YELLOWMAN Biography - Musicians


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Name: Yellowman                                                                                       
Birth name: Winston Foster                                                                             
Also known as King Yellowman                                                                           
Born: 1959 Negril, Jamaica                                                                             
Yellowman (born Winston Foster in Negril, Jamaica in 1959) is a Jamaican reggae                       
(raggamuffin) and dancehall deejay, widely known as King Yellowman. He was                             
popular in Jamaica in the 1980s, coming to prominence with a series of singles                         
that established his reputation.                                                                       
Winston Foster grew up in a Catholic orphanage called Alpha Boys School in                             
Kingston, and was shunned due to having albinism, which was usually not socially                       
accepted in Jamaica. Alpha Boys School was known for its musical alumni. In                           
the late 1970s Yellowman first gained wide attention when he won a contest event                       
in Kingston, Jamaica called "Tastee Patties" where DJ's would perform toasting.                       
Like many Jamaican DJ's, he honed his talents by frequently performing at                             
outdoor sound-system dances. In 1981, after becoming significantly popular                             
throughout Jamaica, Yellowman became the first dancehall artist to be signed to                       
a major American label (CBS Records). One reviewer of Yellowman was quoted                             
as saying "Listening to Yellowman sing is like watching Michael Jordan play                           
basketball. He knows he's got it, you know he's got it, and it's a trip just                           
experiencing him perform"                                                                             
Over time he became regarded by some as a sex symbol and even managed to gain                         
fortune and fame by directing attention to his physical skin complexion in                             
several of his songs. His                                                                             
first album release was in 1982 entitled "Mister Yellowman" followed by "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng"     
in 1983 earning instant success. Yellowman's sexually explicit lyrics in popular                       
songs such as "Them a Mad Over Me" boasted of his sexual prowess, like those of                       
other reggae singers/deejays, earned Yellowman criticism[attribution needed] in                       
the mid-1980s. Yellowman appeared in Jamaican Dancehall Volcano Hi-power 1983                         
which featured other major dancehall musicians such as Massive Dread, Josey                           
Wales, Burro Banton and Eek-A-Mouse.                                                                   
Yellowman has had a substantial influence on the world of hip hop. He is widely                       
credited for leading the way for the succession of reggae artists that were                           
embraced by the growing hip-hop community in America during the 1980's. The                           
basic riddim of his hit Zungguzungguguzungguzeng can be traced throughout the                         
hip hop scene as it was reused by such hip hop giants as KRS-One, Notorious B.I.G.,                   
Tupac Shakur, and Blackstar, formed by Mos Def and Talib Kweli. This riddim                           
introduced by Yellowman in this song was referred to by him as "mad mad." There                       
has been a constant renaming of this signature beat, such as "disease," which                         
incorporates both hip-hop aspects as well as the apparent Jamaican influences.                         
Yellowman changed the melodic phrasing of this riddim from AA to AB, when he                           
began ending the second line in the chorus on a higher note. Many of the                               
previously mentioned artists composing songs based on Yellowman's original                             
riddim differed in their choice of using either the AA or AB pattern.                                 
Yellowman is just one example of the influence that reggae stars had on America's                     
hip hop community. Though an incredibly successful and famous Dancehall deejay,                       
Yellowman is recognized by his opponents as being both a controversial and                             
sexist artist. Though this controversial pace has slowed over the years, he is                         
still known as one of the most rude Dancehall toasters of his time.                                   
By the mid-1990s however, Yellowman released socially-conscious material, rising                       
to international fame along with singers such as Buju Banton. Yellowman became                         
the island's most popular deejay despite being albinistic. During the early 1980s,                     
Yellowman had over 40 singles and produced up to five albums per year. His                             
success is seen by some as a rags to riches story.                                                     
In 1986, Yellowman struggled with cancer of the jaw and it was suspected that he                       
had only 6 months to live, but surgery saved his life. This has gave him a more                       
serious approach to his music, but like the struggles of his early days, he has                       
not let these difficulties stand in the way of his aspirations. Yellowman had                         
taken an extended leave from recording but came back with Blueberry Hill. He re-invented               
himself with his 1994 album Prayer, and since the mid-1990s he has devoted his                         
time to spiritual and social concerns. His latest albums are New York (2003) and                       
Round 1 (2005). Yellowman was also a guest singer on the Run-DMC track "Roots                         
Rap Reggae",[clarify] on which he did most of the vocals. Yellowman continues to                       
perform internationally with his Sagittarius Band, and has toured through places                       
such as Peru, Italy, Germany, England, France, and the United States. He is one                       
of the widest-touring artists in the reggae industry.