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Daniel Lewis/Red Bull Music

DJ Collective Teklife: The Musical Conductors Keeping Chicago's Footwork Scene Alive

After a July 19th live taping of Red Bull Radio’s daily show Peak Time Live at the stylish eatery The Promontory, on the south side of Chicago—centered around the Windy City's footwork crew Teklife—a four-hour dance party was set to ensue. As the event's set was being meticulously broken down, and the once-seated audience members eagerly awaited their chance to decimate the dance floor under flashing lights, a small dance circle formed in between the bar and the DJ booth. This small congregation started as a close, tight-knit group of onlookers watching the frenetic leg acrobatics of those engaging in footwork dancing, while most of those in attendance were refilling their drinks, or decompressing on the outside area on that warm, Chicago evening.

Even after the curtains separating the bar area from the prepared dancefloor were removed and access to more space was revealed, those in the circle were too transfixed on the dizzying dance moves to even notice. No one moved until someone continually instructed one of the dancers to start up a “follow me.” At first glance, “follow me” entails one person in the middle of the circle doing dance moves while staring at the person who is supposed to hop into the center of the dance floor after they are finished. If you get too close to the center you're either mesmerized by the dancing or overcome with an unshakable compulsion to show everyone some footwork. After a while, those from outside began migrating to the outer regions of the dance circle, hoping to get just a glimpse of what they had been missing out on.

That’s Chicago footwork—and Teklife to an extent—in a nutshell. It’s a cultural movement that has cultivated a diehard following in a relatively small part of a larger music industry. Its expansion is predicated on how well the music and dancing can turn people’s intrigue into immersion. A movement that may be ignored at first by the larger majority, until they see just how fun it actually is.

But, that’s only the tip of the DJ needle.

Teklife, co-founded by Chicago legends DJ Spinn and the late DJ Rashad, is a collective of producers, dancers and other DJs primarily known for their work in the Chicago footwork scene. Footwork, to put it simply, is a music genre descendant of ghetto house and juke, played at 160 beats per minute (bpm), founded on the foot working dance style of intricate, fast-paced foot dances. In 20 seconds of a Teklife footwork set, you’d probably see one person do 15 leg crosses, a few slides, and an innumerable amount of foot stomps just to keep up with the beautifully chaotic mesh of sounds.

In front of a modestly packed audience seated at cafe-style tables with soft lighting, five of Teklife’s most prominent members—DJ Spinn, DJ Manny, DJ Gant-Man, DJ Taye, and Boylan—spoke with moderator, and world-renowned DJ Vivian Host about how the group came to be, and what exactly Teklife is.

Most of its members have been entrenched in the Chicago music scene before they were old enough to DJ for adults. Gant-Man, at 10 years old, was one of the youngest DJs ever on radio, cutting and mixing at college radio station WKKC 89.3 FM, a fact that still lights up his usually subdued demeanor at the Peak Time taping. Spinn and Rashad met at age 13 at the Markham Roller Rink after Spinn was mesmerized by Rashad’s penchant for dancing and deejaying, almost simultaneously–a style that would later define Teklife.

“He was mixing two records at the same time; blending them. Came down, started dancing with everybody on the floor, went back up there, and started deejaying again. When I seen that I was like, ‘Yeah, I got to get to know fam,’” Spinn said at the event.

Most of Teklife’s oldest DJ’s, including Spinn, Rashad, and 28-year-old DJ Manny, were dancers before they ever touched a turntable, and leveraged that experience into informed deejaying styles. “I was dancing before I was producing and deejaying, so I already knew what I wanted to dance off of,” Manny told Vibe. “I would go to parties and play, and I’d already knew what people wanted to hear. So, I took that in, and made myself a producer.”

Besides being DJs and dancers, some of the Teklife DJs had to be part-mad scientists in order to achieve the futuristic sound of ghetto house, juke, and footwork with the technology of their time. “The old school MPCs from the '90s, you had a lot of sampling time back then, but not a lot of time,” Gant-Man shared before bursting into a hearty laugh. “It was like mad science and physics altogether. Your brain just had to outwork the machine. We didn't have no ability to time-stretch.” Time-stretching is the technique of changing the speed of a piece of audio without affecting its pitch, a key feature in the transmogrifying sound the group would soon become known for.

Technology isn't just a conduit for their artistic expression, it is at the center of the group’s very existence. “The internet introduced us to a lot of people we wouldn’t have ever known,” Spinn told Vibe. Boylan was a substitute teacher with a passion for deejaying when he linked with Rashad on Myspace. DJ Taye first reached out to Spinn on Facebook for advice about what MPC he should purchase, before auditioning to join the group at the famed Chicago footwork dance spot, Battlegroundz. The name Teklife probably would’ve still been GhettoTeknitianz, the original, smaller group the collective sprouted from had it not been for the internet. “Basically, like around 2011 and the beginning of 2012, we said we were going to switch it up one more ‘gain because of the internet, really, and because everyone was claiming they were GhettoTeknitianz.”

Now the group boasts members all the way from South Side, Chicago to Oslo, Norway.

The Peak Time taping also doubled as a crash course on the history of Chicago juke, ghetto house, and footwork, with Host playing numerous songs during intermissions. That’s when the somewhat shy Teklife members who periodically had to be coaxed into even speaking by Host would show their erudition of the Chicago sound.

