Notes from the interview between Cliff Hughes and Vybz Kartel

Vybz Kartel
NB: have had to rename this post because it was hijacked by a site called mediazoneja which is passing it off as its original content and harvesting the resulting traffic. please note that these are my notes, and only i have the right to disseminate them. Originally this post was called: Vybz Kartel Makes an Impact: “when two gladiators are gone 2 more will appear”

Nov. 14, 2009
Ok, sharing my notes from the interview between Cliff Hughes and Vybz Kartel on TVJ’s Impact which aired on November 12, 2009. Remember this is not verbatim, much of it is my shorthand to myself. And there are occasional gaps, i didn’t try to note every single detail. Occasionally i comment in bold type. i frequently summarize CH’s questions. VK’s responses are italicized. He often refers to himself in third person as Vybz Kartel. There has been so much demand for news about the interview (judging by the hundreds of page views this blog is suddenly getting) that instead of waiting till i can write a proper post about it i thought why not share these notes? They provide quite a glimpse into the path the interview took if not actually being a blow by blow account. i thought Vybz was in complete control and this interview is a striking record of a very important moment in Jamaican cultural history–i have much to say about this but for now here is almost the full 100 i promised yesterday. Incidentally Cliff neglected to ask the two top questions anyone with some knowledge of popular culture here would have asked. 1) is it true that Kartel has pierced his tongue? 2) Is it true that he bleaches and if so, why?

8 pm, TVJ, November 12, 2009, Impact
crazy ads before show, real coup for Cliff, interview outdoors in uptown Gaza (?), nice yard, Laing is clearly lurking in the background judging by asides addressed to him by Adidja “Vybz Kartel” Palmer

VK introed as the most popular DJ, most influential entertainer in Jamaica, incredible lyricist with an incredible fan base spanning socioeconomic grps. Also a shrewd businessman who owns rights to all 4000 of his songs.

Interview kicks off, Why is yr music so controversial?

I don’t know. VK just does music…

How do you see what you do?

as music, as art, art is a reflection of life

my creative right as an artist

a musician, not a religious leader nor a political one nor a social one

parenting, takes responsibility for teaching his kids

sylvester stallone, Rambo, shooting officers, action movies from Hwood? What about those?

I DJ about life in Jamaica

VK is not a killer

I do a lot of socially conscious songs most of which are not played

i’m an entertainer, I get paid to entertain, its not my responsibility to grow fatherless children.

Society has a responsibility…

children in the ghetto need social programmes, they need motivation.

I don’t see anyone in Cherry Garden going out and killing anyone after listening to my music

How do Cliff H, VK, the PM help Jamaica? Cliff includes himself which is good…

VK employs a lot of Jamaicans, I have a company, that is my responsibility to Ja–to be a good citizen

If VK is to be held responsible as an artiste then Hwood must be held resp….

all of us grew up on gangster movies…

only VK buttons have been focused on by the media

media out to get him

VK most influential artiste…

VK finds this a burden…asked to mind people’s children, to care for everyone’s children

he condemns sale of buttons, he wasn’t involved with manufacturing them, his own posters are about staying in school, abstinence make sense etc. Daddy don’t touch me there, is that to be interpreted as actually having happened to Queen Ifrica?

what is your message to the young people? Cliff asks. “Stay in school, always use a condom…”

VK: gaza gully superimposed on schisms that exist, can’t expect mavado and him to bear the burden for what society has created, the decay in society isn’t created by them. They are mirrors.

Cliff; but you’re contributing to it! You’re most influential, you;’re a very bright man, that’s why you’re under pressure, you’re capable of doing much better than that…don’t you accept that there comes a point when u say my country is at risk, I have a talent, ray ray ray ray.

VK: the right people to ask are the politicians, people who have access to money, to knowhow, the resources, people who can help the garrisons, lightbulb scandal, how many millions that could have been spent on improving quality of life of the poor…

when do we, cliff and kartel, use our talent to say to the people of this country blah blah…why the violence in his music?

Because it sells basically…

since start of this year i’ve done 4 gangster songs, they get ratings, sound sytem play, dub plates are made…

anything the people want the people will get

at root of violence are the socioeconomic conditions, gun culture cultivated by our politicians,

CH: take off the artiste hat and put on the citizen hat, what wld u say to the politicians?

VK: I have nothing to say to the pols, as artistes we stay far from politicians, Gaza mi seh

CH: what gaza mi seh mean?

“Gaza means Fight for what you believe in against all odds, against all adversity”

Mr. Addy the teacher…how he arrived at name Gaza?

