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Nipsey Hussle’s NYC ‘Marathon’ Pop-Up: A Bitter Sweet Success

It’s been eight months since the rapper was violently gunned down in front of his South Central L.A. Marathon Clothing store.

It’s Day 2 at the very first Marathon Clothing New York City pop-up held at Live Nation. It’s a little after 12:30 p.m. on a sunny brisk Saturday afternoon in the Meatpacking District and I’m greeted by Jorge Peniche, former tour manager of the prolific rapper Nipsey Hussle, but more importantly, he was family. He says he’s catching a red-eye back to L.A. to celebrate his son’s Mickey Mouse-themed 2nd birthday party. We chat for a bit and then I head outside to talk to fans waiting in line. Isha Kabba Al-Saadi, who drove from Boston the night before and waited in line for four hours before entering the pop-up, said Nipsey’s music and entrepreneurial interviews inspired her to be her own boss.

“I got my real estate license. I’m done working for people. You want to be something in this life, get your own and be your own boss.” Her goal is to continue to educate others on financial freedom and financial literacy. Another fan waiting in line to get his hands on TMC merchandise was Rob who said Nipsey’s 2013 Crenshaw mixtape helped him through college. His lyrical messages were a great reminder to keep pushing forward by any means necessary.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight months since the rapper was violently gunned down in front of his South Central L.A. Marathon Clothing store on March 31, 2019. For New Yorkers who have never visited the City of Angels, rocking a Crenshaw snapback ($40.00) or hoodie ($100.00) would give them a tangible taste of Crenshaw and Slauson, where Nip resided. Not to mention meeting the Marathon team in person like Jorge, Nip’s older brother Samiel “Blacc Sam” Asghedom, Adam Andebrhan, Jonathan Fagan, Archer One and of course Slauson Bruce who surprised the crowd when he appeared on opening day dressed as Santa Claus. J Stone, an artist that Hussle signed to his label, was also in attendance promoting his newly released album titled The Definition of Loyalty. The team also flew out Nipsey’s beloved grandmother, Margaret Boutte, who was visiting the Big Apple for the very first time and took photos with fans at the pop-up. I asked Jorge why the team decided to open on Black Friday and he said they’ve done that in previous years and had a successful turn out financially.

I make my way inside the crowded pop-up where I find myself bumping to Victory Lap playing in the background. Fans are crowded around me trying to get their hands on their favorite items. From Crenshaw lighters to Marathon baby onesies, TMC had something for everyone at different price points. Veteran music and film director Benny Boom even stopped by to show support and purchased some merch before he sat down with VIBE to talk about his friend.

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I know you wanted Nipsey to play Snoop Dogg in the film All Eyez On Me but due to circumstances, he couldn’t do it.
Benny Boom: Yeah, I’ve known Nip for a really long time. Since he was 19. I came to L.A. in 2005 to direct and produce a movie called Crenshaw Boulevard and I had to meet with the Rollin 60s. One of those meetings he was there. He was kind of quiet in the background and that’s when I first met him and we became cool after that.

What was he like as a person?
Benny Boom: Every time I saw him he was just the same guy as when I first met him. He was very reserved and quiet. It was actually a birthday party for Big U’s son and Nipsey was there so it was a very family, informal situation. It was in a backyard in L.A. he was just cool, something about him. The first thing that struck me was “Man, this kid looks like Snoop so much.” It was crazy.

I’m sure he got that a lot!
Benny Boom: He got that a lot which was probably a lot of the reason why I think when we were trying to get him for the role, it was part of the reason why he backed off of it because he didn’t really want that attached to him when he was about to really blow up.

I understand that though.
Benny Boom: When I lived in L.A., we lived in the same apartment complex so I would see him often. We would just hang out. I had a really good relationship with him when we’d see each other. I watched him go from Neighborhood Nip to Slauson Boys to an MC to a rapper and it was really great to see that transition.

