Sugar Minott Biography

Lincoln Barrington Minott, 25 May 1956, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies. Minott was probably reggae music’s brightest hope throughout the early 80s, but his refusal to compromise and turn his back on either his roots or his ghetto companions has marginalized his influence, and he is now a peripheral figure, as opposed to the major force that he arguably deserves to be.

Minott first recorded in the mid-70s as one of the African Brothers with Tony Tuff and Derrick ‘Bubbles’ Howard for a variety of Kingston producers; a couple of all-time classics evolved from this period, including ‘Torturing’ and ‘Party Night’. The African Brothers eventually arrived at Studio One, where Minott’s precocious talent was immediately recognized, and he was taken on as a studio apprentice, singing whatever was required, and often providing percussion and guitar where necessary. His sweet vocals were only one facet of his talent, and his ability to write new songs to fit over existing rhythms was remarkable, the results, in many cases, eclipsing the originals. He had a few steady sellers for Studio One, but it was his 1977 debut long-player, Live Loving, that made his name and extended his popularity. He became a bigger star in the UK than in his homeland, and his first release in Britain, the self-produced ‘Hard Time Pressure’, was a major underground hit in 1979. Minott travelled to England later that year, and stayed for a lengthy period, contributing immeasurably to the indigenous reggae scene. He became a focus for UK reggae, while releasing many records in the accepted local lovers rock style, which demonstrated his ability to work successfully in any style of reggae music.

A national chart hit, for Hawkeye Records, followed in 1980, and crossover success seemed to be the obvious next step for Minott. He had previously parted company with Studio One because of his desire for independence, and set up his own Youth Promotion/Black Roots collective organization to foster and develop the abundant talent in the Kingston ghettos. Consequently, when he was offered contracts for recording and concert work with established companies, Minott refused to sign unless the rest of the Youth Promotion team were a part of the arrangement. This proved too altruistic for the large labels, and Minott continued to work in his own way, recording solo outings for many independent producers to finance his ideals. Sadly, his single-minded determination to help the youths in the ghetto did not work in his favour, and many young singers and DJs who came to prominence on Minott’s Youth Promotion sound system (one of the top Kingston Sounds of the 80s) went on to greater success elsewhere, while his personal strength, too, seemed to be sapped by his constant concern for the less fortunate. His releases during the latter part of the decade were often lacklustre, relying too heavily on the stringing together of dancehall catchphrases and clichés.

In the 90s Minott began to make some excellent records both for himself and other producers, including King Jammy, that at last recalled former glories. Minott’s studio work in the early 00s was largely limited to guest appearances, although he remained a popular live performer.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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