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Linton Kwesi Johnson: Reggae's Premier Poet

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Linton Kwesi Johnson

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  • "If I Was a Top-Notch Poet"

Often hailed as the world's first reggae poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Jamaica in 1952, but moved to London in the '60s to study writing and poetry. He started releasing albums of his own poetry in 1978 with Dread Beat an' Blood. From there, he went on to release numerous collections of poetry and writing, and also to expand his horizons in the music industry, exploring the concept of poetry, spoken word and a cappella reggae.

Johnson founded his own record label, LKJ, in 1981, and has used it to promote literacy, poetry and other expression in black and Jamaican cultures. He's released many solo and compilation albums via LKJ in its 25 years of operation, as well as launching a book-publishing branch. In 2002, Johnson became the first black poet to be published by Penguin's Modern Classics, and he also released the album LKJ in Dub, Volume 3 to commemorate his 25th anniversary as a recording artist. In 2005, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him a Silver Musgrave Medal for excellence in poetry.

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