Stretch and Bobbito Stretch and Bobbito
Janette Beckman

Stretch And Bobbito On Debut Album "No Requests," Radio Legacy

VIBE spoke with Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia, pioneers and cultural ambassadors who have developed a global platform over the past three decades.

Starting from humble beginnings as a club DJ and radio promotions rep respectively, Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia would go on to create the self-titled underground hip-hop radio show that defined the ‘90s. Instrumental in the careers of everyone from Nas to Eminem and the Wu-Tang Clan, this is widely considered the pivotal program that others in a similar vein are measured by. They had fun doing what they loved Thursday nights into the wee hours of morning on New York’s 89.9 FM (WKCR), and that simple idea that still defines their careers 30 years later.

While the duo’s importance was felt throughout the five boroughs and surrounding areas (with cassettes of their show reaching rap enthusiasts outside the US), Netflix picked up the 2015 documentary Radio That Changed Lives and turned them from a niche act into worldwide phenomenons. Their latest creative venture is the debut album No Requests - a jazz-centered project that combines Stretch Armstrong’s wealth of knowledge as a sound selector with the music tied to Bobbito’s Latino heritage. Despite straying from what long time followers might expect, the release makes perfect sense as the personally curated band the M19s replays classic hip-hop beats and puts a new spin on soul hits and dance floor classics from the past.

Further cementing Stretch and Bobbito as creative visionaries and renaissance men, their love for legends including Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan brings new life to well known songs in a manner that’s sure to grab listeners with an appreciation for original composition. Gracious as always, the duo hopped on a call with VIBE to reflect on their past, celebrate the release of No Requests, and go in depth on how they’ve made a living off of their passion for music while navigating the fight between business and art.

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VIBE: Your album No Requests starts with a medley where the M19s band plays classics like Nas’ “N.Y. State Of Mind,” Notorious B.I.G.’s “Unbelievable,” “Return Of The Crooklyn Dodgers” and Souls Of Mischief’s “93 ‘Til Infinity,” and the single is a cover of “The Mexican,” a popular ‘70s breakbeat. While this isn’t a hip-hop album, it seems like there was a focus on celebrating your roots. 

Stretch Armstrong: It’s two-tiered, the intro is a reminder of where a lot of people might know us from but by the time you get to the “93 ‘Til Infinity” part of the song it’s clear this is going some place other than a hip-hop tribute. The rest of the album is a nod to our roots, every song that’s covered is a part of our foundation. These are songs that have touched us in a meaningful way over the last 40+ years.

Bobbito: “The Mexican” in particular is a pillar in the foundation of hip-hop, whether it’s for b-boys and b-girls dancing or for breakbeats that DJs and producers would collect. What we did with the record was transcend what it means beyond hip-hop, with the video we advocated for immigration rights and opened up a curtain for the experiences of asylum seekers.

VIBE: What was the process of selecting the band and how did you pick the songs that you wanted to cover?

Stretch: This album has a lot of Latin influences in it and some people might think it’s clearly a Bobbito record because he has seamlessly incorporated global music into his DJ sets over the last 20+ years. As a hip-hop head, I’ve always had an open mind to any music that was funky regardless of genre, but having toured the world DJ’ing with Bob, I got exposed to a lot of music. The sensation of hearing music that was unfamiliar to me but resonated in a way where it didn’t require multiple listens or justification or explanation, that came from Latin music.

I’m by no means an expert in this and I don’t need to be. At the end of the day loving music is supposed to be an emotional fun experience. I’m a 50-year-old white guy on stage with a diverse crowd playing music that’s partially not my pocket, but that makes it a more meaningful experience for me.

Bobbito: We like challenges. We could have easily enlisted ‘90s producers like Pete Rock, Premier and Q-Tip and we could have gotten some emcees, but we wanted to be challenged. We come from that era, but we’re not stuck there and the album is called No Requests because we’re not gonna let people tell us what to do.

I’ve had the great fortune of working with 10-time Grammy winner Eddie Palmieri, he’s a jazz master and Latin music legend. It was just a matter of us curating our own relationships and matching that with Eddie’s contacts to create an Avengers on stage. The flute player, bassist, drummer, percussionist and vocalist are all A-list talents and most of them are hip-hop heads who have never been able to flex that muscle. Our debut was at the Kennedy Center in DC and people asked how many years we’ve been playing together, that’s the caliber of musicians that we have.

VIBE: You’ve both written books and transcended hip-hop with Bobbito having a foot in the basketball world and your NPR show where you interviewed luminaries from a number of fields. How have you been able to successfully avoid being placed into one creative box?

Bobbito: What’s comfortable for us is always 100% being ourselves. We broke the mold for hip-hop radio in the ‘90s where a lot of college radio shows were grooming themselves to be on commercial radio; that wasn’t our disposition at all. We’re two nerdy guys who approach hip-hop in a very loving manner and people advocated for us to be ourselves. All of these years later, as freelancers we find ways to create new challenges and figure out how to earn money in a manner where we’re not compromising ourselves creatively while having fun.


