Dancehall Deejay Adidja Palmer known to the world by his stage name, Vybz Kartel, he’s always upping his game. He is currently serving a life sentence for a murder conviction in Jamaica. The conviction date of his trial was on April 3, 2014. Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams is the victim he and two of his co-conspirator were convicted of killing. While Kartel and his defense team decide their next legal strategy in court, Vybz Kartel Music continues to dominate the dancehall.
It seems as if nothing has change for Kartel in terms of his music. Sure he’s in jail but that don’t seem to stop him. Since his incarceration in 2014, his music continues to soar in the dancehall. With the unbelievable attention Kartel music has been getting, it did not come as a total surprise on Thursday February 21, 2019 when Vybz Kartel was crowned the new “King of Dancehall” by Fox 5 TV Network in New York on their morning program.
The Undisputed King
Prior to Kartel getting the virtual crown, the “King of Dancehall” crown was carried by none other than the “Doctor”,Reggae Artist Beenie Man. While Beenie Man may have owned and carried the title, now Vybz Kartel fans are saying, “Give it up, what have you done lately.” For Beenie Man, it was bad enough for the network to crown him king but to call him the “The Undisputed King” of the genre was pure madness.
Yet for Vybz Kartel it’s almost as if nothing has change in the dancehall since he was imprisoned. What continues to amaze the mass is that since his conviction over five year ago his popularity and his staying power has not yield. Even more jaw dropping is the fact that, while Kartel lawyers are appealing his sentence of 35 years and he will not be eligible for parole until 2049, his popularity and his music has soured in the dancehall and around the world.
Vybz Kartel Music continues to dominate the dancehall even though he’s sitting in jail. This goes to show that when you have a strong fan base it’s undeniable and when they identify with the messages in your music, it’s incredible. The demand for Kartel’s Music and his popularity does not come without his share of doubters and skeptics. Mainly because his lyrical messages are filled with raw and vulgar sexual expressions which are often criticized by many Jamaicans. Even though he who came out of the gangster style bad man camp of Bounty Killer (Reggae Dancehall Deejay), he has managed to build a successful career on his own. He started gaining strong notoriety since early 2000.
During the early stage of his career and after several disappointments trying to launch his career, Vybz Kartel did some ghost-writing for other reggae artist. Dancehall Deejays who were already in the music business recognized his writing style and unique lyrical twist. They were happy to hire him as a writer. By 2005, he and Boulty Killer went their separate ways. Kartel took the ride alone on his own musical journey. The deejay formed his own record label and was now in charge of his dancehall success or failure. He was now Vybz Kartel, songwriter, dancehall reggae artist and businessman.
Rise to the Top
True success started for Vybz Kartel in 2003 after having a number of hit songs in Jamaica. Some of his early hits includes songs such as “Gun Clown”, “Badman”, “War Organizer” and “Most High”. His rise to the top includes battling other top Jamaican Deejays on stage to gain more notoriety. Battling other top Jamaican Deejays on stage in front of big audiences has been a tradition in Jamaica’s dancehall culture for decades. The price for loosing a stage battle can be steep on your career and street credibility.
So who did Vybz Kartel chose to battle, none other than one of Jamaica’s roughest and toughest dancehall deejays who goes by the name of Ninjaman AKA “The Dan Gagan, Gold teeth, Gun pan teeth”, a true lyricist. To be truthful, Ninjaman happens to be one of my favorite deejays out of Jamaica . The stage battle got crazy as many of these battle does but at the end, Kartel had arrived. Today, Vybz Kartel Music is a big deal on the music scene. A few years ago after he was arrested and sitting in jail but before his conviction, Hip Hop Morgul Drake was photograph wearing a “Free Worl Boss” tee shirt referring to Kartel.
Naturally, once he started taking over the dancehall, as they say in Jamaica, “Better Mus come” and that it did. He was crowned DeeJay of the year in 2002 by reggae pioneer iconic sound system “Stone Love” at their 30th Anniversary showcase. He later got nominated for Reggae Awards. During this time many music artist around the world was reaching out to Vibz Kartel for collaborations. His light was burning bright on the music scene and his talent was in demand for his musical mind.
Collaboration, Dancehall Meets Hip Hop
Following his arrival and becoming a major player, Vybz Kartel collaborated with some of the biggest Hip Hop & R&B artist on the planet. He teamed up with the likes of Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Missy Elliott, Rhinna (Barbados), Busta Rhymes (Jamaican), Eminem, Lil Wayne and more. During this period in 2012, he co-authored a book with Michael Dawson titled “The Voice Of The Jamaican Ghetto“. The book highlighted a powerful point “Babylon can incarcerate the messenger but not the message” in dealing with social justic.
However, several Jamaicans thought the message was delivered by the wrong messenger and therefore could not be taken seriously. But for some of the Ghetto Youths, the sufferers, the fighters who felt like they were living in a “Tribal War and Babylon System” and only the strong survive, the message was loud and clear. The Youths message to the “Worl Boss” is “nuh seh nutin (Don’t say anything, we get it).” Well, Princeton University got it too, the book was endorsed by the prestigious Princeton University and adopted in their libraries.
The endorsement by Princeton University have led to international media coverage and international interest from many countries around the world. However, the book was not welcome with open arms in Jamaica. While some major book stores on the island carried the book, many book stores mainly uptown Kingston refused it. These stores in uptown Kingston refused to promote this controversial artist. The persons managing the uptown stores felt that if they sold his book, it could be seen as a sign of approval of his negative influence on a Jamaican society that has been tarnished with negativity.
