- by Orantes Moore of Bashment Vibes -
Although it has been over three months since Jamaican reggae rapper Adidja ‘Vybz Kartel’ Palmer was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his friend Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams, the ramifications of the trial, verdict and sentence are still yet to be understood or felt.
Just hours after the controversial entertainer was sent to prison for a minimum of 35 years, the Jamaican police released a statement claiming that before he was arrested, Kartel told them the location of several wanted men and supplied information that led to the recovery of 17 illegal guns.
These revelations proved to be something of a shock for both his fans and critics, but strangely, they have neither soiled nor tarnished the reputation of the self-proclaimed ‘World Boss’ who has dominated the dancehall scene for the past decade.
Irrespective of the allegations, Kartel remains a hero to many. This was confirmed when I witnessed around 3,000 18-30-year-olds dancing and singing along to his music at Igloo, a popular dancehall beach party held quarterly in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Kartel’s songs were warmly received and arguably the most popular of the night.
Moreover, on the way home, I was stopped for a routine check by a local traffic cop. While examining my documents, the policeman began whistling the melody to one of Kartel’s latest hits, ‘Louis V’.
When I jokingly suggested it might be inappropriate for an officer of the law to be whistling a song written by a convicted murderer, he replied: “Maybe. But the truth is, no matter what anyone wants to say, Kartel is the ‘World Boss’”.
Nevertheless, while the man best-described as the world’s biggest unsigned rapper is probably more popular now than at any time previously, Kartel’s imprisonment will have a profound effect on Jamaican underground culture and, of course, dancehall music.
And if the truth be told; that’s not a bad thing. Although ‘rudeboy’ songs have and always will be an integral element of dancehall, over the past 20 years, dancehall has become dominated by gangster rap.
The removal of the scene’s most popular gangster rapper leaves a huge void that is unlikely to be filled anytime soon. Kartel is a difficult act to replicate or follow and it’s unlikely that his any of his peers will even want to! Instead, expect the future of dancehall to comprise new faces and sounds that will help contemporary Jamaican music expand and broaden its appeal. Look to acts such as Damian Marley, Chronixx and Protégé to inject some consciousness into a genre that for too long has been led by foolish and ignorant men with detrimentally fatal flaws.
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