Then for him to be at the Grammys…
Benny Boom: That was amazing to me because when I first met him I didn’t know he was a rapper. I always thought he was one of the kids from the 60s that we had to talk to. He’s inspirational. As he went on, I remember when he first started this line. I was in L.A. doing a project and a friend of mine told me, ”You know that Crenshaw stuff, that’s Nipsey’s stuff.” I’m like, “Really?” I got in touch with him and he said, “What do you need?” and I said, “A couple of shirts, a couple of hats.” He sent over two boxes full and I said, “C’mon man that’s too much merchandise.”

I feel like that’s how he was.
Benny Boom: Yeah that’s how he was. I just wanted a few shirts and he sent over so much merchandise that I had to bring it back home to New York and I had to give it away. This was 2014 when I first got the stuff. I don’t think the store opened yet and he said, “Man, just tell people about it,” and I said, “Alright” and I came back to New York. I was giving people Crenshaw tee shirts and you know people from New York were like, “Crenshaw? What’s that?” and I said, “No, this is Nipsey Hussle’s line.” That was five or six years ago.

So forward it to now and he has his first pop-up in New York City and unfortunately, he’s not here. Just coming to the pop-up today, how did you feel?
Benny Boom: It sends a little chill. Anytime I'm around people that know him or talk to him…to see something like this. I wish he was here because this is something he would’ve wanted to happen. Just the respect that he had for everybody around him.

It wasn’t just celebrities. It was anybody.
Benny Boom: To see this travel the way it has. His message and people quoting him the way that they quote Dr. King. The whole marathon continues I think it's very real. The little bit of what we were able to get from him. That small portion of knowledge and celebrity as you would call it. I think it's going to travel the distance. It’s going to travel in terms of time. Ten years from now, I think people are going to still be quoting him. Out of the tragedy, something good has to happen. We always look for the silver lining in things. Of course, the family and Lauren [London], who’s a good friend of mine, the kids, they miss him. We miss him. They are aching more and we’re here to support them. That’s the reason why I’m here to support the movement. It’s not just about talking, it's about walking as well. I just wish he was here. He was such a great kid and I have my memories of him that I’ll always hold on to. Us laughing in the backyard or us hanging out by the pool in the complex in L.A. just talking regular, everyday-life-talk so I’m holding on to those things.

 

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Now open for business NYC! Pull up on us!

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How does the marathon continue in your life?
Benny Boom: It continues with me because I look at where I’ve gone. I’ve been directing for 20 years now. It's like the next phase of my career and what I want to do. If you ever get disgruntled, you just have to keep going on. The marathon continues. It's not just a saying, you gotta really believe it. I’m a firm believer in the bible. I’m a Christian. I believe things happen for a reason and sometimes divine intervention happens. These things happen in life and it's a sign for you to take notice and to give you a message and messages come in different ways. If we can learn anything from his death, I would say that we have to learn how to love one another a little bit better. I don’t know all the circumstances, the guy and why he did it.

None of us do.
Benny Boom: At the end of the day, it’s not that important but I do know that Nipsey had love for everybody that was around him. Even the person that did it, at some point we do know that Nipsey had love for him too. So we walk away from it thinking how can we be better to each other as human beings and I think that is what the Marathon is about as well. It's about the things he talked about but it's also about the thing that happened, his death and how do we be better to each other as human beings. Our brothers, our sisters. How do we take care of each other better? We’re not slaves anymore, you know what I’m saying? We’ve come a long way since then and we’re all in a position to help one another to be better. I think that for me is what the marathon was. You saw how the gangs came together.

That was beautiful. That was history in the making.
Benny Boom: It was historic for everyone to look at that and to really understand that all these gangs...I know a lot of those guys, not from the 60s but from other neighborhoods that shouldn’t go over there just to hang out. They would never come to the Marathon store.

But they did.
Benny Boom: They did for HIM.

