Remembering Dirtsman, 'Hot This Year' Deejay On 30th Death Anniversary

Thursday, December 21, marked the 30th anniversary of the murder of Dirtsman, the Dancehall artist, best known for the hit song Hot This Year, who had his career cut short when four gunmen took his life in 1993.

Dirtsman, who had signed a contract with BMG, was working on an album with acclaimed producer Cleveland ‘Clevie’ Brown at the time of his death.

“We were shaken up by Dirtsman’s death,” Clevie told DancehallMag

“Not because we were doing an album, we were shaken up because there was a time when I felt the [music] industry was respected by criminals and gunmen, until over time, that changed, Tubbys got killed, Peter Tosh and so, and I said it looks like a change in the mindset of criminals. They didn’t respect us anymore, Major Worries was killed. Anytime you hear anything like that it does impact you.”

Dirtsman recorded the single Thank You on Steely & Clevie‘s 357 Magnum riddim, and Clevie had the opinion that the artist was a very promising act. “Anytime you see we decide to do an album with an artist, you know he was promising,” he said.

The Fish Market producer did not seek to release any of Dirtsman’s songs after his death.

“We are not like that, not because an artiste is dead, you run go release his songs. No, we would rather wait for years and if you want to keep that person’s legacy alive as a quality artiste, then we would do that. But when somebody just passes, you can’t try to benefit from that, no way,” Clevie said.  

Dirtsman, whose real name was Patrick Thompson, was the 27-year-old son of the owner of the Black Universal Sound System, and the brother of deejay Papa San. In the year of his death, Dirtsman scored a mega-hit with Hot This Year, produced by the late Bobby Digital.

“It was a song when you play Hot This Year at any dance, the whole place mash up,” said Ralston Barrett, a former dancehall selector cum artist manager cum publicist.

“Dirtsman was on the verge of a major breakthrough. So his death was shocking, mi did feel it as a dancehall fan, and for people who love dancehall, for people getting in tune with Dirtsman music, it was a big loss,” he added.

“When yu look at it, it makes you wonder, if he had not been killed, he had potential to go on to be a major star in dancehall music,” Barrett said.  

The dancehall industry was rocked by the death as it came only two months after that of Panhead, another promising act whose career was cut short when he was shot dead by three gunmen as he and his two other friends left a dance in Spanish Town in October 1993. That crime was never solved. 

Papa San declined DancehallMag‘s request for an interview, saying that reliving the experience “hurts too much.”

“Dirtsman’s death was a shocking thing for me and for many years it was a struggle,” he told THE STAR in 2020. “We have learned to move forward but it doesn’t mean the memory isn’t there. It happened close to Christmas, around his time of the year, which we know if he was alive he would enjoy every moment with us.”

The two were very close. During their teenage years, Papa San was nicknamed “Sand” and his brother re-christened “Dirt” which morphed into their eventual stage names. 

For months following his death, a distraught Papa San, born Tyrone Thompson, offered a monetary reward and pleaded for witnesses to come forward with any leads they had about the murder. Today, the crime still remains unsolved 30 years later.

In the three years that followed the death of his brother, Papa San experienced a number of mishaps, as his sister was killed in a motorcycle accident, while a cousin was killed by the police. Papa San was also beset with legal problems after being arrested on gun charges in 1994.

Papa San was baptized in 1999 and started doing Reggae Gospel Music. He is now an ordained Pastor in Florida with a number of gospel albums under his belt, such as Victory, God and I, Journey, Real and Personal, and Higher Heights.

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