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Tippa Irie

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Tippa Irie

Real Name: Anthony Henry
Born: circa 1965
Place of Birth: London, UK

Raised in a south London community where the sound system business was a way of life, by the age of 13 Henry was performing with local sound systems and learning the art of chatting in rhyme by listening to Jamaican DJs on record. At 15, he was an adept MC with King Tubby's sound system in Brixton (not to be confused with the Jamaican dub maestro). Although British MCs were previously held to be inferior to their Jamaican counterparts, when dancehall took a grip on reggae in the early 80s, it coincided with the rise of the most talented "chatters" Britain had ever produced. The live recordings of sound system sessions that swept Jamaica were soon copied in London, and Tippa found himself on three live albums in 1983, Live At DSYC Volumes 1-3, recorded at London's Dick Shepherd Youth Centre. They had an enormous impact, showcasing British youngsters who were proving themselves as powerful with a rhyme as their Jamaican counterparts. When Tippa joined Saxon he was alongside the best reggae rappers in Britain, including Phillip Papa Levi, Peter King, Daddy Rusty, Daddy Colonel, Sandy, and later, Smiley Culture, Asher Senator and singer Maxi Priest.

It was the most powerful line-up any UK sound had ever assembled. In 1984, Saxon recorded a live album (Coughing Up Fire) for Greensleeves Records, who picked up Tippa for studio recordings. "Sleng Teng Finish Already", "Telephone" and "It's Good To Have The Feeling You're The Best" all sold well and gained him appearances on television shows such as Club Mix. No one expected "Hello Darling" to plant Tippa on Top Of The Pops, but the cheeky single was a smash hit. However, because it was so unexpected, it took a long time for Tippa's follow-up to arrive, and consequently, "Heartbeat" merely scraped the charts. A further attempt at chart success came with the appropriately titled "Panic Panic", with Tippa lost on a dance record. That year's album, Is It Really Happening To Me?, summed up the pressure he felt. Tippa chose to return to grass roots, and Two Sides Of Tippa Irie in 1987 found him more relaxed on album than previously: this was Tippa, ragga MC, not chart-climber. In 1988, he teamed with Jamaican ragga star Papa San to record JA To UK MC Clash, another fine, low-key album, and in 1989 issued Ah-Me-Dis, which also earned a debut American release on Miles Copeland's I.R.S. Records label. He eventually left Saxon in the summer of 1989. Meanwhile, the mainstream media kept one eye open for him, and he made several television appearances in 1988, including on BBC Television's current affairs programme Panorama, as an anti-crack spokesperson. While he might never recapture the success of "Hello Darling", Tippa can never be entirely discounted - as long as there is a lyric in his head, he will be working.

Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Copyright Muze UK Ltd. 1989 - 2005
Source - BBC Music Profiles

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