I found this record the other day at a digging spot in North Beach (for those who know The Bay). I was excited to find some dancehall on the old Pow Wow Label and had heard Papa San shouted out in many recordings including Raheem’s “The Invincible”, which includes some heavy disses of its own. Here is a bio on Papa San that I found at Westbury Music Ltd. of the UK:

Tyrone Andrew Thompson (Papa San) was born in Spanish Town in 1966. It was (and is) one of the most deprived and lawless towns in Jamaica (both his brothers were shot to death) and the daily grind was only relieved by the weekend street-corner entertainment, the Sound System.

He was reared by his grandmother with Rastafarian beliefs. His father worked on the Black Universe Sound System and Papa San was performing there from the age of 12 onwards.

The early 80s in Jamaica witnessed the beginning of the first golden age of Jamaican Dancehall: music made by MCs (and singers) whose fame arose from soundclashes, where sound systems vied against each other with their MCs.

Even as a young man, Papa San was hugely influential, standing alongside older artistes like Lieutenant Stitchie, Josey Wales, Tenor Saw, Admiral Bailey, General Trees, Shinehead etc. In soundclashes, his lightning (often rude) chat and sharp (often improvised) lyrics allowed him to diss other DJs without risk of personal injury! He was MC with Black Scorpio, Stereosonic, Creation Sound and, later, occasionally with Downbeat (US).

One of his early hits was “Legal Rights” with his protégé Lady G, a tune he did for Winston Riley (Techniques) in 1983. From then, he would record prolifically, often having multiple top 10 entries in the Jamaican charts at the same time. Other hits included “I Will Survive”, “Legal Rights”, “Strange” and “Maddy Maddy Cry”.

By 1988 he had done an album with Tippa Irie on Fashion (UK) called “JA to UK MC”. He recorded most notably with Black Scorpio, King Jammy and Fatis Burrell. The 1990 Scorpio album, “Style And Fashion” is among the best of his early work.

In 1994, with David Morales, he recorded “The Program” which went to the top of the Billboard Dance Chart and made him a world ragga/hip hop name during the 90s, and many emerging hip hop and reggae artistes (Capleton especially) cite him as an important musical influence.

In 1997, having had what he describes as a supernatural visitation, Papa San became a Christian. The content of his songs changed but the original style remained, though (since the album “Pray Fi Dem” in 1993) the sound was becoming more hip hop/R&B than purely dancehall.

His main Gospel albums are “Victory” (1999), “God & I” (2003) and “Real And Personal” (2005).

All gospel and disses aside, here are 2 cuts from Style and Fashion:

Papa San– Just A Tease Me (Pow Wow Records, 1989)

Papa San– Rapid Me Rapid (Pow Wow Records, 1989)


One Comment

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