One of the most unappreciated artists in the UK, Tippa Irie is a true UK dancehall legend, having been a part of the legendary Saxon Sound System, Tippa Irie is one of the most successful and influential UK dancehall artists of all time, with his influence going far beyond the UK, and even dancehall, influencing a whole generation of upcoming artists.
Born Anthony Henry, Tippa Irie was born in Jamaica, later moving to London, growing up in Brixton.
He grew up watching his father’s ‘Musical Messiah’ soundsystem, falling in love with the sound of the music and the sound of the artists including Dennis Brown and Dillinger, that featured on his father’s soundsystem.
It wasn’t long before a young Tippa was also working on his father’s soundsystem. His talent was quickly recognised and invitations to perform for other local South London soundsystems quickly followed.
Tippa Irie recorded his first single ‘ The Opposite’ at age 17 with Sir Lloyd on the LGR record label, his first big break quickly followed with an invite to join King Tubby’s Sound (another legendary UK soundsystem).
Tippa Irie would stay at King Tubby’s Sound for a couple of years, really honing his skills as a deejay. At this point he was spotted by Dennis Rowe and Lloyd Francis from Saxon Sound System, who were both amazed by Tippa’s talent. An invite to join Saxon Sound quickly followed.
At this time Saxon Sound boasted an incredible amount of talent with artists like Maxi Priest, Papa Levi, Smiley Culture, Miss Irie, Daddy Colonel, Daddy Rusty, Roger Robin, Peter King and many more, featuring on the soundsystem.
Saxon Sound sessions around this time were recorded on cassette tapes, as they circulated, the popularity of the soundsystem quickly grew, with the soundsystem becoming famous across the world. It wasn’t long before major labels like Virgin, Greensleeves, Island, Ariwa and Fashion started to become interested in the artists on the soundsystem.
Greensleeves quickly offered Tippa Irie a contract which he accepted and followed up with a string of hits which were released on the UK Bubblers imprint. Including ‘Complain Neighbour’, ‘Heartbeat’ , ‘It’s Good To Have The Feeling You’re The Best’ and ‘Jus’ A Speak’ which featured Daddy Colonel.
‘Complain Neighbour’, ‘It’s Good To Have The Feeling You’re The Best’ and ‘Heartbeat’ would go on to feature on his 1986 debut album ‘Is It Really Happening To Me’.
‘Is It Really Happening To Me’ also featured the smash hit single ‘Hello Darling’ which would soar to number one on the UK reggae charts, number 22 on the pop charts and was a hit across Europe and the Caribbean.
In 1988 Fashion Records issued ‘JA To UK MC Clash, Vol 2.’ which was a recorded soundclash between Tippa Irie and Papa San, it was an extremely popular and influential release, especially with upcoming US rappers and producers, who were becoming increasingly familiar with Tippa Irie through bootleg tapes of Saxon Sound sessions.
In 1989 Tippa Irie would hit the number one spot on the UK reggae charts twice with ‘Ragamuffin Girl’ featuring Peter Hunnigale and ‘Superwoman’ featuring Winsome.
In the same year, Tippa Irie released the ‘Ah-Me-Dis’ album on US label I.R.S Records, which was followed in 1990 by the release of ‘Original Raggamuffin’ on the Island Records imprint Mango.
The 90s were another great decade for Tippa Irie, seeing the release of the incredible ‘Rebel On The Roots Corner’ with Mad Professor in 1994. He even recorded the single ‘Shouting for the Gunners’ in 1993 alongside with Peter Hunnigale, which went on to reach number 34 in the UK pop charts.
Tippa Irie also scored two big hits alongside Lloyd Brown with ‘Stress’ and ‘It’s A Love Thing’
In 1999, Tippa Irie even went on to join California rock-reggae crew Long Beach Dub All-Stars on their album ‘Right Back’.
In 2003, Tippa Irie was contacted by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, Tippa Irie would go on to provide writing and vocal assistance for the smash hit single ‘Hey Mama’. He would also go on to work on their next album ‘Monkey Business’ on the track ‘Dum Diddley’.
Tippa Iries most recent album came in 2016 with ‘Living The Dream’, which features of a mix of Hip Hop, Soca, Pop, Afro-Beat and Dancehall, with Tippa Irie once again linking up with Peter Hunnigale on ‘Friends Will Say’.
Tippa Irie is perhaps the most successful dancehall artist to ever come out of the UK, he has influenced such a wide range of musicians, both in the UK and internationally, with Tippa Irie working with dubstep producers to pop groups, he has truly done it all and has flown the flag for dancehall the entire time. Tippa Irie is a true dancehall icon that is massively underappreciated, he has made some incredible music and his influence will live on for a long time to come.