Trojan Jamaica/BMG is proud to celebrate the life and legacy of the late, great U-Roy with today’s release of U-Roy’s final studio album, SOLID GOLD U-ROY. The eagerly awaited album – which features guest appearances from such icons as Ziggy Marley, Shaggy, Mick Jones of The Clash, Santigold, Sly & Robbie, David Hinds of Steel Pulse, Big Youth, Tarrus Riley, Rygin King, Jesse Royal, Richie Spice, and Scientist – is available now at all DSPs, streaming services, and on CD. Limited-edition colored vinyl is currently in production.
Produced by label co-founders Zak Starkey and Sshh Liguz, with Youth, and mixed by David Sardy (Toots & The Maytals, Oasis, The Who), SOLID GOLD U-ROY boasts a stellar band of superstars comprised of Zak on guitar, New Orleans legend Cyril Neville on percussion, as well as reggae royalty, including drummer Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare on bass and backing vocals, Tony Chin on guitar and backing vocals, Robbie Lyn on keyboards, trumpet player Stingwray, and saxophonist/horn arranger/backing vocalist Dean Fraser.
Originally scheduled for release in 2020, SOLID GOLD U-ROY now serves as a musical memorial to the one and only U-Roy, who sadly passed away on February 17 of this year. One of the most profoundly influential reggae stars of his generation, U-Roy left behind an unmatched legacy as an originator of the chatty rhythmic vocal style known as toasting – a key foundational element in the development of rap and hip hop in the 1970s. Today’s release is marked by the premiere of an official visualizer for album highlight and Bob Marley classic, “Trenchtown Rock,” with U-Roy and Ziggy Marley.
WATCH U-ROY AND ZIGGY MARLEY’S “TRENCHTOWN ROCK”
LISTEN SOLID GOLD U-ROY
SOLID GOLD U-ROY was previously heralded by such tracks as U-Roy and Rygin King’s “Stop That Train” and U-Roy and Santigold’s “Man Next Door,” both of which are joined by official music videos directed by Nick Franco/1185 Films in collaboration with Zak and Sshh and streaming now at the official Trojan Jamaica YouTube channel.
LISTEN TO U-ROY AND RYGIN KING “STOP THAT TRAIN”
WATCH U-ROY AND RYGIN KING “STOP THAT TRAIN”
LISTEN TO U-ROY AND SANTIGOLD “MAN NEXT DOOR”
WATCH U-ROY AND SANTIGOLD “MAN NEXT DOOR”
Last year saw SOLID GOLD U-ROY first announced alongside a new release of U-Roy’s iconic “Wake The Town,” Originally released in 1970, the track proved a #1 Jamaican pop chart phenomenon and immediately established U-Roy as an international star. Last year’s release of “Wake The Town” coincided with a tour of Brazil by an all-star band featuring U-Roy, Zak, and Sshh that performed to over 150,000 fans in early 2020.
LISTEN TO “WAKE THE TOWN”
U-Roy, also known as The Originator, The Teacher, The Godfather or just simply Daddy, wasn’t the first Jamaican deejay but he was undoubtedly the most influential. Born Ewart Beckford on September 21, 1942 in Jones Town, West Kingston, U-Roy holds an exalted place in the trajectory of Jamaican music. By adapting his melodic, jazz-inflected scatted rhymes to “versioned” records – that is, alternative cuts of recordings with the original vocals stripped down or completely removed – U-Roy elevated the uniquely Jamaican vocal style known as toasting into a hit-making artform.
For three months in 1970, U-Roy’s “Wear You To The Ball,” “Wake The Town,” and “Rule The Nation” indeed ruled the nation, occupying the top three slots on Jamaica’s radio station charts. U-Roy’s many successes – which also included 1973’s VERSION GALORE, the inaugural deejay album – led to an explosion in recordings which forever altered the course of Jamaican music, especially its dancehall strain. Subsequent generations of superstar Jamaican deejays including Shabba Ranks, Shaggy and Sean Paul have each said they owe their careers to the trail blazed by U-Roy.
U-Roy’s impact further extended far beyond Jamaica’s shores. In 1973, Jamaican immigrant DJ Kool Herc strung up his sound system in the Bronx to play at a back-to-school fundraiser. Before the set, he told his emcee, Coke La Rock, to chat over the breaks in songs like U-Roy and the other deejays he heard growing up in Kingston – thus, the foundation for rap and hip-hop culture was born.
Throughout his illustrious career U-Roy was the recipient of countless international awards; in 2007 he received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government for his contribution to music. In 2018 U-Roy was introduced to Trojan Jamaica co-founders Zak Starkey and “Sshh” Liguz and a friendship quickly developed. Three weeks after their initial meeting, U-Roy went into the Trojan Jamaica Sound Studios in Ocho Rios and revisited several of his classic tunes, backed by a stellar cast of musicians: Sly Dunbar (drums), Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Robbie Lyn (keyboards), and Tony Chin and Zak Starkey on guitars.
The resultant album, SOLID GOLD U-ROY, was originally scheduled to arrive in 2020 along with a worldwide tour but of course, the global pandemic derailed those plans. Sadly, U-Roy passed on February 17, 2021, prompting tributes from artists, DJs, sound systems, and media outlets spanning the New York Times, BBC, Variety, The FADER, Rolling Stone, and NME, among many others, all of which affirmed the infinite ripple that U-Roy set forth to the universe. Already praised by BlackBook as “the grandest of grand finale statements,” SOLID GOLD U-ROY now stands as The Originator’s ultimate recording and a heartfelt celebration of his extraordinary legacy, which resonates within every Jamaican deejay and dancehall track that has followed.
“We had always loved U-Roy because of the power of his voice, and his lyrics, with their humor and seriousness,” says Sshh. “We made SOLID GOLD U-ROY because we wanted everyone to know that U-Roy helped invent rap.”
“It’s heartbreaking that he didn’t live to see the release of this record,” adds Zak. “The outpouring of love and respect that happened after he passed was beautiful, but bittersweet, knowing this reimagining was in the wings. It’s an honor to be able to spread his musical legacy.”