U-Roy: the singularly musical toaster was a vital part of reggae’s bloodline

U-Roy: the singularly musical toaster was a vital part of reggae’s bloodline

The Guardian

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His inspired technique made toasting into an international phenomenon, yet he was endearingly modest to the end

For as long as there have been soundsystems, there have been DJs toasting them. Known as “the originator”, U-Roy was far from the first, but nobody had made a significant impact outside Jamaica before him. In 1970, his album Version Galore landed in London courtesy of Trojan Records. We’d never heard anything like it. There had been soundsystem men bigging up their dances and selections in an ad-libbed, often intrusive manner, but nothing that took what was essentially talking over records seriously enough to create its own uniquely rhythmic art form. While the mixing and Duke Reid’s masterful studio technique provided the perfect environment for toasting on such rocksteady classics as The Tide Is High, Tom Drunk and Everybody Bawling, it was U-Roy’s light touch, musical nous and general sense of celebration that made these tracks so special.

Whether or not the history of rap can be traced back to U-Roy and his inspired yet precise rhyming is an argument unlikely to be settled any time soon. What can’t be doubted is without his singularly musical way with a lyric, toasting in the recording studio might have ended in 1970. U-Roy rode the rhythms with such a playful, tuneful and compulsive energy that it voided any argument that toasting was nothing but somebody shouting over a perfectly good song. He so effortlessly took record buyers across the jump from singing that studios immediately opened their doors to other talents. U-Roy’s importance in reggae’s bloodline cannot be overestimated.

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