Heartbreaking news has come out of the death at 54 yesterday of the well-loved reggae singer, songwriter, producer and promoter Lincoln Barrington “Sugar” Minott. Born and raised in the ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica, Minott spent his teen years in the city’s sound system scene and recording for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s legendary Studio One label. The albums he released at this time, like Live Loving, Ghetto-ology and Roots Lovers—along with singles like “Herbman Hustling” and “Rub a Dub Sound Style”—laid the groundwork for the gritty, soulful dancehall sound that reggae would work into for the next 20 years.
Minott was best known for breaking with Jamaica’s soul-singer tradition, which saw many crooners brandishing a refined style that aped American artists. Sugar was sweet, but not slick. Minott would eventually leave Studio One to start his Black Roots label and Youthman Promotion sound system in order to help out young singers also coming out in Kingston’s ghettos. He’s responsible for early recording or performances of legends like Ranking Joe, Barry Brown, Tenor Saw, Little John, Tony Tuff, Barrington Levy, Horace Andy, Nitty Gritty, Junior Reid, Yami Bolo, Daddy Freddy and Garnett Silk.
You’ll see evidence of his popularity below, as Minott can’t get through his first tune at his first Reggae Sunsplash in 1983 without the crowd demanding he pull up and bring it again.
But you got the best of Sugar in his element, singing with the youths in the dancehall—or in this case, Maxfield Park in Kingston, where his Youthman Promotions sound regularly performed: