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PAPA SAN


Artist / Writer


REGGAE

Papa San Tyrone Andrew Thompson (Papa San) was born in Spanish Town in 1966. It was (and is) one of the most deprived and lawless towns in Jamaica (both his brothers were shot to death) and the daily grind was only relieved by the weekend street-corner entertainment, the Sound System. He was reared by his grandmother with Rastafarian beliefs. His father worked on the Black Universe Sound System and Pap San was performing there from the age of 12 onwards.
The early 80s in Jamaica witnessed the beginning of the first golden age of Jamaican Dancehall: music made by MCs (and singers) whose fame arose from ‘soundclashes’, where sound systems vied against each other with their MCs.
Even as a young man, Papa San was hugely influential, standing alongside older artistes like Lieutenant Stitchie, Josey Wales, Tenor Saw, Admiral Bailey, General Trees, Shinehead etc. In soundclashes, his lightning (often rude) chat and sharp (often improvised) lyrics allowed him to ‘diss’ other DJs without risk of personal injury! He MC’d with Black Scorpio, Stereosonic, Creation Sound and, later, occasionally with Downbeat (US).
One of his early hits was ‘Legal Rights’ with his protégé Lady G, a tune he did for Winston Riley (Techniques) in 1983. From then, he would record prolifically, often having multiple top 10 entries in the Jamaican charts at the same time. Other hits included ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Legal Rights’, ‘Strange and ‘Maddy Maddy Cry’. By 1988 he had done an album with Tippa Irie on Fashion (UK) called ‘JA to UK MC’. He recorded most notably with Scorpio, King Jammy and ‘Fatis’ Burrell. Scorpio’s 1990 album, ‘Style And Fashion’ is among the best of his early work.
In 1994, with David Morales, he recorded “The Program” which went to the top of the Billboard Dance Chart and made him a world ragga/hip hop name during the 90s and many emerging hip hop and reggae artistes (Capleton especially) cite him as an important musical influence.
In 1997, having had what he describes as a supernatural visitation, Papa San became a Christian. The content of his songs changed but the original style remained, though (since the album ‘Pray Fi Dem’ in 1993) the sound was becoming more hip hop/R&B than purely dancehall.

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Papa San by Westbury Music