Dancehall singjay Half Pint recorded some of the genre’s early classics during the first half of the ’80s. His appeal outside Jamaica was somewhat limited by his willingness to repeat simple musical ideas, but the best of his work was frequently brilliant. He was the first major artist produced by Prince Jammy (later King Jammy), and together they helped establish a lighter, more relaxed, more melodic approach to dancehall that made for an easy transition into the digital ragga era. While Half Pint’s subject matter was mostly romantic, he also offered the occasional conscious lyrics, which for a time made him an exception in the dancehall world among both singers and DJs (his vocal delivery contained elements of both styles, but was weighted more toward the former).Half Pint was born Lindon Roberts (though he’s also been credited on albums as Lyndon, Linford, Linton, and London) on November 11, 1961. He grew up in the Rose Lane area of West Kingston, and earned his future stage name early on for his small size. He first sang in his school choir, and after finishing school in 1976, he set about trying to break into the music industry. He paid his dues by touring with various sound systems for several years, and in 1983, he finally landed a shot in the recording studio with Prince Jammy, then a protégé of King Tubby who was just starting to establish his own career. Half Pint’s debut single, “Sally,” was released that year, and its follow-up, “Winsome,” became his first hit. More hits — chiefly for Jammy — followed over the next two years: “Money Man Skank,” “One in a Million,” “One Big Family,” “Pouchie Lou,” the socially conscious “Mr. Landlord,” and the all-time dancehall classic “Level the Vibes.” His first mini-album, Money Man Skank, appeared in Jamaica in 1984, and was followed by the U.K.-only LP One in a Million later that year.In 1985, Half Pint accompanied Sly & Robbie on their international Taxi Gang tour, and subsequently cut several singles for them: the hit “Night Life Lady,” “Hold On,” and “World Inflation.” Later that year, he moved on to work with producer George Phang, which resulted in his signature song, “Greetings.” A pacesetter for the new ragga style (i.e., all-digital productions), “Greetings” was an enormous hit and stills ranks as a dancehall classic. Half Pint followed it with another classic in “Cost of Living,” and issued an album called Greetings; some of the same territory was covered by the international release Victory, which was titled after his subsequent Jamaican chart-topper. Word of Half Pint’s music started to spread beyond reggae fans; in 1986, the Rolling Stones covered his early hit “Winsome” on their Dirty Work album, under the new title “Too Rude.”With dancehall tastes shifting toward slack and violent material by the late ’80s, Half Pint found his bright, amiable style slipping behind the times. He continued to record steadily, but his commercial success declined at a rapid pace. He was able to recapture the public’s attention in 1992 thanks to the smash hit “Substitute Lover,” which took its place among his finest singles. However, he spent much of the rest of the ’90s away from the recording studio, during which time several compilations were released (including VP’s eponymous set from 1997, which covered many of his best-known songs). Meanwhile, another rock band covered one of his songs — this time Sublime, with their 1996 version of “Loving.” Half Pint finally returned to action with 1998’s full-length Legal We Legal, and followed it two years later with Closer to You.
– Steve Huey