make you find a new you—the new creativity in you. I didn’t know how to marry the rap side, the gospel side and the weird indie side, and Minneapolis taught me how to do that."

While Lizzo gave props to the cities that made her, she couldn't go on without shouting out the female MCs that laid down the foundation. "Crime Mob was the big reason why I started [rapping], because of Diamond and Princess’ verses. I was like oh my God, this girl just came through shaking her dreads, throwing these bows and busting these heads," she says with a chuckle, before name dropping her heavyweight influences. "I think seeing somebody like Missy Elliott on television and always at No.1 was huge because that made it possible for me to believe that I could do it too. I’m still really influenced by Missy Elliott because of the way that she carries herself. Even now, throughout her entire career, she was always open and very positive. And of course we lived in the Lauryn Hill era. We’re so blessed to [have lived] during The Miseducation.

There's a piece of Lizzo's influences projecting from her in the office now. She's got the boss-like attitude of Diamond and Princess from the "Rock Your Hips" music video and the untraditional style like Missy (she's currently wearing a rose, sweetheart cropped top). But she seems to favor Lauryn the most—not for her rhymes or melodies, but for her inability to be placed in just one category. Like Ms. Hill, Lizzo isn't just a singer or just a rapper. According to her, she's a vocalist.

"At this point, I’ve just been calling myself a vocalist because I’ve been just a rapper and not a very good singer. Then I worked on becoming a good singer, and now I’m a good singer," she says. At this point, she's pauses all dialogue, motioning for her cellphone which shows a SnapChat picture captured by one of the members from her entourage. "Cute," she exclaims with a grin, before pressing play on the rest of the interview. "Now, I’m trying to find an in-between, like a really great blend of my rapping and singing. I think through working with people like Ricky Reed and all of the people at Atlantic, I'm finding a really nice spot."

But it's cool if you call her a rapper, she doesn't mind at all. "I love being called a rapper, even though people are like, 'You should just call yourself a singer.' I’m like naw, I’m a rapper. I started off as a rapper," Lizzo says.  "The only way I care about [labels] is when it comes to getting a check. If [it] gets me a bigger check, then you can call me what you want."

Fat check or not, the vocalist isn't ready for listeners to smush her into one sound, however. "I think genre is so played out," she says. She uses Beyonce's Emmy-nominated visual album, Lemonade, as proof of this thesis, explaining how the Houston-raised singer mixes a plethora of sounds from country, pop, R&B and trap. "I thank God this is happening right now while I’m trying to make music because I don’t know what I would have done when you had to have the same style on every track. I think that there’s a spectrum to music. I don’t think there’s just categories. And on the spectrum, I’m starting to lean towards R&B-pop with a little bit of grime on it."

Lizzo's sound is a melting pot of genres, mixing in pop, funk, R&B, grime and rap. Songs like "Ain't I" from her sophomore album, Big Grrrl Small World and "Werk Pt. II" from her 2013 debut album, Lizzobangers are proof of her knack for blending hardcore rhymes with pop and grime instrumentals. Her 2016 feel-good single, "Good As Hell," which was also featured in Ice Cube's Barbershop: The Next Cut, is the final ingredient that blends it all together.

But even after placing herself on the musical spectrum, she confesses that her position isn't permanent. She compares her loose standing to her evolving views on feminism. "I actually have never really categorized myself," she says. "I never called myself a feminist until people started calling me a feminist because when it comes to public labels of yourself, I don’t like to come through saying I’m something because I don’t know how it’s going to change or how it will be perceived." But nowadays, the only perception worth giving a damn about is her own. And she's definitely a feminist.

"[Feminism] is about fairness between men and women. I think what’s fair is equal pay. What’s fair is getting rid of rape culture and misogyny. I think that all of these other things that they throw on – 'Y’all are man haters' – that’s not what feminism is to me. It’s really simple; it’s what’s fair between men and women and what’s going to make all of us better." As we've seen it play out with more public feminist torchbearers, aligning with the title doesn't come without its challenges. "For a black woman, it’s not an easy thing to go, 'Oh I’m a feminist,' because white feminism is so exclusive. It wasn't for us for so long," she says. "There’s beauty in reclaiming our womanhood and being able to call yourself a feminist no matter what. Just because you didn’t read Gloria Steinem, I don’t have to go through the feminist syllabus to consider myself [one]. At this point, I feel like I’m doing what a feminist does. I’m living how a feminist lives. And I believe what feminism is about; therefore I am."