When I left the Alliance VK came under so much pressure, i said to Blak Rino and others we need to form a group. But we need a perfect name

the 1st war was just happening in Gaza, israel was bombarding them but the people were fighting back regardless, and VK said to Laing, we’re going to use that name coz it means to me–dem people deh serious and dem nah back down. Makes link to the pressure he came under when he left the Alliance, when his career was threatened. So that was the perfect name for him at the time.

1996…VK and a singer called Escobar and another friend decided to join forces, they got the name from a movie about Escobar and his infamous cartel…how come this attraction for notorious, infamous people etc

VK: No, the idea of adopting the name Kartel predated that becoz “a cartel is a group of people coming together to limit prices and control competition and that’s what Vybz Kartel wanted to do at that time”

“we distribute music, legal narcotics…”

falling out w Bounti happened over the latter’s desire to control his life, but VK is a man, couldn’t allow that, no matter how grateful for the start BK gave him; also his friendship with Beenie didn’t help

whence the rivalry w Mavado?

when I fell out of grace w BK so to speak, I guess Mavado figured he shld defend his honour.

CH: are u prepared to go on a stage together etc to make statement to yr fans?

But, VK responds, they did this already, with Mark Shields, but he’ll do it again, no problem

ready to go to schools and talk to students, but no one has ever approached them, tho there is a series of school tours with other artistes

“sometimes I wonder if its like a conspiracy by society to watch us fight in the ring like a gladiator and till both of us die. Why nobody don’t step onto the field and say we need u to go into the schools and this event will be sponsored by this company or that company–

“i’m shocked that society took so long to come to us w a plan like that.”

CH: Greatest threat acc to prinicpals—the G culture–

VK says he knows: Ganja, guns, graffiti, Gaza, Gully–

VK is a musician, limits to what he can do, he is willing to do something but who will take the initiative? Private sector not stepping up, no one else coming forward

“remember. when two gladiators are gone 2 more will appear.”

CH: Bounti Killa says Vybz Kartel the worst thing he has ever done to dancehall…(VK used to be BK’s protege)

that is typical bad man BK, that is his persona, I have no comment

born in Waterhouse, four sis one bro, third in fam, eldest sis a teacher

speaks to his Mom almost every day…

Life is life and we live and we die…the only thing that is certain in life is death

“except smoking which is bad, don’t do it…”

VK was a truant always sculling school and going to studios, got expelled from Calabar

good at litt, tells all children, “education is the key and VK is not a dunce and if u want to be a good artist u have to have an education”

he just meditates the lyrics, doesn’t use pen and paper anymore…a lot of artists do this…Sizzla too.

Name Adidja Palmer…”made me feel more special, more indigenous to what I was doing”

i’m a very spiritual person, not necessarily religious, rel too confusing, he reads bible, close links w family and friends

how many kids, by how many women? Five, 6 to 3 mths (honestly would Cliff ever ask an uptown citizen this? And why not? many of them have several children by different women)

An artiste has to remain a bachelor, so to speak, to maintain his appeal. (refuses to be drawn on his love/sex life–smart move VK)

Family is basis of society and civilization, I’m a great father, my kids and I are friends. Didn’t get to bond w his own father who was working 24/7

music business doesn’t follow a set time, in between time lots of time for family

never heard anyone say of his son…yu see is thru him father is a dj…1st thing his son has to do is his homework. Normal family life, coz when VK steps into his home he is not VK—he is Addy the Daddy.

Not the teacher…Daddy, which is the ultimate teacher, That’s why we’re saying–family is first– Jamaicans shld take the responsibility as parents and adults to grow their child in the right way and not leave them to outside influences like a DJ or a taximan in the street playing a VK.

CH: Lapping up etc…bus porn. VK’s reactions. (reminds me of time years ago when Cliff Hughes and was it Carol Narcisse visited Gemini or Caesar’s or one of the nightclubs and Cliff unabashedly enjoyed a lapdance, live on radio as it were–hey this is my memory of it ok?)

VK sings Schoolgirl don’t go inna di schoolbus. complains he has addressed things like this over and over but these songs never get highlighted by media or played very much…(why don’t Cliff, Boyne and com ever harrass media owners and managers about things like this?)

VK doesn’t have a US visa, was turned down, doesn’t know why, has reapplied. The Empire is touring w/o a problem, the Empire only concerned with the musical aspect no control over member’s lives

proud of products such as Street Vybz rum, ‘Daggerin’ line of condoms. “I’m a conspiracy theorist you know” wonders why the name of the condoms was banned the moment it came out. (referring to Romping Shop controversy and ban by Jamaica Broadcasting Commission).

