The Legend of Toots Hibbert
Lots of myths and a healthy dose of mystique surround artists who are paramount in the sonic migrations that become genres. See Lee Scratch Perry’s voodoo approach to recording, Robert Johnson at the crossroads or the magic at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. But few, if any, are as direct and no-frills as the legend of Frederick “Toots” Hibbert.
Raised in a religious household and orphaned by the age of eleven, Toots’ evolution into one of Jamaica’s greatest artists was all but fait accompli when the multi-instrumentalist began a vocal group in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kingston (chances are you’ve already heard of Trenchtown). Second to only the mighty Bob Marley, Toots was a character in his own right and the foundation for a genre to be built upon. In fact, he literally penned the name Reggae himself with the 1968 single “Do the Reggay” in the midst of a genre shift from Ska. With music prominently featured in the 1972 bedrock film The Harder They Come, acts like Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Decker, the Maytals, and Reggae music as a whole would soon rise to the top of charts and be heard in unbeknownst households for years to come.
A pioneer, a monolith, and a damn fine songwriter that hurdles beyond the confines of traditional genre barriers, Toots’s music was infectious and uplifting. He was known as the Otis Redding of Reggae: a kind soul of the Jamaican countryside and a mouthpiece for the people. If Bob Marley was the cornerstone, Toots was second in tow, and if Marley was the Beatles, Toots would be The Rolling Stones. Take your pick because we certainly can’t.
Hibbert’s career spanned decades with relevancy in the Reggae world up until complications from COVID-19 cut his life short at 77. Shoot, he even released a new full length recently that prominently featured nothing short of the norm: tough times, tough people, and will power to survive. We’ll miss you, Toots. Thanks for giving us some of your love in 2007.
Funky Kingston - Toots and the Maytals
An album filled with covers and originals that would later be reinvented by acts like The Specials, Kieth Richards, and, of course, The Clash, Funky Kingston is a short and concise snippet that encompasses the stature that Toots would solidify for decades to come. Funky Kingston wasn’t the start, the pinnacle, and definitely not the end; perhaps a snapshot in time where all their creativity came together at once for a monumental result. It’s unfiltered, rough around the edges, and true to the core Reggae sound the country was creating. It contains a funk and grooviness unmatched by other prominent Jamaican artists that made early listeners and critics stigmatize the genre as “Jamaican rock ’n’ roll.” When Catch a Fire, Bob Marley’s 1973 album that was released around the Funky Kingston period, went with overdubbed tracks, Funky Kingston bursts into scantly recorded sax solos. You can hear the soul, the gospel backbone, and untethered meandering between hardship and salvation, which was exactly what producer Chris Blackwell (Bob Marley, The B-52’s, Grace Jones, U2) wanted to capture. It’s a raw depiction of the life and struggles of black Jamaica in the early 1970’s, an anthem for working-class Jamaica, and a true masterpiece in it’s own right.
TikTok and the Case for Blu DeTiger
TikTok and the content that has turned artists into instant household names overnight are in the throes of a messy legal battle that may change the world for better or worse. Sure, some say music belongs being pressed to vinyl and heard in the fullest capacity (and they’re certainly not wrong), and others, particularly those who really know the floss dance well, will say music reaching the masses is a good thing (and they’re not wrong either). But what happens to all the content and artists who have made it famous once TikTok goes away for good?
One artist in particular that comes to mind is Blu DeTiger, and if you aren’t up on her yet, you definitely should be because she absolutely kills it on the bass. It’s no wonder she’s amassed over 900,000 followers in less than a year on the platform by overdubbing popular anthems and adding her own phonetic flavor to viral hits. She’s not only rapidly grown an engaged fanbase eager for the next drop, she’s also created a social media presence as an independent artist that major labels and managers dream of building.
It’s generationally inherent, an innate natural ability, and seemingly shifting the way music is digested and, more importantly, discovered. Year by year, Gen Z continues to break down the former boundaries in music—whether it’s shifting the industry from album sales to streaming or free-styling funky riffs over Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” music and listeners are on the move. With competitors like Triller and Instagram’s Reels nipping at the heels to take TikTok’s place, it makes us music lovers wonder what happens next. How can we ensure the success of artists who have worked so hard to build their podium?