Riley was born in Bronx, New York and raised in Jamaica. His father is veteran reggae singer Jimmy Riley. He made his recording debut as a teenager. In 2004, Tarrus released his debut album, Challenges. Riley has consistently racked up awards for his work. Among his accolades are Best Singer, Male Vocalist, Cultural Artiste, Song of the Year, and Best Song. Some of the awards institutions which have rewarded Riley include the Youth View Awards, The Star People’s Choice Awards, EME Awards, and the Reggae Academy awards. Tarrus Riley is the holder of Jamaica's CVM TV's 15th Anniversary Award, held in February 2009, for the ‘Most Admired Song in the Past 15 Years’ for the hit, "She’s Royal".
In 2009 Riley released his third opus Contagious on Cannon Production. The album was distributed by VP Records. It contained the hits Start Anew, Contagious, Good Girl Gone Bad featuring Konshens and Superman, a cover of a Robin Thicke original.2010 saw the release of the chart topper Protect the People, which scaled several charts in Jamaica and across the Caribbean. Early 2011 saw the release of the Black History themed Shaka Zulu Pickney which was featured on the Nyabingi rhythm from Bombrush Music. The video for the song which was directed by Storm Saulter was well received upon its release. His interest in educating the youth about Black History resulted in the Tarrus Riley Freedom Writers Competition, which ran on Jamaica’s Irie FM radio station.
2011 also saw the release of videos for two hit singles;
- Come Ova
- Never leave I
Both songs have become anthems on Jamaican radio as well as in several Caribbean territories. Riley has performed on several stages around the world. His performances have drawn credible reviews from the media in the Caribbean, North America, the United States and Europe.
Riley tours Europe once each year, performing on the major reggae festivals in several European countries. Riley's most recent high profile performances include the 2011 Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival and Roskilde Festival 2011 in Denmark, Reggae Sumfest 2010, Betty Wright and Friends in concert in Jamaica, and the Palmyra Foundation's Fundraising event. He also headlined the Hennessey Artistry show in Barbados in December 2011.
Among his accolades in 2011 were the EME Awards (Excellence in Music and Entertainment) for Vocalist of the Year Male and Cultural Artiste of the Year. Tarrus Riley also copped the 2011 Youth View Award for Cultural Artiste of the Year.