CH: anything to say to fans and detractors?

Well we have nothing to say to our detractors coz if u don’t like VK I guess you probably never will. As I have told people before i’m a musician and I will never stop doing music.

Appeals to his fans in the streets not to take the Gaza Gully thing to an extreme “Just keep the music as music” and don’t take it literally don’t fight over this GG thing, and give your artiste a bad name because at the end of the day it is Mavado and myself who have to take the blame yknow what I mean for what is happening in the streets. But I have nothing to say to my detractors becoz if u nah like mi you nah go like mi and if you love mi you a goh love mi, Vybz K is not somebody you can like, you have to love him or you have to hate him.

no in between?

No in between, no gray area…

Eyeless in Gaza (and Gully): ‘Mi deh pon di borderline’

Clovis Brown, Wednesday, October 7 2009, Jamaica Observer

Gaza. Gully. The two words, inscribed in locations all over Kingston and Jamaica, signify internecine zones of conflict competing for supremacy in the dancehall universe here. For those who don’t know: Gaza=Kartel and Gully=Mavado. Mavado, popularly known as ‘Gully Gad (God)’, comes from Gullyside in Cassava Piece, an impoverished community in the foothills of Kingston. Kartel comes from a neighbourhood in Portmore that was once known as BORDERLINE.

And thereby hangs a tale. A story you wouldn’t find in the normal media yasso which specializes in skimming the surface and shallow moralizing. The Jamaican media generously accommodates both sinners and sermonizers, protecting the former by voluntarily gagging themselves and the latter by giving them as many column inches as their sermons demand. In the US it is citizens who usually “plead the fifth” and have “the right to remain silent”, both stemming from the Fifth Amendment of their constitution. In Jamaica the media seem to have arrogated such rights to themselves; they provide a minimum of in-depth coverage of events apparently on the grounds that the information given could be used as evidence against them!

So like me, you may not have known the etymology of the term ‘Gaza’ in the Jamaican context (Talk bout the media being eyeless in Gaza!) or why Borderline came to be so renamed. It’s a fascinating story which is intimately connected (as a batty is to a bench you might say) with this culture’s notorious attitude towards male homosexuals or ‘batty’ men as they are called here.

http://www.facebook.com/profile/pic.php?uid=AAAAAQAQVI9_PpNzEuTOnAdJ4J37_AAAAAoXoDCB-q_XlO3LZXDM3JMF
Shebada Ramsay, the ‘Gender Bender’

It all has to do with an actor called Shebada, the star of a super successful series of plays put on by Stages Productions. This company produces what is known in local parlance as ‘roots plays’, a kind of farcical, over the top production with picaresque characters performing or acting out the issues of the day. Sex is a big part of it, and subtlety is not, but Stages Productions whose slogan is “Comedy is serious business” always plays to full houses.

Stages Productions has also pioneered the explicit exploration of alternative sexualities and Shebada himself, whose stage persona is camp as they come and twice as provocative, sports a bleached face and gay-ish attributes that complicate the argument that Jamaica is unremittingly hostile to Gays. In fact international Gay rights groups who have targeted the island’s musicians repeatedly would do well to analyze such productions and feed the resulting insights into their jackhammer strategies at outing and combating what is touted worldwide as Jamaican homophobia.

The induction of the name ‘Gaza’ into the Jamaican firmament came about because in the very first insanely popular Stages Production, Bashment Granny, there is a scene where a policeman confronts the sinuous Shebada asking “Yu a man or yu a woman?” “Mi deh pon di borderline” declares Shebada unabashedly, emphasizing his retort with an exaggerated wag of his hips. The phrase became so popular in the context of discussions about sexuality that Vybz Kartel decided that the name of his community ‘Borderline’ had been irrevocably contaminated by association. He therefore adopted the name of the most violent place he could think of at the time—Gaza in Palestine.

Again Fernando Guereta, or Mr. Previous, as I have nicknamed him, the man responsible for the film, Why Do Jamaicans Run so Fast? has been quick off the mark. He is already in the middle of his next film, which documents the Gully Gaza phenomenon (please note he was NOT the source of information for this post). The interview with him I promised is still pending. I will unveil it over the course of the coming week. In the meantime check out these two video clips of Shebada in Bashment Granny (the relevant declaration is four and a half minutes into the first one). The second one has some priceless footage of Shebada teaching Bashment Granny how to walk and dance with credibility. Enjoy!