Danny Brown
Tom Keelan

Danny Brown Talks Sobriety, Comedy, Mac Miller, And Q-Tip's Guidance

When Q-Tip gives advice, you listen – and Q-Tip wanted the old Danny Brown.

In 2017, when Danny Brown first connected with the rapper, producer and legend from A Tribe Called Quest to begin working on the former’s fifth studio album, uknowhatimsayin¿, Q-Tip referenced “Greatest Rapper Ever,” the intro track to his 2010 mixtape The Hybrid, as the artist that he wanted to hear and work with. But while Q-Tip wanted the old Danny Brown, Danny had already spent the last few years trying to get away from that artist and person altogether.

“I mean, I wasn’t happy about it,” Brown recalls when he got that request. “Because I’m always trying to chart new territory. If I’m not creating, I’m discovering.”

Over the past decade-plus, Brown has become one of the most distinctive artists in rap – whether it’s concerning his music, his look, or his personality. He had a broken front tooth, a result of being hit by a car in a KFC parking lot when he was younger. His laugh is unmistakable, a charming, goofy shriek that both slips out or is used as a way to disarm an audience. He regularly morphs his voice from a guttural snarl to a cartoonish high-pitched yell, recalling the likes of ‘Ol Dirty Bastard circa 1995. And around the time he signed to Canadian EDM DJ A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold Records in 2011 to release his seminal mixtape XXX, he changed his hair from hood-centric braids into an anime-inspired swoop that made him look more like a heavy metal rock star than a Detroit street rapper.

The Danny Brown sitting here today – in the back of a Brooklyn bar with his manager Dart Parker – is far different from the guy whom I last spoke to in 2011, when he was depressed and wondering why his hometown shunned his art and his appearance.

"Detroit's a close-minded city. People always talking sh*t back home, but it's been embraced outside of home. It's depressing at times," Brown said during that 2011 interview. "Can you imagine me walking round Northland (Center, a now shuttered shopping mall in suburban Detroit) on a Saturday? Sh*t's crazy. But let me walk through the Beverly Center (in Los Angeles) on a Saturday, no one pays me any attention."

And his last album, 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, integrated shadowy rock, punk and techno influences while delving into the drug addiction that fueled his own personal nosedive. “Back then … I was emotional, and I think I cared too much. I started to realize that in life you only have so many f**ks to give, so you might as well only give a f**k about the things you can control,” Brown tells me today. “I didn’t even do press for (Atrocity Exhibition), I wasn’t mentally stable at the time to talk to people like that. I would just be going on these binges, man. It got to the point where (I realized) there are so many people that this sh*t takes care of. Me risking it like that, one bad day and everything can go wrong.”

He describes his process of ditching drugs as a normal coming of age. “I was never the person who was depressed and doing drugs by himself, getting high for no reason. It was always about partying. I’ve just gotten to the age where I’m not partying no more.” Brown got his Fool’s Gold record deal at age 30 (the album XXX is titled after the roman numeral), later than many other rappers who get their shot. So as he’s approaching 40, he’s living the washed life, accepting invites to parties but staying at home when it’s time to leave. He attests that if he got his deal in his 20s, that he may have made even worse mistakes and ruined his career beyond repair.

While speaking about his pursuit of sobriety, he shared a story about the late Mac Miller. Early on he didn’t like Mac’s music, and he would spend time in interviews talking trash about him. But over time they would eventually become friends – “I miss the you that said I was the worst thing to happen to hip hop,” Mac once tweeted to Brown – and in fall 2018, Brown got a call from the Pittsburgh vocalist/producer.

“That week that he died, he called me, almost on some clarity sh*t. He’s like “‘Man, are we good? You should come out to LA and make music.’ I’m like hell yeah, man,” Brown remembers. “This was the time that I was cleaning up, so I wasn’t doing sh*t. I booked my flight to go to LA, I’m going to hang with Mac. But as the week was going, I know what I’m going to do when I hang with cous’. The day I was about to leave, I had my flight and everything, and I just canceled it... I was literally in the car, and they announced on the radio that he died.” Brown was shaken by the news.

Along with leaving behind substances, he also changed his look. When he showed up to shoot his scenes for White Boy Rick, a 2018 film about teenage FBI informant Richard Wershe Jr., he was required to cut his hair – he now sports a short, neat taper. Then there’s his grill: his snaggletoothed look has been replaced by a new set of pearly whites.

“Getting my teeth fixed was more of a health issue. As bad as my teeth was, I’m still going to the dentist all the time just to maintain that sh*t. They was telling me about weird gum diseases and all types of sh*t, they said, ‘at the rate you’re going you’re going to need dentures by 40.’ I’m thinking like a ni**a. ‘I don’t give a f**k, I’ll just put a grill on them bitches and we rocking out,’” he laughed. He Googled "Terrell Owens teeth," and surprisingly found a surgeon in Michigan who did dental work for Owens and other athletes. He got bone grafting, a process that replaces damaged bone with new ones.

He says that process took a year, which was a big reason for the gap between Atrocity Exhibition and his new record. “It was the beginning of us working on the album and I couldn’t even work a lot. I didn’t have any teeth in my mouth,” Brown remembered. “We were working, but I couldn’t really do sh*t. I’m telling Q-Tip, ‘I’m in pain right now, I can’t even leave the crib. My face looks crazy right now,’ so it took a lot of time for me to do that sh*t, it took a year for me to get my teeth fixed.”