Lizzo's music is a testament to the movement. Singles like "My Skin," which speaks to body positivity and self-acceptance, is one of many tracks. Her messages continue from the studio to public events like her recent show at the Planned Parenthood event at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

The rapper sits up in her chair when asked to look back on her experience at the DNC, pausing before spilling it all in one great exhale. "That was intense," she says. "It was an honor because Planned Parenthood has done so much for men and women. They deal with so much hate and they’re so targeted by people who don’t really understand them. So I feel such a connection. That’s what black people go through everyday; they must understand the struggle. It was a beautiful moment because outside there was literal adversity."

"Outside, there were people who had 'Abortion is murder' signs with dead fetuses. It made all of us really uncomfortable. And not in the way that they wanted us to feel uncomfortable – in a way that’s not fair to another human being. They don’t understand anyone’s experience; they don’t know why women choose to abort babies. They also don’t know that Planned Parenthood provides condoms and helps with STDs, and does so many other things than just abort babies. It’s so unfair that they’re targeted just for one part of the entire organization that does so much for women."

Despite the adversity on the outside, Lizzo delivered a stellar performance in high spirits to a crowd of fun-loving and welcoming individuals. It's experiences like those, she asserts, that drive her to continue to speak on social issues through her actions and music. She may not be the poster child of the Black Lives Matter Movement, but she definitely doesn't hold her breath in speaking on it. Through tweets and other posts on social media, she's taken a stand against police brutality, and has said the names of Korryn Gaines, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille and others who have died as a result.

But when asked to comment on her motive for stepping up to the activism plate, she holds a look of confusion— one that, if she spoke in that very moment, would say: Why not? But hardly missing a beat, she says: "If you are an artist, how could you not reflect the times? And that’s Nina Simone, not me," she clarifies. "I think it’s impossible. As an artist, we’re supposed to be emoting our feelings and turning it into art that is to be appreciated or used for healing."

With more than 14K followers on Twitter, Lizzo understands that she has the power to influence an audience. But she wants people to know that her socially charged tweets and her music is not a ploy, but an oath to herself. "I do make my music consciously for the people," she says. "I have dedicated myself to positive music because I feel like there’s a lack of it. But at the same time, the creation of it is so personal that I just have to be real with myself. Somehow, through the grace of God, it’s digestible."

Lizzo thanks her producers and coaches at Atlantic Records for honing her skills thus far, but the best is yet to come. A new project is coming out at the year's end. She's oozing with excitement to spill all of the details concerning her third album, but when she directs her gaze onto her manager who is standing in the corner of the office, the vocalist is cautioned to hold off until later. But with a little prying, she talks about what's in store.

Her untitled album is an extension of her previous works, and while fans will find a parallel to Lizzobangers and Big Grrrl Small World, this time listeners will get a little taste of her gospel roots. "It didn’t really get a chance to come out in my first two projects, but now it’s gospel’s time to shine," she laughs. The album, which she pegs as "soulful," doesn't include any features, although she still has her eyes set on her childhood idol, Missy Elliott. But feature or not, she's sure the songs that made her rigorous selection process (which entails sitting in her room and listening to them over and over again), will really pop. "I’m excited about it," she gushes. “These are the songs that connected immediately to not just me, but to the producers and my momma. We boiled all of the songs down to the flam-est; I think it’s going to be bomb."

Lizzo is beaming from ear to ear as she goes on about the sequence of her forthcoming project. It’s nearing the end of the conversation, but it’s clear to see if she had more time to waste in her busy schedule, she could talk for at least another hour. Even though her music will take a step further, Lizzo explains her social agenda will prevail. "I just want to continue to build. It’s not just make a record and you’re done; you’re constantly moving. I want to keep making music. It’s my first love and my only love," she says. And as a true leader of the new wave, she dedicates this next one to the black girls that rock and her BBWs.

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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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