BY: SONNY PINKNEY
In life, some children will follow directly in their parents footsteps to enter the same passion as the parent. Whether it’s in the world of sports, entertainment and/or other professions. For example, Bobby and Barry Bonds; Dell and Stephen Curry; Will and Jaden Smith—to reggae artist, Junior Toots a.k.a. Clayton Hibbert; as he followed the same career path as his father, Toots Hibbert, Sr. (of Toots and the Maytals).
The Jamaican born artist sat down in a rare interview with feedbackthemagazine.com to provide an insight on growing up with his legendary father, who inspired him as an artist.
In his early years, Clayton was reared on a farm in Jamaica being raised by his grandparents, who he described as ‘amazing people’ in the town of St. Mary. Some of his day-to-day responsibilities were caring for goats, cows, chickens, pigs, donkeys, mules and horses.
Junior Toots stated, “Jamaica is a really amazing place, it’s like a hidden treasure. Everyone definitely should take a stop in Jamaica whenever you can.”
Clayton, who released his last album titled “Guidance Star” in 2015 features some international producers is an Oakland, California community-based album.
“It was good creating the “Guidance Star” album, because it’s a lot of things going on right know in the news, in reality and in life. I’m going through it, you’re going through it, everybody’s going through it. So, the “Guidance Star” album is an album basically to give some advice to the youth. And to remind myself to stay guided up.” Toots said.
Arriving in the United States at the age of 14-years-old, Clayton revealed that he always wants to remain connected to the American audience, when it pertains to the sound of his music. Because of his hip-hop influences (e.g., EPMD, Big Daddy Kane and Beastie Boys) he wants to speak the language of the young people.
“I was really inspired and really comfortable in a hip-hop zone is what I’m trying to say. I started doing hip-hop [and] rapping before I even started singing roots again. I just went back to my roots and my culture, but before that I was exploring doing hip-hop, rap and R&B. So, I’m comfortable doing hip-hop truthfully. Hibbert admitted.
Junior disclosed to feedbackthemagazine.com that his father, Toots Hibbert, Sr. who captured a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2004 has been an integral influence on his life. His father instilled hard work and discipline both professionally and personally.
“We’re really close like brothers, but a father-son [type] relationship. My dad has a good sense of humor, but one of the most inspirational things that he gave to me was hard work. My dad works hard constantly working, he’s always working and is kind to people.” Junior Toots shared.
While, some individuals may compare Junior Toots to his father, Clayton wants to carve a niche for himself as a performer. After all he’s his father’s son, however, he wants to remain true to himself.
“I don’t think, I’ll ever be like my dad. My dad is like a perfectionist in his own right—in his age group and in his generation, so he’s one-of-a-kind.” Toots said.
He added: “I just set out to do my thing and be a legend in my time—and to work hard at my craft.”
Junior, who has been performing for over two decades, launched his own independent record label, Crown of Fire records in 2006. Citing his desire to forge his own path and control his own destiny, since its so many talented individuals that’s trying to enter an industry vying for a major record deal.
“A lot of people, if they don’t get signed with a big label, they get stressed out… and get frustrated. Some people go into depression. It takes time… If you work hard, and set a plan, know what you’re doing and pace yourself. –Going the independent route is definitely a good way to it. If you have a lifetime goal, [or] lifetime achievement that you really want to do and really love music, you should set up your own thing.” Hibbert believes.
The “Praise Jah” singer opened for the late-Notorious B.I.G. in California after winning a radio-station contest on 92.3 FM (The Beat) Home Jams in Los Angeles. Toots recollected that he was in awe of the Brooklyn native.
Toots recalled “It was a big deal to me [meeting Biggie Smalls] I was a little starstruck.”
During his high school years, Clayton was a dance and choreography teacher to earn some extra cash. It was during this time that he was a regular on MTV during the Downtown Julie Brown era.
The artist explained: “It was good… I would take part in the show. I’d be an extra on the show. Sometimes I got a lot of spotlight…It was a big deal in high school.”
After years of touring, with his father’s group “Toots and the Maytals”, Junior made the decision to focus on his solo career. Starting in 2006, when he released the single “Dangerous” which catapulted in the underground scene. As well as the single “Jah is Real,” which rocketed to number one on many stations including KLRN in Miami, Florida.
Junior Toots released his latest single in 2018 “Love the Herbs” which he wrote, because he wants to maintain a connection with his American fans. More importantly, Junior feels that the children need some direction.
“I want to stay connected to the American audience as much as possible and there’s a lot of youth’s right know that need guidance. And, so I make sure that I get some hip-hop tracks in there. Just so I can speak the language of the youth’s and communicate with them. And express the frustration [that] I’m feeling through hip-hop, so I stay connected to the youth, so people can relate more.” Toots disclosed.