YT Wednesday, July 19 together with Zion Train In the Dub Dubaboom Festival area
Bio The Suffolk town of Ipswich is not where you would expect to find the next big thing in UK reggae, but this is the reality of the youth called Mark Hull aka YT. Taking the head-on approach to dealing with his colour – hence the name, and having a background in reggae music and Jamaican culture since he was a little kid –“I grew up with Digital (drum and bass producer) and his dad ran a sound system and so I knew all the tunes from there”, this is someone who lives and breathes reggae music and is bringing a fresh perspective that will help spread the reggae message far and wide.
Growing up on a diet of Saxon sound tapes and practising the lyrics of 80’s UK veteran deejays such as Tippa Irie, Papa Levi, Asher Senator and Smiley Culture, as well as Jamaican artists like Papa San and Yellowman it gave the young Mark an education in reggae lyrics and how to flow over a beat. Listening to all those veteran artists and sneaking into local dances and soundclashes, YT saw for himself how the reggae scene worked and appreciated the standard that you needed to have to take the microphone and not get booed off at a dance.
“That is really where I studied the lyrics and learnt how to tackle subjects and them times if you could chat lyrics from a Papa San or an Asher Senator song then that was real skills as they were some complicated lyrics! What they were talking about at that time really inspired me, the message of what they were saying – the whole life experience thing was deep and I had a lot to say on that level from my own life”
As a youth YT used to practise on the mic at a local sound man’s house, and so people in the area started to talk about this white kid who had some skills, then one night in 1988 the local Ipswich sound Ashanti was playing a London sound called Field Marshall and one of the Ashanti crew called him up to take the mic, and despite being totally nervous and rigid with fear, YT performed in front of a crowd for the first time – did his lyrics and the place went “proper mad”. From that night, YT was part of the sound and served a proper apprenticeship – lifting speaker boxes at dances and chatting whenever the sound was playing out.
At the local dances everyone was starting to recognise the white deejay, but he still had to prove himself to a new crowd every time they went to London or Luton or the next venue, but despite the obvious “who is the white guy hanging round the sound?” comments, he never got any real bad vibes and anyone who was off-key with him was always cool once he had come off the stage. “No one ever really dissed me properly – apart from in a clash but you can’t take that seriously as that is what clashing is all about.”
In 1992 YT went into the studio for the first time with Dennis Rootical in Brixton and the session resulted in his first record called ‘Cris Biscuit Gal’ which came out on a white label. In 1993/94 he linked Patrick Donnegan at Progressive Sounds in Battersea and this partnership produced two 7”s on the Shock Out label ‘Pedestal’ and ‘Identification’. All the while YT was travelling on the road performing at dances and all the carnivals around the UK and refining his talent. In 1995 on his travels he met up with Jack Reuben and The Riddler, and a young Seanie T and they worked together for the next little while. The next stop for some studio time was with Stingray, which is one of the big London labels and it worked out that the link from here would eventually take YT to Jamaican studios a couple of years later, as Stingray’s cousin is Bobby Digital, and they were linked to Freddy McGregor as well.
By 1998 YT had decided that the best way to get his music out there was to produce it himself and he hooked up with another local Ipswich producer Nathaniel – known as NJC and a good working relationship was established – they went on to set up Sativa Records in 2003 with Digital and Innerheart. This label was to be a forum for all styles of music they were into – not just reggae and so far it has released more than 5 singles – an impressive catalogue for a young independent label.
In 1999, the opportunity to visit Jamaica arose and YT went to check out how things worked out there and to see if he could make any progress through his Stingray links.
“At first it was just long..I got the full on ‘check me tomorrow’ treatment and sat outside for 2 days until my head was proper sunburnt. I went to check Big Ship and Freddy McGregor and that was totally different – as soon as they heard me, they voiced me on four tunes. ARP were voicing too and they said they wanted me on their tune at the next studio that night – so I met them and Lady Saw was in there as well, so I met her. The next time I went to Jamaica I linked ARP first thing and they took me round all the studios and introduced me and brought me in with them which was vital – if it had been me on my own I would probably still be sitting outside (laughs), because that’s how it is – if no