In the flow with dancehall pioneer Sugar Minott
Roots & culture reggae artists, by default, have one of the strongest “political” campaigns of musically advocating legalization of the weed. With the accuracy and frequency of a rub a dub missile, the genre has repeatedly produced a highly potent strain of talented musicians, singers and songwriters gifted with the ability to mobilize the masses locally and internationally to join in the march against the oppression of ganga. Operation Free de Herb has been led by many reggae front men. Lincoln “Sugar” Minott is one of the genres long-standing generals.
Heads Lifestyle: How does the herb impact your music?
Sugar Minott: Well, it keeps you in a meditation, you understand, first thing. Keep calm and hold a medi(tation) to get certain lyrics and all those things. So I build up a nice spliff of the good Indica, of the good sensi. Thoughts just flow and you have no time to think about negative things. Just think positive you know, so it goes. For the younger ones… they might not be able to manage it too much, but I and I from dem time till now know it’s the healing of the nation (laughs). We endorse it and we pass it and we say legalize it (laughs). Straight man, it’s for real, serious.
Sugar Minott’s Herbman Hustling and Oh Mr. D.C. (Deputy Constable) reminds society that definitions and values may change depending on which side of the tracks you reside. The songs paint the picture for listeners in Minott’s classic Studio One/Sir Coxson Dodd-produced tracks, which depict any given herb hustler’s daily routine intended to provide life’s necessities for self and family.
SM: 'Cause it’s like the people are depending on this to send their children to school. A lot of those youths have grown into good adults now, you know? Just out of that, you know?
HL: A song like D.C.…
SM: It’s reality. I grew up in a ghetto named Maxfield Park. There was a man named Bufu; he used to go for herb every weekend. On Fridays, if we don’t see him by 7 o’clock, we knew (laughs). Later we would get a call from some (police) station down in Westmoreland saying that they’ve held Bufu, and we have to go for him. So, out of all those things those songs come forward, you see it? Same “fifty cents a stick & a dollar a quarter” (citing lyrics from his song Oh Mr. D.C.). So the song comes from a thing that really happened. It’s not fiction, the real thing.
HL: Any DJ with a decent knowledge of reggae knows that most ganga tunes will get a good response from a (reggae) crowd, two of which are your own classic titles. Any new herb songs to release?
SM: We have a new herb song titled Wan me wan me sensi.
HL: And it goes like…
“Wan me wan me wan me
Wan me wan me wan me
Wan me high grade tonight
Everybody’s smoking it
I don’t care what they say
Most people need de high grade everyday
The officers stop and stare
I can see their faces
I’ll smoke my high grade
I’ll smoke it anywhere
Let me take it from the top again…I say…”
(Stops to relight his spliff while humming the lyrics)
HL: What part of Jamaica has the strongest herb?
SM: Westmoreland, man! Orange Hill, man! Westmoreland thing! Don’t care where you go all over the world, over the whole world! Westmoreland, trust me, high grade. This don’t taste bad still… it’s a Canadian thing, but (laughs) you know how it goes. It’s been a long time that I’ve wanted to light up my spliff. All the time they're telling me to put away my spliff, but we nah mass it, we pass it and endorse it! Seen, and we floss it, every time. We are the original herbalist, Herbman Hustling, you understand?
(Re-lights his slow burning spliff one more time.)
Ganga, regarded as a holy sacrament to Rastafarians has not gone untouched throughout the times. “Seasoned spliffs” began taking a toll as crack spread throughout North American inner cities as well as the Caribbean. A few reggae artists have been broken by the effects of the drug, receiving their fair share of public ridicule and derailed careers. Musically inspired by the topic, soldier Minott gleefully stages another musical attack:
“Coming from the country, I man no deal wid de coke
Strictly sensi weh me smoke
You know seh; I man nuh deal wid de coke, no!
Rasta nuh run dem deh joke, hea!
If you see me wid cocaine
It will damage fi me brain
You must be feeling insane
I won’t be going down the drain
Heah, I man nuh deal wid de coke
Ah strictly sensimillia me ah smoke”
(Takes another puff.)
SM: This thing makes clothes and medicine, you understand? It’s the healing of the nation. This thing sends all the people in countries they call third world countries, the first world countries to me, you know… sends their kids to school and all those things. So anytime we sing about it in the music, it’s not like we’re promoting drugs ‘cause we don’t call this drugs. This is natural plant without any addition to it. Just like JAH grew it, you done know. Seen? Yeah man, you know Sugar Minott is an herbalist.
Sugar Minott has stayed the course trailblazed by other soldiers of the reggae army fighting in the name of love for the most high, justice, equality, world peace, and of course the weed. Notables like Peter Tosh, Jacob Miller, and Culture have all potted potent hits with songs singing praises of the good all spice such as Legalize it, Tired fi lick weed (inna bush) and International herb. Music is Sugar Minott's weapon of choice. Backstage there are no weapons of destruction to be found, only a cloud of smoke, literally speaking… rather smoking.
SM: You understand me? That’s how it goes! Bob Marley used to tell you about it, now I’m telling you ‘bout it. High grade, straight.
Listen on Spotify
Beat the heat. Listen to a selection of favourite Sugar Minott tracks hand picked by Heads Lifestyle. Check out Herbman Hustling Mix on Spotify.
Herbman Hustling was originally published in Heads Magazine Vol.5 Issue 3, 2005