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T.O.K


Artist


DANCEHALL

The four members of dancehall act T.O.K. met when growing up in and around Portmore, Jamaica. Three – Alistaire "Alex" McCalla, Roshaun "Bay C" Clarke, and Craig "Craigy T" Thompson – were members of the local school choir, whilst the fourth – Xavier "Flexx" Davidson – attended a nearby school. Influenced in turns by Luther Vandross, Shabba Ranks, Stevie Wonder and the 1980s dancehall scene, the foursome founded the group in the early 1990s.

T.O.K., officially an acronym for ‘Touch Of Klass’, signed to Sly & Robbie’s Taxi label in 1996. The same year saw their breakthrough single, ‘Hardcore Lover’, released, but it took until 1998 – and ’When Eagles Cry’ – until they first reached the top spot in the Jamaican charts.

Fast forward a couple of years and you hit the storm that surrounded the release of ‘Chi Chi Man’. Despite the inflammatory nature of the track, the group have since mellowed and now claim to write songs intended to unite, and not divide, the people. “There is so much things going on in the world right now,” says Bay C,. “wWorld wars – all kinds of stuff going on that we feel like it’s time to bring more love in the business more thant anything that divides.”

The group hit the big time in the US in 2001 when their album “My Crew, My Dawgs” reached number 6 in the US Billboards Reggae Charts. Five years later, after being hailed by the New York Times’ Kelefa Sanneh as “the world’s greatest dancehall-reggae boy band," the album “Unknown Language” went gold in Japan and world domination beckoned ever closer.

The same year, the band released the single ‘Footprints’ on the Drop Leaf riddim, about the tragic death of Alex’s younger brother by a stray bullet. The band, who are so close that they sport matching T.O.K. tattoos on the tops of their left hands, wrote the song to comfort and encourage people going through similar tragedies.