DJ PJ’s frenetic 808 bass on "Chase Me" had Spinn and Gant-Man gleefully reminiscing on how the song would incite fights. Once RP Boo’s "Baby Come On" transformed from a funk-sounding vocal sample over sparse kick drums into the fast-paced festival of sounds, all the Teklife members gushed about how the 1997 track was ahead of its time. Some people in the audience didn’t let the cafe-style dim lighting and seating stop them from shoulder swaying to the songs either.

Manny, Rashad, and Spinn all met when they were in their early teens, respectively, and on-stage the five Teklife members had a familial feel to their group that permeated the crowd. Some audience members shouted out names of old group members, and some live-streamed the entire chat on their phones, turning the usually informal podcast taping format into one akin to a family gathering. This sight was incongruous with an inconvenient truth every member of Teklife that I spoke with shared: Chicago doesn’t fully support its own.

“To me, Chicago has always been a buyer's market, and not a seller's market, first and foremost. We buy everybody else. It's always been that way,” Gant-Man told Vibe. “That's the reason why Chicago rap couldn't really blow up, because we buy other people’s music.”

During a respite from the organized madness of the Peak Time after-party, I spoke with two young men from Chicago in line waiting to chase their Red Bull drinks with free tacos. The brief conversation we had shared a similar sentiment I noticed from locals I spoke to about Teklife before and after the event:

Me: Do you mind if I speak to y’all about Teklife?
*Both shoot perplexed looks at one another*
Me: It’s for a Vibe Magazine feature. Just your thoughts on Teklife.
Man 1: What’s Teklife?
Me: The reason we’re all here.
Man 2: We’re here for the drinks.

But not every longtime Chicago resident was ignorant of Teklife’s impact. Ron, 38, was born and raised in Chicago and says he grew up listening to members of Teklife like DJ Rashad, Gant-Man, and Spinn. But, he did highlight a trend of Chicago artists having to leave their hometown to gain popularity. “To me, [Teklife] is bigger internationally than they are here, and that may be something bigger than I can speak to, but I know some of the biggest Chicago acts had to leave Chicago to make it bigger.”

Even with a somewhat cynical view of his hometown, Gant-Man does attest there are “times when [Chicago] comes out, and supports, and show out for each other, and really represent.” But, even that upswell of support is hard to catapult Teklife, and Footwork music, from being underground when the national perception of Chicago is that of perpetual violence and there’s already a genre of music that mirrors it.

“As far as Chicago making a really big statement, it wasn't until all of the violence in Chicago and the drill scene that was emerging. So you have the media focusing on the violence in Chicago. Now, here is a scene that talks about it,” Gant-Man told Vibe. “The whole footwork scene is not put in the industry as a part of pop music.”

One Chicagoan who has always supported Teklife is Chance the Rapper. Rashad and Spinn linked up with Chance backstage at one of the young Chicago MC’s first shows in Paris—thanks to one of Spinn’s proteges, DJ Oreo, being Chance’s tour DJ at the time. “We get to the back, and Chance was like ‘DJ Rashad? What?! Bro, I grew up on the battle shit,’” Spinn told Vibe. “Then, I can almost say this was the first thing Chance said: ‘How would y’all like to go on tour with me?’” Next thing they knew, Rashad and Spinn were spreading the Teklife sound across America on Chance’s 2013 Social Experiment Tour.

In today’s music industry the highest paid EDM DJs last year–Tiesto and Calvin Harris–pulled in $87.5 million in 2017. Meanwhile, members of the most popular footwork crew in the world face the real possibility of not even making minimum wage for their work. “We can work a whole year and not make [$25,000],” Spinn revealed at the event.

No one could definitively explain why this gap in popularity and recognition between two, ostensibly similar genres of music. But, there was this sense that Teklife and footwork as it is, may not be right for mass consumption, yet. “I think this is still very much an underground genre, and it's at 160 bpm, so it's not as accessible to everyone, in terms of just dancing,” Host shared with Vibe.

Teklife’s biggest supporter wasn’t at The Promontory in body, but was unmistakably present in spirit. Teklife founder and leader DJ Rashad was snatched away from the waking world on April 26th, 2014, at the age of 34, when he was found dead in an apartment on the west side of Chicago. Autopsy reports say he died from an overdose of heroin, cocaine, and Xanax, but Rashad’s family and some Teklife members dispute these findings. His cause of death may be debatable, but his lasting impact is immutable; a hush permeated the audience at the Peak Time taping, as well as the group, by simply invoking Rashad’s name.

One minute Spinn was jubilantly recounting Gant-Man’s sexcapades in club bathrooms, struggling to talk coherently through bouts of laughter. Then, in a matter of seconds, his voice grew somber, struggling now to get the words out to recount similar club shenanigans he had with Rashad. A hush blanketed the entire venue whenever anyone spoke about the lauded fallen DJ.

“I think his passing left a huge void,” Host told Vibe. “But to Spinn and others’ credit, Teklife is so meaningful to everyone that they just carried on, and carried on what Rashad’s vision was and what he would’ve wanted for the whole crew.”

Part of that vision is pushing the culture forward, which some in Teklife already have plans to do. “Eventually, I want to make a different genre of music, per se. But, I have to put my feet down for what I’m known for,” Spinn told Vibe.

Until the future arrives, Teklife will keep the feet working, all for the love of the music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Courtesy of Biz 3 / FCF

Quavo Is Introducing 'Fan Controlled Football' To The Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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

Remembering Toots Hibbert

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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