Justin Yap

Biography by

b. Philip Stanford Yap, 23 May 1944, Kingston, Jamaica West Indies, d. 23 July 1999, New York, USA. While producers such as Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid are acknowledged for their contribution to the development…
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Artist Biography by

b. Philip Stanford Yap, 23 May 1944, Kingston, Jamaica West Indies, d. 23 July 1999, New York, USA. While producers such as Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid are acknowledged for their contribution to the development of the Jamaican recording industry, Yap’s involvement was not properly recognised until the 90s. Yap was a Chinese Jamaican who set up the Top Deck sound system with his brother Ivan in the Barbican district of Kingston, in the back of his parent’s ice-cream parlour. In 1962, Justin and another brother Duke embarked on recording sessions at the renowned Federal Studios with artists such as Larry Marshall (‘Snake In The Grass’), Jackie Opel (‘Tears From My Eyes’), alongside the lesser-known and Andy And The Avalons (‘Never Too Young To Learn’). Yap also rewarded his personal friend Ferdie Nelson by allowing him to record a few tracks that later featured on the retrospective Love To Share. At the same sessions, Yap recorded trumpeter Baba Brooks’ instrumental ‘Distant Drums’, which became a minor hit. Yap was subsequently introduced to the Skatalites, with whom he taped an all-night session in November 1964 at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One. The results included classic tracks such as ‘Skaravan’, ‘Confucius’ and ‘Chinatown’, which later appeared on the Skatalite’s Ska Boo-Da-Ba. Yap also enjoyed hits with Jackie Mittoo (‘Warlock’), Lynn Taitt (‘Ska Ta Shot’) and B.B. Seaton And The Astronauts (‘Sweet Dreams’, ‘Please Beverly’ and ‘No More Will I Wander’), and also produced ‘Come Back Pretty Baby’, a track performed by the unfamiliar Schoolboys who went on to become the Wailing Souls. In 1967, Yap emigrated to the USA and a year later was serving for his host nation in Vietnam. On his return he worked in computing and as a taxi cab driver up to his death from liver cancer in July 1999. Inspired by the ska boom of the mid-90s in the USA, Yap and Jamaican producer Donald ‘Clive’ Davidson began cleaning up the master tapes from Top Deck’s back catalogue. They secured a distribution contract with London, England’s Westside Records to effectively redress what they considered as the ‘largely neglected contribution to the ska from the Top Deck stable’. With his consent the distributor plundered his back catalogue and released numerous CDs that acknowledged Yap’s position in the history of the Jamaican recording industry.