This bootleg youtube video for Vybz Kartel’s, “Black Child” cuts out at 2:33. It marks a point in the song when Kartel is in mid-phrase of asking, “ten years from now, tell me wha gun happen to ma daughter?” Unintentional, but it still leaves you with goose bumps bewilderment from a blunt cut off. “Black Child” is reiterating what every parent worries about, that their child– that Jamaica’s children– are at threat of being children of Sisyphus. If you recall the Greek myth of Sisyphus, a king, who was cursed to push a huge boulder to the top of a hill, only to get there and watch the boulder roll back down again. In the story he inevitably has to repeat the process for infinity in his strife to get the boulder to the top, to succeed against all odds.
Last Sunday, an article in the Jamaican Observer surfaced from journalist, Mark Wignall asking, “Is DJ Music Just Irrelevant Noise?” The article gives a concentrated background of Jamaican rootz and reggae artists and for a substantial part sites the words of essayist/reader Sherman Escoffery, who in turn diminishes any thoughtful messages or talent that musicians or producers associated with deejays have to offer from the eighties on. Basically undermining the beginning of the deejays/DJ’s musical helm in Jamaica and internationally (also often seen with rap and hip-hop too). Wignall maintains humility in the conversation by offering an anecdote of his journalistic approach– the narrative ends asking “why should I believe that my values are better than those espoused by others and thus should be imposed on others?” Still, the thesis of the entire article is based off quotes from Escoffery’s discreditation of DJ music. Genre in box anyone? Listen, there is always an exception and music journalists, enthusiasts, culture wavers or JUST SOMEBODY will always find it. In dancehall’s case there are many. Why we always having this continuous battle between the hybrid or new version and the memorable, nostalgic version (Read music editor Pete Macia’s article on this here.) Music reflects what is happening around us doesn’t it? It could be about the globalization of music, the progression of a state or nation OR EVEN spandex fashion and the beef in our backyard.
This constant argument that DJ music propels kid’s ideas into immorality is faulted. It is true to an extent but it would be nice to think that the DJ isn’t raising children and that contributors like preachers, teachers, theorists, parents, ect. have a substantial impact as role models. Doesn’t it even seem that statements like, “At some stage the badness and the business merge and the result is all too often what is demanded by a brain-dead population: crappy music” contribute to the problem by undermining everyone that doesn’t agree with your music tastes. If DJs are resurfacing the evils of the world (greed, violence, illicit sex), maybe it’s culture that they are responding to.
Vybz Kartel’s new album, “Pon di Gaza,” comes out this Friday. “Black Child” will be on it and probably a lot of other songs about doing it, shooting guns, hating people, loving people and resenting people. Vybz question about his daughter resonates still because after all, the man just wants to make sure, when his daughter gets to the top of the hill, that boulder nuh go nowhere.
ED NOTE: Major credit should be given to the curmudgeon Pete Macia and his “Internet Hangover.”