Teedra Moses
Black Moses Music

Teedra Moses Talks 'Complex Simplicity' And Its Impact 15 Years Later

While providing us with a scope of classics, 2004 was a competitive year for female R&B. Ciara’s high-energy choreography and breakout album Goodies made audiences liken her to a young Janet Jackson, and Alicia Keys nearly swept every Grammy R&B category for her sophomore effort The Diary of Alicia Keys. Taking a step back to rejoin her Destiny’s Child sisters on the final album Destiny Fulfilled, many female artists, both veteran and new, began scrambling to match Beyoncé’s solo domination.

In her own lane was Teedra Moses, who once had sights on being an emcee, but gave singing a chance on her refined, truthful debut Complex Simplicity. Instead of compromising artistic integrity for stardom, Moses was resilient in her craft, perhaps even foreseeing that her sound would become the blueprint just 15 years later.

“One of the things in R&B that has changed since 2004 is that people write slick like a rapper. I listened to hip-hop because I’m a writer and I love wordplay. Now, R&B has wordplay,” Moses says. “SZA and Summer Walker, they got wordplay. Jhene Aiko… they can rap! R&B is actually trumping hip-hop in lyricism and content to me.”

Teedra Moses preceded this R&B formula that would reappear over a decade later, making the songstress well ahead of her time. With a fearless approach in songwriting that made Moses one-of-one, as the genre adapts, Complex Simplicity lingers as a testament of R&B’s early 2000s prime and beyond. Celebrating the album’s 15-year anniversary, Teedra Moses spoke with VIBE about a then-unknown Ne-Yo’s importance on her musical beginnings, how Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” set the tone for Complex Simplicity, and how the album even inspired Ari Lennox’s debut, Shea Butter Baby.


VIBE: In the early 2000s, it seems that many female artists were coy in their music, but on Complex Simplicity, you weren’t afraid to be vulgar. Where did this intention come from, especially when you were raised on gospel music?

Well, I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana, where we’re not docile people. We’re like, to the fullest. The food we cook, our seasonings are to the fullest. When we drink, we drink to the fullest. Where I come from it's a common thing to just be honest with who we are, and sometimes that comes out in a vulgar way. I wasn’t “vulgar,” I was honest, I didn't shy away from sexuality or how frustrated I was with a man, or whatever. I just was honest.

When was your curiosity piqued when it came to secular music? Was your interest originally because of Prince?

Yeah, I love Prince. My sister had a Prince album at school and she got in trouble, and my mama had to go up there. It was back when 45s were still out, it was like a purple 45, so it must have been the Purple Rain album, and I remember my mother breaking her album. I remember people saying if you play a Prince record back you’ll hear the devil and all these different things, but I just thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world, but secular music came to me before that. My mother only played gospel music in the car, but my brother played hip-hop. My cousin played Teena Marie and Angela Winbush, so outside of my mom, I was able to hear musical influences that you would probably hear in Complex Simplicity. Like, hip-hop influences and early R&B [like] Teena Marie, Angela Winbush... when women would sing with a swing.

Were you able to see Prince live while he was here?

Oh, praise God, I did. (laughs) This was during the process of making Complex Simplicity. When it was all done, a friend had a Christmas party and she ended up putting my sampler on. We were pretty much done with the album and at that party, Raphael Saddiq was there and he was like, ‘who is this?’, so she introduced me to him. We became friends, he got on the album and then one day when we were working on his project, Ray Ray, he was like ‘Yo, come to my house at 6 o’clock tomorrow and don’t be late, I’m going to see Prince.’ I fell out. We went to see him, I was blown away. Then after, we went to the Foundation Room, when House of Blues used to be on Sunset and L.A., and [Raphael] introduced me to Prince. I didn't really do anything but bite my straw in my drink the whole time. I got a chance to see him and meet him and my best friend, Nonja McKenzie, started to work for him as a stylist. He would have parties at his party house far out in the Valley, so, I’ve gotten about three opportunities to meet him. I’m definitely so happy that happened before he passed because I would not feel like my life was complete if I didn’t get to see him live.

