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Sizzla Biography

Miguel Orlando Collins, 17 April 1977, Jamaica, West Indies. Sizzla served his musical apprenticeship on the Caveman Hi-Fi sound system, and in 1995 he released his debut through Zagalou before joining the Firehouse crew. He released a number of singles in Jamaica, notably ‘Judgement Morning’, ‘Lifes Road’, ‘Blaspheme’ and a combination with Shadow Man, ‘The Gun’. His achievements earned him a Rockers nomination for Best New Artist. Sizzla quickly established an uncompromising attitude to his songwriting, similar to artists such as Peter Tosh and Mutabaruka. Although he continued their legacy, Sizzla was also able to appeal to a younger audience, empathizing with the struggles and experiences of the Jamaican youth.

In 1996, as part of the Firehouse crew, he toured the globe to considerable critical acclaim alongside Luciano and Mikey General. In the middle of his hectic touring schedule, Sizzla recorded ‘Ins And Outs’ with Louie Culture, and ‘Love Amongst My Brethren’, ‘No Other Like Jah’ and ‘Did You Ever’, produced by Philip ‘Fatis’ Burrell, with whom he enjoyed an extensive association. In 1997, Sizzla began working with Bobby Digital; the recording sessions featured Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and Dean Fraser, whose saxophone graced the hit ‘Black Woman And Child’, a song that has since become an anthem. It subsequently featured as the title track of Sizzla’s first album with Bobby Digital. He maintained a high profile in the singles market, releasing ‘Like Mountain’, ‘Babylon A Listen’ and a combination with Luciano, ‘Build A Better World’.

Sizzla has rightly been hailed as an integral part of the 90s cultural revolution, particularly with the enlightening albums Black Woman & Child (1997) and Be I Strong (1999). However, the singer sported controversy when he made public endorsements at the 1998 Reggae Sumfest Festival in Montego Bay. During his performance he agitated his audience, and in particular the world press, after denouncing Queen Elizabeth II, homosexuals, and even the Sumfest Festival. He saved his most controversial racist diatribe for the finale when he stated, ‘Burn all white people in Jamaica’, this led to a stunned silence from the multi-racial crowd. His attempts to win approval failed, which resulted in a talented performer being regarded as an embarrassment to Jamaican music.

Sizzla released albums at a prolific rate in the early 00s, although quality control was often a problem. The mix of styles varied greatly, from declamatory rastafari material (Black History, Rastafari Teach I Everything) to mellow romanticism (Ghetto Revolution, Da Real Thing). In 2004, Sizzla was once again in the news for the potentially inflammatory nature of some of his lyrics. Dates on his UK tour were cancelled after justifiable protests from campaigners for gay rights. Two years later he teamed up with US rap producer Damon Dash to record the uneven The Overstanding. True to form, he bounced back with two excellent old-school albums, Children Of Jah and I-Space.

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

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