VIBE: Having both started in music since the ‘80s, you’ve witnessed how technology has changed how consumers and DJs receive music. What would you say the biggest differences have been from your point of view?

Stretch: The positive is the convenience of being able to play your own edits, play something that doesn’t exist on vinyl and there’s a flexibility that we couldn’t imagine before. But I wrestle with the cost of that convenience all the time. The accessibility of music production tools is incredible, young people can create music and send it to people, but the flipside is too much music that’s disposable and forgettable. There’s incredible music happening and there always will be, but it’s more challenging to sift through the noise and find the gems.

Bobbito: I’m a vinyl dude. We’re releasing our album as a 7-inch box set and as a 12-inch LP, on cassette and CD. For digital listeners we encourage them to purchase and download because that’s helpful to our independent movement, artists get millions of streams and make little in return.

VIBE: I own “No Sleep” (Stretch’s book of club party fliers), but being from New York I was too young to be at legendary places like The Palladium before it closed. What was nightlife like back then and what was it like to see the city change over time?

Stretch: We’re all superficially connected through social media. You can feel like you’re hanging out with someone through watching their stories and that’s not a real connection or maintaining a relationship. Before cell phones and the internet, you might only be home two or three hours in the summer but you could go to Nell’s on a Tuesday night or Mars on a Friday and see all of your friends, clubs were like people’s homes. If there was a strict door policy, we had juice and you knew what night of the week you could see your crew. I miss that, New York City’s nightlife was special, it was a real community.

VIBE: One name that always comes up in discussing that era is DJ Clark Kent, and I know you still DJ together with The Originals collective. Do you have any untold stories about him?

Stretch: There was a party called Soul Kitchen at Wetlands where I.C.U. from Boogie Down Productions threatened to beat me up. Clark and Dante Ross stopped that from happening, but I’ve told that story before. I met Clark at Mars and he was the first DJ I ever met. I was throwing parties at Columbia University and we got popular enough to take our parties to clubs downtown. When I started at Mars in 1989, Clark was a resident DJ and I already idolized him as Dana Dane’s DJ destroying clubs and he was just a really cool and charismatic guy.

At Mars he introduced himself and complimented me as a DJ, within months I went to his crib in Crown Heights and that was the start of a friendship that’s really stood the test of time. He’s a legend, a personal mentor and he’s just got an incredible generous spirit.

Bobbito: There are untold stories and we interviewed him for our new podcast “The Actual Stretch And Bobbito Show” which will be powered by Atlantic Records. Once that platform launches, the interview with him and a bunch of other phenomenal guests will be out.

VIBE: I get the sense that your documentary “Radio That Changed Lives” introduced you to a younger audience that never heard of you.

Stretch: Absolutely. Particularly because it was on Netflix, that allowed us to reach fans globally in places like China, Bolivia and Serbia. That was an eye opener because people would reach us on social media and say our tapes traveled all over the world. A lot of younger people have great tastes in music due to their parents exposing them to good stuff, but Netflix really helped us open that window in a glorious way.

Bobbito: We just had our album release concert at the Kennedy Center in DC. I’ve been a pen pal via email with this guy from Mali in West Africa for almost 15 years now, he walked up and said he saw the documentary on Netflix but he only knew me from basketball. He knew nothing about my contributions to hip-hop. We went to Mumbai in India and we were greeted by people in their early 20s, before that I’ve never been recognized by anybody who lives in India until the Netflix licensing. That opened up so many ridiculous doors for us.

VIBE: When, if ever did you start to realize that you were making history?

Stretch: As the ‘90s progressed, we understood what we meant to the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) and how we were influencing other radio DJs and hosts across the country. We knew what we meant to A&R people who were looking for new talent and aspiring emcees who were eager listeners and looking to get on the show. A store like Fat Beats could sell a lot of records based on the music we were playing, a whole underground industry sprouted in New York City based around our show as a hub.

But I don’t think it really dawned on us until the documentary came out. The whole quality of light that was shined on that aspect of our legacy was way brighter than anything we experienced back in the day.

VIBE: What does the Stretch & Bobbito brand represent in 2020?

Bobbito: It represents a lot of different things and we’re grateful for that. It’s a podcast, there’s a hip-hop legacy, you can think of us as club DJs. There are no rules or boundaries, we’re free. Our album deals with music that was created decades ago, but it’s cutting edge. We’re trying to be progressive while being ourselves, that’s constantly being defined and redefined.

Stretch: We’ve always done what we wanted to do, even if the public that’s checking for us might be surprised by it, initially disappointed or skeptical thinking we’re not giving them what they want. We’re two middle aged dudes putting out our debut album, that’s not typical and I love that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Courtesy of Biz 3 / FCF

Quavo Is Introducing 'Fan Controlled Football' To The Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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

Remembering Toots Hibbert

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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