Dancehall is the genre that keeps on giving, and no recent piece of evidence substantiates that more than the completely unexpected, and slightly comical affair that materialized – seemingly out of thin air last week – between EastSyde Prince Skillibeng and the Vendetta Boss Alkaline.
But it appears that the back and forth is already over, after the latest punch to be thrown in that clash between two of Dancehall’s youngest heavyweights. Released on September 23, Skillibeng’s Complete “Graffiti” is thought to be his final salvo, following last Monday’s Mission. Both were released after Alkaline’s first jab, Sell Off, which, while most certainly a taunt, seemed light-hearted.
Though neither of them needs it, prolonged beefs have been known to be powerful marketing and earning tools, despite their downsides. In fact, clash culture is a big part of Dancehall’s identity, and though some beefs end up going too far, a number of artists have cemented their legacies this way and have catapulted to international fame as a result.
Should the ‘Man Himself’ and Mr. Universe manage to strike the unlikely ideal balance, taking care to avoid any pitfall reminiscent of Alkaline and Squash’s infamous 2019 beef, which threatened to get physical, they could inadvertently stumble upon a less violent, more beneficial blueprint for career-fuelling feud, for those who wish to attain success via that route.
Make no mistake about it – musical feuds are big buck generators, helping the involved artists to capitalize on the predominantly algorithm-driven modern-day music business, bringing them more hits on Google, and enough traffic to garner a ‘Trending’ tag. And for most artists, those markers are career milestones, and are most easily attained through a steady diet of punching above their weight via starting beefs.
Despite Skillibeng and Alkaline’s relatively similar successes on the international scene – with Alkaline arguably leading the charge owing to a more extensive catalogue, if a winner is definitively chosen from this beef, his status inevitably improves.
In 2018, for example, following what was ultimately the climax of the years-long Drake vs. Pusha T beef, The Economist reported that “At the height of the feud, between May 27th and June 2nd, the number of Google searches for Drake quadrupled, while the number of searches for Pusha T was nearly 50 times greater than in any other week in the previous year. That interest seemed to translate into sales and streams. Daytona, released on May 25th (that year), is Pusha T’s highest-charting album on the Billboard 200. Scorpion, Drake’s album that year (which addressed some of his rival’s complaints), achieved platinum status on the day of its release… The public airing of dirty laundry benefitted both sides.” A rising tide most certainly lifts all boats.
Skillibeng, 24, whose real name is Emwah Warmington and Alkaline, 27, whose real name is Earlan Bartley, would do well not to replicate the mistakes of Vybz Kartel and Mavado in the Gully vs Gaza beef. On the list of Dancehall lyrical feuds that went too far, that beef easily ranks at the top, especially considering that at one point, it warranted government intervention. Simultaneously, it garnered international attention, but gave both artists notoriety that would only translate to any real value in Jamaica.
Internationally, that notoriety may have played a role in stymying both artists’ growth and potential reach – a point expounded on recently by Dancehall icon, Sean Paul.
In an interview with Two Bees TV, Paul shared that as a result of both artists’ obsession at the time with the Gully vs Gaza feud, they failed to pay attention to the “ebb and flow of music consumption globally”, which ultimately resulted in them not “crossing over”, i.e., effectively tapping into the global market. Paul also shared, in responding to comments regarding why both artists lost their visas at the time, which hampered their ability to tour, “There is a lot more to it than that. There are behaviours and stuff that happened that’s why they lost their visas for whatever reasons it was.”
Alkaline has endured his fair share of beefs, from Vybz Kartel to Squash, and so has Skillibeng, with Intence and at points, according to rumors, with fellow EastSyde artist, Rytikal. Both have steadily held their footing in the genre, and for the most part, have kept things relatively lyrical. While Dancehall fans salivate at the prospect of a Vendetta vs. EastSyde beef, both artists, save for the minor back-and-forth, may have bigger projects to focus on, with Crocodile Teeth The Album, set to be released on October 15.
Be that as it may, fans may be best served being grateful for any further lyrical sparring that takes place between both artists in the absence of full-fledged beef.