A celebrated prolific producer, successful artists manager and an all around staunch defender of cultural roots reggae, Philip 'Fattis' Burrell, 57, died at Kingston's University of the West Indies Hospital on Saturday Dec. 3. Burrell, CEO of the Kingston, Jamaica based label Xterminator Records, suffered a stroke two weeks ago and was admitted to the hospital; his condition deteriorated last Tuesday when his doctors discovered a blood clot near his lungs; Burrell fell into a coma on Friday night from which he never recovered.
Among his innumerable accomplishments in furthering roots reggae's worldwide appeal, Burrell was the manager for prominent Jamaican sing-jay Sizzla Kalongi whose career he had steered to global (reggae) stardom since the mid-1990s. Burrell produced several of Sizzla's most lauded recordings including the 1997 album "Praise Ye Jah". Burrell's productions have also been crucial in establishing international careers for numerous Jamaican artists including Turbulence, Mikey General, and especially Luciano, considered among the finest roots reggae singers of the post Marley era.
Born in the Trench Town area of western Kingston, Burrell was raised in England but returned to Jamaica as a teenager. His production career commenced with (the late) singer Sugar Minott's 1984 single "More Dogs To The Bone", which Burrell released on his own Kings & Lions label. Two years later Burrell created the Vena imprint, releasing early works by (then) upcoming singers including Sanchez, Pinchers and Thriller U, and established acts such as Frankie Paul, Gregory Isaacs and sing-jay Charlie Chaplin. Burrell founded Exterminator (later Xterminator) in 1989 and released some of the biggest singles in Jamaica throughout the 1990s by Beres Hammond, Ninjaman, Ini Kamoze and Cocoa Tea among others.
In 1994 Burrell signed on as the manager and the primary producer for Luciano. The singer credits Burrell with encouraging him to write "songs that would be in the interest of humanity", a lyrical approach that has come to define the contemporary roots vocalist's extensive catalogue. Fattis produced Luciano's breakthrough album "Where There Is Life", released in 1995 on Chris Blackwell's short-lived Island Jamaica imprint, which was a widespread critical success. Fattis also helmed the production on Luciano's 1997 album "Messenger" which furthered the singer's enthusiastic international fan base; the two parted ways in 1999.
Fattis' productions, utilizing rock solid roots-reggae rhythms created by his house band, The Firehouse Crew, comprised of several of Kingston's best musicians sparked a roots reggae revival within Jamaica during the digital dancehall-reggae dominated 1990s.
Throughout the '00s Burrell continued to produce various albums and numerous singles for a new generation of cultural Rastafarian sing-jays including Turbulence, Lutan Fyah. Jesse Royal and Chezidek. In a Facebook posting yesterday, Chezidek referred to Burrell as "a father to I and to most culture artists in Jamaica; him push reggae and stand up for roots and culture and Rastafari music to the fullest".
In August 2011 Xterminator released two popular reggae rhythm tracks "Danger In Your Face" and "Long Day Short Night" with an especially strong turn from Sizzla on the latter, his hit single "Burn Dem Schism" co-produced by Burrell's son Kareem.
"Fattis loved that riddim and he brought it to me personally," said Ron Muschette, host of the popular morning show on Jamaica's all reggae radio station IRIE FM (107.5). This morning Muschette played songs in tribute to the life and legacy of the man whose personality could be as warm as Jamaica's tropical climate yet as intimidating as his burly 6-foot plus stature. "Fattis was a real warrior in the music business he fought for his artists; if a promoter didn't want to pay his artists, after they talked to Fattis, they always paid up!" Muschette related. "He was a great soldier and a kind man. The reggae industry has lost a whole lot; Fattis was the best".