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Yellowman

Jamaica's first dancehall superstar, Yellowman ushered in a new era in reggae music following Bob Marley's death. His early-'80s success brought the popularity of toasting -- the reggae equivalent of rapping -- to a whole new level, and helped establish dancehall as the wave of the future. For better or for worse, he also epitomized dancehall's penchant for "slack" lyrics -- that is, casual violence, sexism, homophobia, and general rudeness. Graphic sexuality was his particular forte, reaching levels of explicitness previously unheard in Jamaica. It brought him numerous detractors, but it was also a big reason for his early popularity. There was more to it than that, though; Yellowman was one of the most verbally nimble toasters of his time, with a loose, easy flow, a talent for improvisation, and a definite wit in his wordplay. Plus, all the boasting about his prowess on the mic or in the bedroom had to be over the top to be convincing: true to his stage name, Yellowman was an albino, which carries a tremendous social stigma in Jamaica. His rise to stardom was unlikely enough, but his transformation from untouchable outcast into sex symbol was staggering -- and may not even have taken place without his trademark lewdness. Shocking though it could be, it affirmed him as a sexual being just like his listeners, and was delivered with enough humor to let the audience know that he wasn't taking himself too seriously. Bouts with cancer pushed him into more thoughtful, socially conscious territory in the '90s, but his initial style remains the most influential, paving the way for countless dancehall toasters to follow.

Yellowman was born Winston Foster in Negril, Jamaica, in 1959 (some accounts say 1956). An early target for abuse because of his albinism, he grew up in an institution in Kingston, with little to keep him company besides music. Influenced by early toasting DJs like U-Roy, he practiced rhyming and got a job with the Gemini Sound System as a substitute DJ. Christening himself Yellowman and dressing in a bright yellow suit, he peppered his lyrics with jokes about his skin color and outlandish tales of his sexual conquests. In 1979, he won a landslide victory at the well-known Tastee Talent Contest, and within months he had become one of Jamaica's top concert draws, thanks to a dynamic, humorous stage show in which he often used the microphone to mimic his anatomical gifts.

Yellowman recorded prolifically in the early '80s, at one point flooding the Jamaican market with more than 40 singles. His first full-length album, Them a Mad Over Me, was recorded for Channel One in 1981 and featured the hit title track and the single "Me Kill Barnie," an answer record to Lone Ranger's hit "Barnabas Collins." He also scored with singles like "Operation Eradication" and the infamously slack "Shorties," which Peter Tosh condemned as degrading to women (hardly the first time such a criticism would be leveled at him). Despite this success, Yellowman didn't truly hit his stride on record until he hooked up with groundbreaking dancehall producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes. The 1982 LP Mister Yellowman kicked off their collaboration; released internationally by Greensleeves, it started to break him in the U.K. and U.S., and is still often acclaimed as his best album. It also launched a series of Jamaican hit singles over the next few years that included including "Yellowman Getting Married" (a rewrite of the My Fair Lady number "I'm Getting Married in the Morning"), "Mr. Chin," "Who Can Make the Dance Ram" (a rewrite of "The Candy Man"), "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng" (sampled by several hip-hop acts), "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," "Soldier Take Over," "Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt," and "Wreck a Pum Pum," among others. Many of his recordings during this era featured vocal contributions from fellow DJ/toaster Fathead, whose specialty was punctuating lines with animal noises ("ribbit" and "oink" were his favorites).

After 1983's Zungguzungguguzungguzeng album, Yellowman signed a major-label deal with CBS Records, which encouraged him to maintain the stylistic versatility of his previous work. However, his lone album for the label, 1984's King Yellowman, sported mixed results, attempting everything from slack toasts to R&B and pop-tinged crossover tracks, including covers of "Sea Cruise" and "Take Me Home Country Roads," and the much-maligned fusion attempt "Disco Reggae." He subsequently released several albums on Shanachie, including 1984's Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt, 1985's Galong Galong Galong, 1986's Going to the Chapel, and 1987's Don't Burn It Down. The latter found him delving more into social consciousness; the title cut was a pro-marijuana protest, while "Stop Beat Woman" condemned domestic violence, and "Free Africa" criticized apartheid. Around the same time, he suffered a bout with throat cancer, but fortunately recovered. He returned to action with the hit Fats Domino cover "Blueberry Hill," and moved to the Ras label to record the well-received Yellow Like Cheese album with producer Philip "Fatis" Burrell.