* * *

Q-Tip wanted the lyrical, back to basics Danny Brown, not the EDM aesthetic that made up the second half of Old in 2013, or the genre-bending music from Atrocity Exhibition three years later. That meant that Brown would have to tone down some of the adventurous proclivities he was planning before.

“I knew where I wanted to take it after Atrocity Exhibition, I had something totally completely different in my head about where I was going to go with it. Which probably wasn’t the best idea, because it was in that same lane. I was just going to get crazier. I got to the point of ‘f**k it, I’m not on the radio and I’m making hit songs, I can go as crazy as I f**king want.’

“I love that [JPEGMAFIA] album, that sh*t is amazing to me, it probably would’ve been something closer to that,” he said, referring to his experimental friend and collaborator's new record, All My Heroes Are Cornballs. “But thank God, every now and then somebody needs somebody to tell them to geek down a little bit, turn it down a little bit, you ain’t gotta do all that. Thanks for Q-Tip for doing that.”

In an email to VIBE, the artist known as Peggy said that the respect was mutual. "Love working with Danny. He welcomed me with open arms to his studio and took me in like a brother,” JPEGMAFIA said. “He was already one of my favorite rappers ever but he’s solidified himself as one of my favorite human beings I’ve ever interacted with."

uknowhatimsayin¿ isn’t exactly boom bap or jazz-inflected like Q-Tip’s previous classics with Tribe, but it’s much more firmly rooted in hip-hop than Brown’s more recent work. Q-Tip provides three beats himself: the buzzy kazoo sounds of “Dirty Laundry” that have Danny sharing crude sex stories and clever laundry metaphors, the feel-good rags to riches “Best Life,” and the highlight “Combat,” which flips a horn sample and ends with a drum solo. He also helped pick other beats, or would insert some of his own signatures into sound beds from other producers on the album, and would keep Brown in the booth to record verses over and over until they were right.

Brown still tapped into his old habits a bit though. Nigerian vocalist Obongjayar lends emotive choruses to “Belly of the Beast” and the title track. And his buddy JPEGMAFIA provides the hook for “Negro Spiritual” and the beat for “3 Tearz,” which has abrasive verses from Run The Jewels. “Change Up” and “Shine,” the album's respective intro and penultimate tracks, bookend the record by digging into his humble roots, sharing lessons from his upbringing and lamenting on his struggles. The result is a taut, 11-song album that’s as digestible as anything he’s ever made, but still reflective of his recent years of experience. So Q-Tip’s suggestion ended up successful.

“Danny’s never really been produced, he’s done it all himself. It had to be someone he respected to listen to,” Dart Parker shared, when explaining the idea to connect him with Q-Tip. “He was going crazy doing the same verse a hundred times … but who from that era that we love, is a professional, and still just as hungry as he was 20 years ago? He I s competing every day whether you hear the music or not. He’s one of the best bass players I’ve ever seen. … [Q-Tip] is hyper intelligent. One of the f***king channels went out on the board, he put on a soldering mask and went under the console and fixed it with a soldering gun!”

Despite his early hesitation, Brown also found even more appreciation for lyricism and learned to dedicate more time to his music.

“(This album) taught me that that’s a harder style of rapping than anything else. If I did double time songs with big trap bass beats, it’s so much going on that it’s an entertaining listen. When you’re doing it like this, the main sh*t is the words,” Brown added. “The beat is the backdrop at this point. Before, I was doing a lot of songs where the beat was the main thing, and my voice and how I’m coming across it is so off-kilter. With this, you ain’t giving a person no choice but to pay attention to the words. So if you ain’t saying sh*t, it’s going to be trash. The beats is banging either way it goes.”

Another key element of uknowhatimsayin¿ is Danny Brown’s humor. Jokes have always been integral in his lyrics, so his music has always been hilarious and self-deprecating. But that comedy is even more central in his life lately: his new VICELAND show Danny’s House plays like a combination of Eric Andre meets Peewee Herman, with inanimate objects like a burrito and a microphone serving as cohosts as Brown welcomes guests like ASAP Rocky, Schoolboy Q and El-P to discuss weed-worthy topics like sex with aliens, ghosts, and more. He also brings in comedians, who will come as guests or test jokes with him at the end of episodes. He says that he hangs out with comedians more than he does with other rappers these days, and they tell him that he could have a future in stand-up if he wanted to. That’s apparent during our conversation, too: he shares multiple stories, like a trip overseas and several recent incidents of peeing in his pants, that could be great comedy bits. It’s refreshing in a genre that can sometimes take itself too seriously with machismo posturing.

“Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of A Tribe Called Quest) was the first person to tell me, ‘you’re like the Richard Pryor of rap. You need to dig into that and study Rich,’” Brown recalled. “Some sh*t you don’t have to say the way you say it, you can say the same thing wording it the right way and get an exciting reaction. A lot of times, I used to say sh*t for shock value. Richard Pryor was saying things for shock value, but it still had depth to it. That’s what I was going for.

“I feel like that's the best emotion to have while listening to a song, is to just laugh at some sh*t. The only thing other than that is crying. To make a motherf**ker laugh at a song, that’s hard.”

From the Web

More on Vibe

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.

Continue Reading
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.

Continue Reading
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."


View this post on Instagram


“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."

Continue Reading

Top Stories