Abdel Wright was born in 1977 in Trinityville, St. Thomas, Jamaica. His single mother was mentally unstable, and Wright was placed in the custody of the state when he was only nine months old, bouncing from orphanage to orphanage until he finally ended up at the SOS Children's Village in Montego Bay. The facility was partially funded by country singer Johnny Cash, who owned a home nearby. Wright was allowed to visit the star, and Cash's music and his commitment to human rights issues were big influences on the child. Wright received his first guitar as a Christmas gift when he was 12 years old, and soon learned to play it, as well as piano and flute. Later he learned to play drums and harmonica as well.
Wright began to write his own songs by the time he was 18, and he showed an early ability to outline social and political inequities in his music. Once he left the orphanage, however, he was forced to turn to crime to support himself, eventually getting busted on a gun charge. He was sentenced to eight years in a Jamaican prison. Wright served five years of his sentence, using his incarceration to further develop his songwriting.
Following his release, he began working Jamaica's club scene, and he eventually came to the attention of rockers Dave Stewart and U2's Bono. Stewart ended up executive producing Wright's debut album, simply called Abdel Wright, most of which was recorded at an Ocho Rios studio, while Bono in turn played the album for Interscope Records head Jimmy Iovine, who loved it and released it in the summer of 2005. Wright, who Bono has called "the most important Jamaican artist since Bob Marley," eschews Jamaica's prevalent dancehall styles for a more acoustic approach that centers around roots and cultural themes, and while Wright's music is distinctly Jamaican, it also has a universal pop and folk-rock feel. ~ Steve Leggett