When Bob Marley died in 1981, a seismic shift in reggae was set into motion. Island New Wave shook Kingston clubs in the form of dancehall. The man credited as the pioneer called himself Yellowman. His beats attracted legions — at one point he had 40 singles charting the island. Among the first musicians to incorporate toasting — the equivalent of rapping — with studio-driven reggae beats, Yellowman epitomized the Eighties. He rhymed on violence, homosexuality, and sexism, and he followed his own lead. As a result, Yellowman became more well-known for his aggressive lifestyle than his penchant for a smooth and utterly revolutionary delivery. His stay at the top didn't last long. He was a victim of his own success, and a number of dancehall artists shot past him. After a bout with skin cancer, he turned more spiritual with 1994's Prayer. The sound caught many off-guard. He has aged well, and his body of work sounds more important because of it.

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Chris Coomey

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