Yellowman's recording career continued apace, as his sexual boasts and gay jokes kept getting raunchier and nastier. His popularity had slipped after 1985, due in part to less consistent material, and also in part to the emergence of a legion of new dancehall artists, many of whom harked back to his early material for inspiration. Things changed, however, after an early-'90s bout with skin cancer. Greatly shaken after this second life-threatening illness, Yellowman completely rethought his approach to music, and thereafter devoted himself almost exclusively to spiritual and social concerns. 1994's Prayer album (still on Ras) was the first effort in this new direction, and it was followed quickly by Message to the World in 1995. 1997's Freedom of Speech continued in a similar vein, after which Yellowman switched over to the Artists Only label. His first effort was 1999's Yellow Fever, which concentrated on conscious reggae but also featured some good-natured party tracks. New York followed in 2003, and Round 1 in 2005. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Young Gifted & Yellow

Disc 1

1. Mad Over Me

2. Shorties

3. Soldier Take Over

4. Lost Mi Love

5. Mister Chin

7. Herbman Smuggling

8. Eventide Fire

9. Operation Eradication

10. Out Of Hand

11. Them A Fight I

12. Death Of Barnabas

14. Yellowman Getting Married

15. I'm Getting Divorced

16. Morning Ride

17. Night Flight

18. Top Form

20. Duppy Or A Gunman

Disc 2

1. Zungguzungguguzungguzeng

2. Who Can Make The Dance Ram

3. Quiet

5. The Girl Is Mine

6. Ram Jam Master

7. Body Move

8. Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt

9. Galong Galong Galong

10. Walking Jewelry Store

11. Gregory Free

13. Love Struck

15. Rub And Go Down

16. Bam Bam

18. Strong Mi Strong

19. Blueberry Hill

Disc 3
x

Track List: This Is Crucial Reggae

1. Party

2. Reggae On The Move

3. Yellow Like Cheese

5. Aids

6. Prayer

7. No Touch Ya So

8. Love King Yellow

9. Dancehall

10. Wild Wild West

x

Track List: Reggae Anthology: Look How Me Sexy

1. Eventide Fire

2. Ram Jam Master

3. Walking Jewelry Store

4. Lost Mi Lover

5. Out Of Hand

6. Who Can Make The Dance Ram

7. I'm Getting Married

8. I'm Getting Divorced

9. Soldier Take Over

10. Herbsman Smuggling

11. Operation Radication

12. Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt

13. Zungguzungguguzungguzeng

14. Mister Chin

15. Body Moves

16. Mad Over Me

17. Shorties

18. Bunn The Kootchie

19. Morning Ride

20. Physical/Zunguzung

21. Roots Rap Reggae

x

Track List: Mello Yellow

1. I'm Getting Married

2. I Love The Girls

3. Can't Wine

4. Better Than Them

5. Zunguzung

6. Hard Core Love

7. Matie Vex

8. Ting-A-Ling

9. Half Crazy

10. Wine Wine

11. If You Should Lose Me

x

Track List: The Negril Chill Challenge

1. The Arrival

2. Feeling Sexy / Don't Sell Yourself

3. Nuff Punany / Naw Breed Again

4. Under Gal Frock / Blueberry Hill

5. Reason With Entertainers

6. Gone A South Africa / Jah Mi Fear

7. Trouble Rosie

8. Old Lady / Listen Charlie

9. Same Way It Taste / Calypso Jam

10. Don't Drop Yu Pants

11. Rent A Dread

x

Track List: King Yellowman

1. Jamaica Nice / Take Me Home Country Roads

2. Strong Me Strong

3. Mi Believe / Summer Holiday

4. Wha Dat

5. Moving On / Keep On Moving

6. Disco Reggae

7. Still Be A Lady / Girls's Can't Do What The Guys Do

8. Reggae Calypso

9. Ooh We / Sea Cruise

10. If You Should Lose Me / You'll Lose A Good Thing

x

Track List: Zungguzungguguzungguzeng

1. Zungguzungguguzungguzeng

2. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

3. Rub A Dub A Play

4. Dem Sight The Boss

5. Can't Hide From Jah

6. Who Can Make The Dance Ram?

7. Yellowman Wise

8. Take Me To Jamaica

9. Friday Night Jamboree

10. Jah Jah Are We Guiding Star

x

Track List: Mister Yellowman

1. Natty Sat Upon The Rock

2. Lost Mi Love

3. Mr. Chin

4. Two To Six Super Mix

5. Morning Ride

6. How You Keep A Dance

7. Jamaica A Little Miami

8. Yellowman Getting Married

9. Duppy Or Gunman

10. Cocky Did Hurt Me

x

Track List: In Bed With Yellowman

1. Hardcore Lover

2. Matie Vex

3. Better Than Them

4. Yellowman Getting Married

5. Can't Wine

6. Ting A Ling

7. I Love The Girls

8. You'll Lose A Good Thing

9. Wine Wine

10. Zungguzungguguzungguzeng

11. Half Crazy (Feat. Sandy Star)

x

Track List: Yellowman Reggae Live Sessions

1. Intro (Live)

2. Reggae On The Move (Live)

3. Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt (Live)