That says a lot about him.
Benny Boom: And the respect that he had in that city and everywhere else. I think if we continue to love one another, to uplift each other, to try to help each other, that’s what Nipsey was doing. Sometime in the future, I’ll be able to do something outside the career. Something tangible that I’ve been thinking of trying to put together that would be an extension of what Nipsey was trying to do.

Would you ever do a movie on him?
Benny Boom: I don’t know. For me it’s difficult and I think it's too soon. I definitely think it’s too soon. We need to heal. I don’t think the healing has happened yet. Part of the reason why the line is so long outside is because the healing hasn’t happened. Especially here in New York. People in New York, we just got a little taste of what Nipsey was. In L.A., I’ll be driving down Fairfax and I’ll think, why is there no pop-up here and I just can’t imagine. That street would be crazy. It would be 10,000 people out there so I love the fact that it came here to New York City. I think there needs to be one in Chicago, Atlanta, Miami. We need to take this to other places and not just be about commerce. It needs to be about what you’re doing. Sitting down talking to people that either knew him or had some connection to him that can actually talk about what it means to come here and be a part of something historic with the Marathon pop-up. It should travel. That’s part of the marathon as well.

 

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Today’s the last day to shop with us NYC. We just opened up, come get your gear before it’s gone. Come through! 🏁

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I hope so. I hope they do. I feel like they are. 2020…you never know. Philly, you’re next!
Benny Boom: Philly, that’s my hometown. If you put it in Philly I’ll tell you now it's going to be 20,000 people out there. They have to start making merchandise now. People will be out there because that’s the type of city that really embraced Nipsey and everything that he stood for and they loved him.

I feel like everybody really loved him. That’s what he exudes...love.

Shortly after my conversation with Benny, comedian Tony Rock enters from the side entrance. He’s looking through boxes of Marathon product to find his size. I walk up to him and introduce myself. He tells me he went to The Marathon store in L.A. to show his support after Nipsey’s passing and how he had to welcome the TMC team to his city.

How does it feel having the pop-up shop here in the Concrete Jungle?
Tony Rock: There should be one in New York. There should be one in Atlanta. There should be one in L.A. But you know, it's a slow build-up.

As a comedian, how has Nip inspired you? It’s not just about the music. The marathon continues in comedy too.
Tony Rock: You know what the crazy thing is? If you look at the black experience, every couple of years or so a black person has the blueprint and black people just don’t for whatever reason follow that person’s lead and Nip had the blueprint. How we could have financial freedom. How we could own. How we could live in harmony, so to speak, and it took something horrible for the God in us to wake everybody up and realize he really had the blueprint. I say that not jokingly. God is in everybody but it takes something for us to wake up and realize we have to walk in our purpose and Nip did that. He walked on the left side for a while and then when God woke him up he became a whole different person. That’s why it affected people because they realize he’s walking in his purpose.

Wow. How are you continuing the marathon in your own life?
Tony Rock: In my life, I’m trying to do the same thing. I’m trying to lead by example. I hire my friends. Any capacity that my friends can be of service to where I don’t need to hire the next man to do, I make sure my friends get that job. If I have to teach my friends how to do that job, I will. That keeps the marathon going.

What’s one of your favorite Nipsey songs?
Tony Rock: “None of This” and many more but that’s the one I have on repeat when I’m at the crib getting ready to go out.

I had a lot of guys say they listen to his music when they workout. Do you do that?
Tony Rock: It’s more inspirational than a workout. It’s more when you’re chilling, trying to get your mind right than lifting weights. Plus I don’t workout (Laughs).

Hours pass and people continue to line up outside waiting to get a glimpse in. I sat down with the man behind the graphics for the clothing line designer, Archer One. When he first arrived on Black Friday and saw the line wrap around the corner he became emotional but in a good way. Growing up in South Central himself, as a kid from the West Coast, it was heartwarming to see and feel the love from New York.

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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