Papa San was born with the name, Tyrone Thompson, in Jamaica. He was raised by his grandmother in Spanish Town, a city located just outside of Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. While he experienced the hopelessness of a hard life, of grinding poverty and street violence, he also was exposed to the full musical qualities of Reggae music through dance, singing, which was played full blast with the help of P.A’s throughout the town on the weekends. The weekends were like block parties, which took away some of the sting of their substandard living conditions, helping the people to forget for a while, trying to escape the hopelessness of their situations.
Besides street Reggae music, artists such as Bob Marley, Dennis Brown and John Holt, as well as a wide range of American Pop and Rock music artists further influenced the very talented Tyrone, destined to be known as Papa San, the Dancehall King, in his future, as he was to create his own music genre based on the musical elements he was exposed to and his unique musical talents.
Young Tyrone’s musical gifts became evident at an early age, and he was singing and creating music at the age of 12, even performing with other artists more than twice his age. While still in his teens, Papa San enjoyed his first break through hit in the mid ’80’s, which was the beginning of his international success as the leading artist on all of the international dance charts, throughout the ’80’s and ’90’s. For Papa San had created his own unique style of Jamaican Dancehall Music, which “put a highly rhythmic and rapped spin on the traditional melodic reggae,” made famous by Bob Marley and others.
You may wonder, what exactly is Dancehall music? Papa San explains it this way; “Dancehall is really just a branch off of the Reggae tree. It was first called toasting in the early ’70’s when artists, who became referred to as DJs, began to put lyrics more to rhythms than melodies. It was built less off the keyboard and more from a hard-core beat. Rap music took a lot of inspiration from Dancehall.”
Thus, it was his “unique blend of traditional reggae sound and his intricate, mesmerizing style of rhythm and wordplay” that became popular with the mainstream Hip-Hop and Rap Circles in America. His music videos of his crowd pleasing dance tunes were frequently shown on MTV Some of his popular songs include: “The Programme,” “I Will Survive,” and “Maddy Maddy Cry.” His music videos were frequently shown on MTV, heightening his popularity in the mainstream American music market.
Despite all the success and fame and material wealth this once poor Jamaican acquired through his talent and music, and the emotional fulfillment he received through his marriage to Abigail, the love of his life, he still felt unsatisfied, like something was still missing in his life. Growing up in a Rastafarian, religiously-based home, Papa San was never told about Jesus or experienced any ministering born of the Christian faith. Living in poverty, Papa San figured that things would be great if he could get out of this hard life style by earning enough money. Papa San reflects, “As a child growing up, I always believed that if I just achieved certain material things that everything would be all right. As I became older, I had lots of success. I had lots of things, and had tried lots of things, but I never found the satisfaction I had expected.” (John 4: 13-14, John 6:35)
In 1997, when unexpected turns in his life were obviously moving him in the wrong direction, Papa San began a spiritual journey, simply by opening up a Bible, reading God’s Word. This lead to a spiritual transformation through belief in Jesus Christ, and giving his life to Jesus. Papa San explains, “The Holy Spirit started ministering to me, saying in my heart: ‘You need to get yourself straight. You have to get yourself right.’ ”
Would the Lord really forgive his sins and accept him, he wondered? “I had given some bad messages in my songs, and I myself at one time had been involved with firearms, and had run-ins with the police. I had two brothers and two sisters, and both my brothers were killed in street violence. Could God really forgive me of my sins over all the years and accept me into his Kingdom?”
With this question in his heart, Papa San and his wife “went to a church and the pastor told us about Christ. My eyes began to open and I knew that I had to receive Him, regardless of what anyone else thought or said about it.”
Trusting in the Lord, Papa San’s music added another element to his unique style, and created another form of Gospel music; A unique Gospel / Reggae/ Dancehall blend that has brought many to know and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, which has thrilled Papa San, knowing that the Lord is using him to bring the truth about Jesus to many people. Papa San explains.”I’ve gotten so much great response, and it’s only increased over time. We’ve seen thousands of people come to Christ at our concerts. Some came to the shows just to see what it would be like to hear a Gospel message put to Dancehall music. Many of them have been shocked — in a good way –at what they heard, and gotten saved in the process.”