Along with Buju Banton and Sizzla, Capleton spearheaded dancehall's return to reggae tradition, tackling Rastafarian spiritual themes and using classic roots reggae as a musical foundation. Capleton was born Clifton George Bailey III on April 13, 1967, in the rural town of Islington, in Jamaica's St. Mary parish. Capleton's namesake was a prominent local lawyer, and young Clifton earned that nickname as a verbally gifted youth with a similar talent for logical argument. He also loved music, counting both Bob Marley & the Wailers and dancehall DJ Papa San as early favorites, and sneaking into sound system shows at age 12. At 18, he moved to Kingston in hopes of starting a music career, and performed with several small sound systems before catching on with Stewart Brown's African Star, a combination sound system and label with connections in both Jamaica and Toronto. Visiting the latter in 1989, Capleton shared a concert bill with the hugely popular Ninjaman, and impressed enough that he was offered the chance to record with major producer Philip "Fatis" Burrell upon his return to Jamaica.