Speaking of Raphael, would you consider him somewhat of your musical soulmate?

I would consider him a musical mentor. People don't realize that the first song I ever wrote and recorded was on Complex Simplicity, so I was literally a baby when I started my career. I wasn’t a seasoned performer, I wasn’t a seasoned writer… People think because I wrote songs after I started my career that I was a writer before. It all happened at the same time. And I met [Raphael Saddiq], and I knew him from Tony! Toni! Toné!, but I didn’t really know his music like that. So, when we started working together, he started telling me “you’re really dope and you’re part of the tribe of people that genuinely have the ability to make true art.” I was blown away by him saying that. I think that more than anything, he put some type of battery in my back. I wouldn’t say he’s my musical soulmate, I don’t think I’ve found that yet, but I would say he’s the most influential mentor I’ve found in music.

You had a great hand in songwriting for other artists, especially around 2004. Was your process hindered when writing for others versus your own music?

I think that writing for other people made me wack, to be honest. I feel like I was stripping myself of myself, and I never got into music to write for other people. It’s cool if you write what I’m doing, but when you got an A&R saying “no, we want...” It’s a lot of people trying to tell you how to make art, and I’m not really fucking with that. It really made me digress for a quick minute. Once I stop hustling to place records, I got dope again.

As a songwriter, do you replay Complex Simplicity and wish you rewrote, or even expanded a certain song?

As a songwriter and as an artist, I don’t really look back very much. Today was a very emotional day for me because I actually played the record, and it sounds so beautiful and happy and I wasn’t feeling beautiful and happy at that time. I didn’t feel very proud when I listened to it, but I wouldn’t do anything different. For me, that was the best interpretation of my artistic ability at that time.

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15 yrs ago today this album came out and changed my life. I remember all this shit that had gone down before I started making this album. My mother had just died and I broke up with my children father and I had 2 five yr old sons that I was not mentally or financially prepared to take care of... especially on my own. I clearly remember falling out on @nonjamckenzie bed (she has always been in my corner. Thee absolute bestfriend EVER) and literally screaming and crying for GOD to give me a way. I was sooo lost and confused. (GOD knew a regular job would have killed me) Shortly after #PoliPaul and I started my life's journey in music. 15 years later I'm so grateful that this body of work that saved me and my sons have been so influential in helping others. There is a misconception that I stopped doing music for years after this album but I did not. I was most likely (either me or @raheemdevaughn) the 1st RnB artist to make mixtapes... rocking over hiphop tracks at first.. then eventually making full length, all original music mixtapes. I was rocking shows thru out America and Europe all those yrs. #IndieArtistMakeItHappen It has been a beautiful journey thus far!! (I have not one regret) And we have so much more to give!! (#thebullshitalbum in Dec) #BlackMosesMusic Happy birthday to a real lifesaver #complexsimplicity15yrs (we will be releasing this album soon with some goodies to go with it 😁) Thank u to all involved in making this album happen... you helped save me and my children's lives🙏🏾

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I read your Instagram post on the anniversary of the album’s release. It was very transparent, you let out everything that you were feeling at that time. Does it still feel very new even though it’s been 15 years later?”

It doesn't feel new, it feels timeless to me. I can't speak for everybody else, but I'll be very arrogant enough to say that I make timeless music. It makes me think back and it’s a blessing because it makes me look at all I overcame. Nobody knows what I was going through at that time, so Complex Simplicity, 15 years later is like a trophy to me.

Were there any songs that were originally intended for other artists?

I wasn't a writer for other people when I started making that album. I didn’t wanna write [for other people], that wasn’t even a consideration. The only thing that triggered me to write for other people was that, when we would shop the album, they would say “Yo, we got too many R&B singers already, but we like that song.” So, you have a song like (sings “Still in Love” by Nivea), that was me remaking “Be Your Girl.” I wasn’t gonna give away certain songs, but we would make another one like it.

Were there any songs that were originally intended for other artists?

