After deliberating for just under two hours, the 11 member jury returned its verdict. The three men and eight women found Adijah Palmer, and three of his four co-accused, guilty of the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams. The verdict has put to rest a legal drama that began in 2011, one which fascinated and mystified the nation, but there were more sinister undercurrents at play here. As much as my own conscience tells me justice has been done, and as much as I would rather not see any selfless heroism in a convicted murderer; I am unable to shake the feeling that in the end Vybz Kartel was able to serve as a living testament, a sacrificial lamb of sorts, for many of the realities dancehall music has explored over the years. Kartel’s arrest, trial and conviction put the very state on trial, and on nearly all counts, Jamaica was found guilty.
Editor’s Note : The views expressed below are not my own. This is the fourth installment in the guest posts series. Written by Brandon Allwood (@BrandonAllwood), it discusses the impact, or lack thereof, of Kartel’s absence from the local music scene. Enjoy.
There is hardly a Jamaican who can say they don’t know Vybz Kartel. The one-time protégé of dancehall superstar Bounty Killa, Vybz Kartel dominated the dancehall scene for years with lyrically lethal songs and commentary that barked at the heels of societal attitudes.
Kartel has won immutable praises from music fans who simply cannot resist the urge to litter the skyline with ‘gun fingers’ and lighters or stake their claim on the dance floor whenever his infectious rhymes emanate from speaker boxes. As Kartel navigated the murky waters of dancehall, it soon became clear that the self-proclaimed dancehall hero was in a class of his own.
His hold on the dancehall scene was firm and a seemingly never-ending stream of singles kept flooding the airwaves… not that music lovers complained. Yes, there are those who refused to enjoy songs from his catalogue when they sided with any one of a number of artistes Kartel engaged in musical brawls with—but his screaming fans outnumbered the ‘anti-Kartel’ community by far.
I believe art is one of the most powerful forms of communication, mobilisation and ultimately, indoctrination. I’ve always been mindful of the influence of music, particularly dancehall music, on the young and impressionable minds of our society. Those who have been following my blog for some time now would know my personal objection to “The Gaza Empire” and most, if not everything it produces. The latest “talent” the Portmore based empire has produced is the now infamous Tommy Lee. Since the incarceration of their god, Kartel, on murder charges the fans of Gaza have consistently repeated the refrain “Free Werl’ Boss”. When it became evident that the wheels of justice would turn desperately slow for the self styled “Werl Boss”, his fans craved a saviour for dancehall, a rebound figure to continue the influence and impact of the Gaza, that task fell to Tommy Lee. His methods have proven even more controversial than those of his boss. Of all the themes available, why choose a demonic one? And is that really “art”?