The annual Boxing Day show is an arena for lyrical clashes between deejays. 2003 saw veteran Ninjaman squaring off with the up-and-coming Kartel at Jamworld Entertainment Centre in Portmore, St Catherine. Days later, both acts appeared at a press conference to denounce their actions.
Gully vs Gaza
By 2006, the feud between Kartel and rival deejay Mavado was at its peak. Their fans aligned themselves to Gully (representing Mavado’s Cassava Piece community) or Gaza (name given to Kartel’s Portmore community). This feud resulted in gangs and school groups which also declared loyalty to the feuding artistes.
In December 2009, both deejays were ushered into a meeting with ministers of government to resolve the tense situation. They agreed to a five-point plan in which the artistes would participate in a peace treaty and concert; a ‘paint-out’ day to remove Gaza/Gully graffiti from walls in communities and schools across the island; the creation of T-shirts bearing the images of both artistes, and record a song together.
Defecting from Gaza
Cracks began to appear in the Gaza Empire in late 2009 with the departure of female deejay Lisa Hype from the camp. This followed the release of explicit photos of her on the Internet. Fellow Empire members Gaza Kim and Blak Ryno also left.
Six years after Kartel was involved in a fracas with Ninjaman, he was back on the Sting stage. This time as a bonafide headliner and clashing with his nemesis Mavado.
Despite a truce, elements of the feud lingered. The jury is still out as to who won this clash, but promoters certainly benefited from heightened patronage.
Thanks to a rhythm sampled from Miss Independent by American R&B singer Ne-Yo, Kartel, along with female deejay Spice, captured the airwaves with Ramping Shop in 2009. A clever marketing ploy got the buzz going. Photos of a shirtless Kartel and a scantily-clad Spice were ‘leaked’ on the Internet. A sanitised version of the song was released and momentum reached fever-pitch.
The single entered the Billboard Top 100 Singles chart.
Wallabee, Desert Fox or Bank Robber. Leather or suede. Original or imitation, Jamaicans have always had a love affair with the British shoe company Clarks.
Kartel was able to tap into that bond with the 2010 release of the catchy Clarks. The track also introduced his protégé, Popcaan.
Clarks was popular in the United Kingdom and North America.
It became clear that Kartel was bleaching his skin by 2010. He would pass it off in his hit track Cake Soap, in which he attributes his lighter skin to washing his face with the laundry detergent bar. This ignited a firestorm of comments.
The promoters of Reggae Sumfest had anxious moments in July 2010. It was uncertain if Kartel, their headline act for Dancehall Night, would make the show.
Kartel and five other men were named as persons of interest in relation to criminal gangs operating out of Portmore, St Catherine. The deejay was released just in time for Sumfest and appeared on stage, handcuffed and wearing a orange jumpsuit.
On March 10 2011, there was pandemonium at the University of the West Indies Mona campus. At the centre of the frenzy was Vybz Kartel who had been invited to speak on the topic: Pretty as a Colouring Book: My Life and My Art.
His presence at the high seat of learning raised eyebrows. Many felt the university lowered its standards by inviting the deejay to speak to students as part of a reggae poetry class by professor Carolyn Cooper.
Local TV station CVM made a bold move along with telecommunications company LIME and backed Kartel’s very own reality show, Teacha’s Pet. It saw 20 women vying for the artiste’s affection. The show came to a halt in September 2011 with his arrest on murder charges.
In July 2012, while incarcerated, Kartel released his book, The Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto. Written with the assistance of Michael Dawson, the image on its cover bore a stiking resemblance to an iconic photo of Nation of Islam leader, Malcolm X.