I wasn't a writer for other people when I started making that album. I didn’t wanna write [for other people], that wasn’t even a consideration. The only thing that triggered me to write for other people was that, when we would shop the album, they would say “Yo, we got too many R&B singers already, but we like that song.” So, you have a song like (sings “Still in Love” by Nivea), that was me remaking “Be Your Girl.” I wasn’t gonna give away certain songs, but we would make another one like it.

What was Ne-Yo’s contribution to the album?

He did vocal production and arrangement, except for “Caution.” I did “Caution” by myself, I came and did background and everything. It was magical because I had never done this shit before, but when we got to the next song I was stumped. Then Poli brought in Shaffer, who I know him as, you know him as Ne-Yo, and that album would not be what it is if it wasn’t for his vocal arrangement, it just would not. He and I had a conversation about it not too long ago and he was like, ‘I was just feeding off of you and it made me a better artist.’ Really, we were just young and having fun making music. We’re both dead broke, picking up coins between the seats in my car to buy Jack-in-the-Box egg rolls. He was brilliant then, just as brilliant as he is now, but he had been signed to another label and it went bad, but we were on the same production company. He was moving his way into where he is now, but I think he and I working together was part of his transition. He’s been super dope the whole time. You listen to his first album and, to me… (sings “So Sick”). I hear that and it reminds me of Complex Simplicity in the sense of it’s his vocal arrangement and his vocal production. If you listen to that song and then Complex Simplicity, you can totally hear Shaffer all over my album.

What were your feelings about R&B at the time of recording Complex Simplicity? How did you want to shake up the genre, per se?

I didn’t, I didn’t really care. (laughs) I really wanted to be a chick that sung over hip-hop beats. What changed everything for me from wanting to be a person that sang over harder beats, was Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat.” I didn’t really want to come in and change nothing, I just wanted to make an album that sounded like “Rock the Boat,” because that song reminds me of a time I was nostalgic to when I was young in New Orleans and all these sounds, they felt so good. “Rock the Boat” will rock forever, it’s a timeless record. It will work for the rest of our lives. Until the end of the world, “Rock the Boat” will work, and I wanted to make an album that felt like that.

I was just listening to that album too, and it hasn’t aged a day.

That album was good, but that particular song was so freaking good. It’s flawless, it can work in any situation. I spoke to Ari Lennox’s manager in New Orleans for Essence Fest and they were like ‘we used Complex Simplicity as a template for her album.’ Well, I used “Rock the Boat,” that one song, as a template for the entire album.

What are your thoughts on current-day R&B? It seems to have progressed beyond contemporary R&B, especially when there are tons of subgenres.

R&B has turned into so many things, it’s not just Sam Cooke no more, it’s diversified. I love H.E.R., I love Miguel, I love Lucky Daye. It’s just so much good stuff. To be honest, I came out in a time where it was very horrible for R&B. What was going on in music, period, it was just strange. I used to always tell people “the good shit is coming back, I promise it’s coming back.” Now in the past few years, all these different artists have come and made all this different music that people didn’t think was gonna come back. It’s just different because you gotta find it. I never thought that R&B was gonna die, but some people did. It’s impossible, it’s the origin of so many sounds.

Kaytranada’s “Be Your Girl” remix seemed to give the song a new life, and introduced you to listeners who may not have known Teedra Moses back in 2004. What was it like to hear his version? Was the remix a surprise?

Definitely surprising to hear, like ‘yo, this is wild, this is so good!’ It was a long time before I heard it, it had probably been out for about six to seven months before I heard it. You know the crazy part about it? It has triggered a million and one others. Probably, in a week, I get one to two remixes of my vocals from “Be Your Girl.” But Kaytranada, he took it and made it something you can dance to instead of just ride to. It was more youthful than what we had done.

How are you reintroducing Complex Simplicity 15 years later?

I’m introducing it, more so, as I’ve had a victory lap. I’m reintroducing it, not as that little broken girl singing those songs, acting so fucking tough. When I present it now, I can truly stand in the persona of that album. I was projecting to myself who I was gonna be, now I truly am her. I didn’t even know how to promote the record back then because I was a scared little girl, now I’m that confident woman that people thought they were listening to.

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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.


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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