Incarcerated deejay Vybz Kartel spoke on Dancehall’s connection to crime during his controversial Lisa Evers prison interview on FOX5NY, doubling down on the stance he’s held since his 2005 hit, Emergency.
In the 20 years that he’s ruled the airwaves, Kartel and his compatriots’ lyrics and influence have been blamed for Jamaica’s high crime rate, arguments he’s both denied and defended. In the final segment of their interview, which premiered on September 3, Kartel told the US journalist that he believed socio-economic factors rather than violent rhymes were what fueled murders or defiant behaviour.
Before the braids, braces or bleaching cream, ‘Black Kartel’—as he’s often touted among Dancehall fans—was a far more charged up champion of the poor. In 2005, he escalated the ghetto plight on an urgent call-out titled Emergency, taking their hardships to the highest office. “Mr. Bruce, Mr. PJ, this is just a couple question from Addi the deejay/ Kingston mek no AK?/ How gun come inna JA?/ Who own the wharf and the airport, the docks and the bay?” he asked accusingly.
Fast forward sixteen years later and Kartel still holds those sentiments, arguing that social breakdown is responsible for rampant crime on the island.
“Judging from the fame of Dancehall, people who are not gangsters listen to the music as well,” Kartel told Evers. “People uptown, teachers lawyers, doctors, so how does it, why doesn’t it influence them to kill? So you know I think violence just comes from a low social-economic background, lack of education, lack of opportunities, that’s the real problem, not Dancehall or Hip Hop.”
However, Vybz Kartel doesn’t deny music’s compelling quality, as he cited some of the research behind that concept.
“I mean the music can affect behavior and make you more, what should I say, more aggressive but all the studies have shown that you get the same aggression from watching a football match or watching your favorite team win,” he said.
The Fever deejay insists that if the opposite were true, there would be more lawless persons in society. “That’s the kind of aggression that music gives you, energy to party to dance but if it inspires people to kill, hell no. I don’t buy that, I don’t believe that because gangsters are a minority. That’s my opinion too, it’s not a fact written in stone, but that’s how I see it,” Kartel said.
Kartel’s words match those of Cham, another ghetto prodigy, who blasted Jamaica’s Prime Minister back in April for rehashing the debate on whether dancehall causes crime. “Did your conclusion arrive from studies done, or did it arrive from guilt of mismanagement over the years?” he demanded in an IG video clip.
While on vacation in July, the Ghetto Story deejay gave EYL University creators Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings a tour of his Sherlock Crescent community in an attempt to debunk the dancehall/crime debate.
“[They were] saying that the crime stems from the music, which it’s not. Crime stems from inequality, poverty, lack of education and parenting. And a lot of parents here, it’s not like they don’t want to parent their kids, it’s that they don’t have that resources or time,” Cham told his guests.
Other industry players have also echoed the Teacha.
In a previous interview, Dancehall producer and selector ZJ Rush questioned why Japan, one of the genre’s global hotspots, hadn’t seen a spike in crime despite partaking in several aspects of dancehall culture. Citing social ills once again, the radio disc joc said the evidence was telling.
“If dancehall is the cause of violence why isn’t Japan suffering from our level of violence? Dancehall dominates the airwaves in the Caribbean, yet the level of violence doesn’t match ours. Why? Violence is simply a result of ‘sufferation’ and inequality, but those in power can’t understand because they aren’t suffering,” he told The Gleaner.