eric olthwaite wrote:
Listening to a Vybz Kartel hour on NTS on the train this morning. Ultimate example of the kind of homophobic, misogynist, violent arsehole any sense of social responsibility would tell you to steer clear of but, well, bangin' tunes
Aye, a problem we've frequently encountered at the mag over the years with certain reggae/dancehall bods: do we continue to write about artists who drop [say] homophobic lyrics? Can we really ignore them unless they recant... when their tunes [the majority of which do not contain such lyrics] are at the top of the reggae/dancehall charts and they are the island's hottest property. Can we really pretend they don't exist? Our reggae audience obviously knew otherwise and would sell out tickets to their UK live shows.
A lot of the most notorious homophobes did amend their ways after the international outcry against them in the nineties/early 2000s, but generally to protect their image/sales abroad rather than deciding that they actually had nowt against the batty men dem. [From their angle, they were, after all, only sticking to the religious teachings we white Christians instilled in them when we made them slaves. And Jamaica is still a way more homophobic society than we see here, so it's often just reflecting what they grew up on. Obviously I'm not excusing it, just noting the historical context.]
What we ended up doing was challenging such artists in our interviews about their views - so we didn't let it pass but also didn't try to pretend they'd just disappeared. Our main reggae man got into some awful rows with some of 'em - and yet still didn't have his legs broken, which was good going, I thought. [It's far less violent in soul country.]
Some of those same artists were very popular within their own communities, where they'd often give away large portions of their earnings to local people via charitable or other private donations. Some even walked down the street handing out cash. [I guess not knowingly to gay people, though.]
For those who don't know, Kartel is currently banged up for life - min 35 years to parole - for murder. Hasn't stopped him releasing new music. We interviewed him in prison a few years back. Caused a bit of trouble with the local prison authorities, who then decided, what the fuck, let him get on with it.