Born in Montego Bay, Specialist grew up around reggae sound-systems, and worked with the likes of King Tubby and Bobby Digital before making records of his own. He knew that dancehall wasn’t just about music – instead it was a lifestyle with its own language, fashion, dance moves and attitude. The talent was all around him in Kingston, waiting to be discovered but it was his up-to-the-minute business, marketing and promotional skills, plus an insistence that his records must be produced, mixed and mastered to the same high standards as those by leading rap and R & B acts which made the difference.
By promoting his artists’ Caribbean roots rather than diluting them, Specialist took the dancehall genre to another level after masterminding collaborations with Queen Latifah, KRS-One, Chubb Rock, Johnny Gill, Chuck Berry and film star Eddie Murphy. Shabba Ranks’ Mr. Loverman opened up urban radio for reggae music in America, whilst he and Lady Patra became the first dancehall artists to get their videos shown on MTV, VH1 and BET. Further success then came with Ky-mani Marley – the son of reggae legend Bob Marley and a Jamaican table tennis champion. Dear Dad, a No. 1 reggae single taken from The Journey album, heralded his breakthrough in 2000. This was a cry from the heart – a song written in the form of a letter and addressed to a father he’d barely known, but whom the world had claimed for its own. Ky-mani went on to sign for major labels, record Grammy nominated albums and star in several films, including Shottas and One Love, co-starring Cherine Anderson.