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U-Roy, Jamaican singer who defined dancehall and hip-hop, dies at 79ExBulletin

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U-Roy, performing at Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay, Jamaica, August 8, 1984.

David Corio / Redferns


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David Corio / Redferns

U-Roy, performing at Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay, Jamaica, August 8, 1984.

David Corio / Redferns

Ewart “U-Roy” Beckford, who transformed the Jamaican art of toast, or deejaying, from a sound phenomenon into a successful art form that has deeply influenced generations of dancehall artists as well as the band early hip-hop, died. U-Roy’s partner Marcia Smikle said the Jamaica Gleaner that he had been ill for some time; the news was also confirmed by Trojan Records. He was 78 years old.

Respectfully referred to as The Teacher, The Originator or simply Daddy, U-Roy was not the most well-known name in Jamaican music among an international audience, but exerted an untold influence on the development of reggae and dancehall and its ramifications. , especially hip hop.

“It’s a very sad day for Jamaica and for the dancehall genre, we’ve lost a trailblazer; he’s someone every deejay should admire and me,” Jamaican dancehall superstar Sean Paul told NPR. “Hearing his name growing up, listening to his songs, he came up with a different style; before U-Roy, nobody toasted records and filled in the blanks.” Sean’s vocal contributions to Sia’s # 1 hit in 2016 “Cheap thrills“bears the influence of U-Roy,” he said. The small advertisements on this disc, the budda-bang-bangI learned that from him, “suggests the platinum-selling and Grammy-winning artist.” He paved the way for someone like me to do what I do.

The art form of toasting that U-Roy, born in Kingston in 1941, put forward, has evolved from the early dances of Jamaica’s sound system. Back in the days when a single turntable was used to play records during a dance, the selector (who chooses the records) was called upon to keep the crowd engaged with a playful vocal chant as he turned the record over to one. side A to the other. as main inspiration, U-Roy’s melodic and timed flow advanced the rhyming style of Jamaica’s early toasters, including Count Matchuki, King Sporty, King Stitt, and Lord Comic.

U-Roy started toasting in 1961, rising through the ranks to become the top DJ of dub innovator King Tubby’s leading audio system, Hometown Hi-Fi, in the late ’60s. Tubby’s revolutionaries, removing vocals and various instruments from a record, gave toasters like U-Roy the opportunity to fully show their vocal finesse. Singer John Holt had seen U-Roy grill live on an instrumental version of Holt’s single “Wear yourself to the ball, “produced by Duke Reid. Holt told Reid to bring U-Roy into the studio; his productions with U-Roy spawned the radio singles” Wear You to the Ball “,” Wake the Town “and” Rule the Nation “.

U-Roy continued to record for various producers in Jamaica. He was signed to Virgin Records in the mid-1970s, bringing his distinctive voice to a wider international audience. He launched his own sound system, Stur Gav, which he named after his sons, and introduced another generation of toasters including Ranking Joe, Brigadier Jerry, Charlie Chaplin, and Shabba Ranks. Through a deal with Epic Records in 1991, Shabba brought deejaying and dancehall reggae to mainstream American audiences, on the Billboard charts and won two Grammys. Shabba’s 1993 single “Respect”, honoring dancehall greats who came before it, highlights U-Roy’s profound impact on any toaster that has ever held a mic: “cool cool U- Roy dun rule, U-Roy the godfather of the deejay school. “

In 2019, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of their Reeewind series From live events in New York City, promoter Garfield “Chin” Bourne, CEO of Irish and Chin Promotions, recruited Shabba to crown U-Roy, a move that made the senior artist’s eyes cry. “We brought in Shabba to show a younger generation who might not know this is who Shabba gives all the credit for their existence,” Chin told NPR. “U-Roy is not the originator of deejaying, but he became the best at it, his voice was so electrifying, that the other deejays that followed wanted to be as melodious as him and make those sweet rhymes like him.”

U-Roy’s flow also laid the foundation for what would become rap in the United States. “Most of the early hip-hop artists had Caribbean roots and were directly influenced by the dancehall space of Jamaica,” Chin says, citing the cadence heard at Sugar Hill’s prototypical Gang hit “Rapper’s Delight” as “Descends straight from that fluid lyrical flow that U-Roy perfected. He is also the godfather of dancehall and hip-hop. “

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In the early 1990s, when Jamaican dancehall enjoyed widespread commercial success with toasters like Shabba, Super Cat and Buju Banton, this reporter interviewed U-Roy about his pioneering role in this important development. With characteristic humility, U-Roy said he was happy that deejay’s music had reached this far, although he was somewhat surprised by it. “If you had said back then that this music from sound systems would attract Jamaicans to American radio, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he said, “but I’m happy to see it happening now. and to have played a small part in it. “



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