No Matter What The People Say, King Stitt Led The Way

Order of merit to the foundation of the music. Yesterday the pioneering DJ King Stitt passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Along with Count Machuki and Lord Comic, King Stitt (a.k.a. The Ugly One) marks the beginning of rap’s evolution from Jamaican sound systems. These Jamaican MC pioneers mostly did their thing live on sounds like Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat—introducing records, getting the crowd hyped, and sprinkling in a bit of slick banter as the music played—but Stitt did record a few hot tunes of his own, notably 1969’s “Fire Corner.” Just how important was King Stitt and his fellow toastmasters? Without him there might be no Jr. Gongs or Sean Pauls—and no 50 Cents and Jay-Zs either. A strong case can be made that these gentlemen were the world’s first rappers, although they would have called what they did “toasting” or “deejaying.” When a young DJ Kool Herc migrated from “yard” to “foreign,” he brought along the practice of stringing up big sound systems, spinning records, and plugging in mics for toasting to the Bronx—and hip-hop was born. Their contributions have gone largely unheralded, although Shabba Ranks did pay Stitt tribute in his song “Respect,” shouting him out right after U Roy and Jah Youth. You see the elders them? Cool! Cool!