4. Be My Guest Tonight (Live)

5. Yoyo (Live)

6. Two Two Six Over Mix (Live)

7. Operation Radication (Live)

8. Lost Me Lover (Live)

9. Body Move (Live)

10. Mr. Chin (Live)

11. Getting Married In The Morning (Live)

12. What A Bam Bam (Live)

13. Mad Over Me (Live)

14. What A Bam Bam (Live)

15. Zunguzungguguzungguzeng (Live)

16. Yellow Like Cheese (Live)

17. Keep On Moving (Live)

18. Jamaica Nice (Live)

x

Track List: Yellowman's Good Sex Guide

1. Big Dick

2. Government

3. Go Go Bell

4. Want You Body

5. Tonight You Die

6. Bunji

7. Bad Boy

8. Too Greedy

9. Cry Help

10. Galster

Comments

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I remember putting the song give me the morning ride with my girl when she would spend the night great memories thanks Yellow God bless brother.
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PEACE FRENCHY

My favorite Yellowman joint ANNND introduction .
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I really Alllways loved Yellowman
In my Bronx neighborhood , the Jamaican influence was very strong, in every way. Was introduced to the music early. This reminded us, The African American cats of Rap. HE'S smooth, funky. And humorous. Music's AlWAYS fly.
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u ever go to his conerts
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Yellow rules
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Yellow always take me back!
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renzo457
U kno become Yellowman jah boy, Cha Cha da lyrics, Cha Cha in a rhyme
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Dance hall king yellowman, blowin a tree for this tune ( mellow time )
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Negril's finest irie
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Ninja Mon go harder
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Good memories with my cherished love. Gwen Hill. We heard Yellowman for the first time in 80's when we visited Jamaica. I love his lyrics!!
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johnjackson8 5 5
King Yellow! Stay strong my brother.
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robertrogers j r
God bless you Mr Yellowman!!!
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Two battles with throat cancer? Truly a survivor in so many ways. He always stood out from the rest.
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King mellow yellow. Just listen a tune. Bless up rasta
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Long live king yellow
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stullis1
Yellowman greatest symbol of perseverance , , ,
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King Yellow!
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21 gun salute to the king, king Yellow, been listening to him since 3rd grade in Ghana and his music still moves me. All hail the king.
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Yellowman... . . . . t h e best!!! IRIE.
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Yellowman always my favorite artists from a young boy up to a day like today.
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Damn I remember when I first heard this guy I was just brought home from the hospital and my evil nurse put him on her ipad and played him for over 2 hours and ever since then I have been listening to him
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423918173
Ruthless Records had to have paid a grip for this sample on Eazy-E's track.
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Damn this guy creeps me the f**k out
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luosan
Strong me Strong!
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u nu fi jump fi happy r joy u nu fi call yellow man no bwoy
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Never heard of this guy! Quite awesome when your f**ked up! F**kin epic
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Nobody move
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mikedaddy2g
King yellloooowww w w w
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Ya hearrrrd me Idren.?
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yellow man rewind pull up gunshots bow , bow ,bow yellowman run tings!!!
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King Yellow is the best
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King Yellowman ruled the dancehall
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yellowman is awesome on stage,r band open up for him in naples,an fort.myers fl. an i tell ya,mon.em put on a show.2hrs.no n - s t o p . & b a c k s t a g e , h e one of the most humblest persons you ever want to meet..jah lov..yellowm o n , j a h lov.
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jahblaza
king yello
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Yellowman was great live! I saw him in the late 80's at a small club in California.
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Love, love, love to listen to real music. Really enjoy the great selections
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Saw him play last night in Sebastopol, CA. Good show; his energy is still there and was bouncing all around the stage.
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A true natural creation BIG-up TO Dance Hall "ahh true dat!
Bush-tah Say Dat.
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A true pioneer "yaa maan"
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angeloriley
The true king! King Yellow! My man.
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bcncb11
My # 1 for many reasons.
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mauro390
YELLOW LIKE CHEEESE ! :D
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Must Like!
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THis dude got skillz. True verbal showmanship
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Yellow like cheese seen I mon in 1988, ire.
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gskeamu
HE'S GREAT
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mike.burns8
Dryhead adassa!
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mbahoo1
yellow mannnnnn!
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ajhinvest
wow hes cool
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