So while Michael Dawson and Vybz Kartel were receiving invitations from several international universities to lecture on the book, the Jamaican community at large was not one of them. Even though a prominent voice on the topic would be Professor Carolyn Cooper, who teaches Literary and Cultural Studies from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Kingston Jamaica. Professor Cooper says, “He has become an example of an attempt of a society to rid itself of a negative element.” Professor Cooper went on to say, “As strange as it may sound, I hope you do not enjoy this book. I hope it disturbs you. I hope after reading you realized there is something wrong with Jamaica that needs to be fixed. I hope you will never look at a ghetto person the same again.”
As an educator and to better understand the minds of certain parts of the dancehall culture and what some of the ghetto youths are thinking, Professor Cooper hosted Vybz Kartel on the Kingston Campus in 2011. From that exchange, Professor Cooper received plenty of negative press. Many Jamaicans viewed the question and Answer session as giving a platform to someone who is part of the problem in Jamaica. However, Professor Cooper knows there are real problems in ghettos around the world that’s not going away, so the best way to solve any problem is to face it and have a discussion.
Public Judge and Jurors
With rising fame and fortune, comes public judge, jurors and persecution. Reggae Star Vybz Kartel and other celebrity knows that public scrutiny comes with the territory of being rich and famous. According to the Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper, Vybz Kartel states that even though he is locked up, “He is already working on a follow-up to his book, The Voice Of The Jamaican Ghetto.”
Therefore, the saga continues for Vybz Kartel who did not help his case with his controversial lyrical contents in his music. Many saw his dancehall deejay style as cocky and outrageous. Now that he has been convicted of murder, Mr. Palmer may have confirmed the people’s fear. While he have always taken on his critics with his self promotion as “World Boss” which further irritates others, the story continues.
Persons were overheard after his conviction saying, “Yuh Retch yuh, mek mi si yu get weh dis time (You are smart, let me see you get away this time) and the sentiment of uptown Kingston was “You si weh wi a seh, the Bwoy was up to nuh good (you see what we were saying, the boy was up to no good).” But the man from the Portmore Area, the area he named the “Gaza” knows there are lots of well wishers and supporters rooting for him from the Gaza and across the world.
Vybz Kartel Music have taken him on a great ride. He has been nominated for several music awards including VIBE, Source, and UK MOBO Awards. His collaboration with Reggae Artist Wayne Marshall which produced the video for the song “New Millennium/Why” has aired on international music TV including USA music giant MTV.
As Vybz Kartel became more successful, it brought further separation and dancehall rifts between him and other reggae artist including Mavado. The separation got to the point where the youths from various schools took sides with Mavado or Vybz Kartel. The youths supporting Mavado considered their school “Gully” while the youths supporting Vybz Kartel saw their schoTupic Shakurols as “Gaza”.
The disagreement between him and Mavado have carried over into other Caribbean islands which led to some violence. Over the years, many artist with a strong fan base, have experienced this kind of disagreement and saw the violence trickle down to their fan base. Their disagreement was similar to the “East Coast -vs- West Coast” riveraly in the USA with the late Biggie Smalls and the late . Vybz Kartel and Mavado influence on the youths around the island and in other parts of the world has been so significant that in 2009 the Jamaican Government called a meeting between Kartel and Mavado and asked them to stop the war.
Since the meeting with the government, both artists have made strides to move away from the war lyrics. Vybz Kartel lyrics started focusing on the ladies while Mavado lyrics are more focus on uplifting people. Even though both artist go astray from time to time by stepping on someone toes “mash smady kaan”, it’s great to know that they were both willing to listen to reasons for the betterment of the youths.
On the other hand, even with hot music tracks and lyrics, to command success there is still the business side of the music. That business side requires knowledge in the music business, it requires great timing in the music market, it requires a strong base camp who can push the music while building the brand. There is no question that success in the music business comes with having a strong sense of the business and the payoff is even greater when you have an artist that connects with their fan base.
Vybz Kartel formed his own label Adidjahiem/Notnice Records along with his partner and producer Ainsley “Notnice” Morris. Then in 2008, he and another business partner came up with their own liquor called “Street Vybz Rum”. He has a shoe line name “Addi” as well as a soap line “Cake Soap”. Vybz Kartel hosted his own reality show “Teachea’s Pet”, with major sponsor(s). He started “Daggering Condoms” his own condom line and in 2010 he announced his partnership in “Media Vybz” website.
Now that Vybz Kartel is in prison serving a very long sentence, his business more so than ever will need good management. While complications are a natural part of business, its always good to have someone who is familiar with the business to be in charge. One can imagine that Kartel should have some ease knowing that his lady Tanesha ‘Shorty’ Johnson is that person who is overseeing the business side of his music. Ms Johnson who operates the label “Short Boss Muzik” along with his producers ensure Vybz Kartel Music gets out to his fan base which will keep him in the spotlight for as long as there is a demand.
The Next Chapter Unfolds
As the next chapter unfolds in the life of Vybz Kartel, no one can predict the future. However, it was a great start on his part when he asked the public for calm as the word got to him that members of the media were getting death threats. Vybz Kartel issued a statement saying, “I hold no ill-well to anyone who was involved in my trial”. He urged his supporters to stay calm and respect the judicial system and the media.