Vybz Kartel obviously won’t reign forever, so in the first part of this series we asked who will take over from the Worl’ Boss as the new King of the Dancehall?
Who are the considerable contenders? Who is a must-pic and who is only worthy of an honorary mention? Who is poised to become, and who is seasoned but still is not the dominant flavor?
To answer this one question, the field of contending possibilities and probabilities must be examined against the criteria of artistry, output volume, and topical range. It is within the boundaries of each criterion or a combination thereof that each artiste named would have established their repertoire and their worthy placing in being called to Dancehall’s throne.
For Shabba Ranks it was his delivery; for King Yellowman it was his uniqueness; for Buju Banton, it was primarily his delivery and volume that set him ahead of the rest. Here, it is important to note that, for Vybz Kartel, artistry, output volume, and topical range are criteria by which he leads in all spheres. He has set and defined the standard against which all other ‘Kings’ will and must be bench-marked at this time, whether in aspiration to be equal or intent to surpass.
Level of Artistry
An artiste’s level of artistry is in part determined by natural ability and zoned mental capacity. An ‘aspiring’ artiste who recognizes that he has a level of flow worthy to be shared, irrespective of the topic, genre, or audience, will not hesitate to develop his cadence and clarity. It is then at the point of continuous pursuit that the artiste is positioned and no longer pre-positioned by aspiration.
Rhythm riding and dancehall lyrical artistry in penmanship and delivery have arguably only been achieved a few times for most of the field. The artiste who will unset the World Boss must consistently shoot above or equal Vybz Kartel’s lyrical presentations of an ingenious arrangement of three, sometimes four-fold rhyming limericks and alliterations.
The top three artistes who showcase a noteworthy level of artistry in modern dancehall are Alkaline, Masicka and Skillibeng. From a non-exhaustive list, some have wowed in this category, and cannot go unmentioned; namely Aidonia, Agent Sasco, Chronic Law and Squash. For them, their flow often connects and outright ‘shot’, for Sasco, “a Maad Suppn”.
Again, this is in no means exhaustive of what is out there, here we have brushed the surface of the crème of the crop and the top in the field of regular and available ‘flow-ers’. Indeed ‘flowing deh a road’, but only a few have done so consistently in recent times. Alkaline says he is the young lord; Masicka says he is the Man Fi Di Mission; and Skillibeng is an upcoming artiste who fashions his trade off Kartel, in terms of flow and lyrical content – (still yet to be determined if he can maintain the level and frequency of output that is now on offer.)
Within the archives of musical flow, Vybz Kartel has a professorial classification. This is because he has practiced the applicable lessons of realism as a compliment to his existing natural ‘flowing’ ability. Realism is the emotional connection, relatability, and believability in the lyrical and musical delivery. We hear, and feel it in Bob Marley’s – Turn Your Lights Down Low, Buju’s – Driver, Kartel’s – Virginity, Sasco’s – Mi Late and Girl Like Dat, Beres’ – Double Trouble. That said, let us see which of these will top the listing in the next categorical name-calling.
Range of Topics
Dancehall now, back then, and way-way-back-then addresses four main topics, namely, money, guns, weed/liquor and of course females/sex. Part of the art and culture of dancehall and the repertoire of a dancehall artiste is performance across a wide range of topics. This element of the business is primarily cherished by the disc jockeys who use their turntables to select and pull-up their music collection to the request and satisfaction of fans and patrons.
As categories vary from artiste to artiste, so too most artistes in dancehall are identified within a particular zone of topical comfort. Beenie Man – ‘the girls dem sugar’’; Bounty Killa – “di poor ppl governor” and Elephant Man, “the energy god”, are just a few of the dancehall topical specialists. Kartel’s best work can be found in his lyrical pleading laments of poverty. We don’t ever get a prolific delivery of a ‘gun song’ from Beenie Man; however, no event host will hesitate to book Elephant Man for a high-energy party dance-class.
If we were to regard Kartel’s music as a field itself, then we can say safely that in genres and topics he has exceeded adequate representation. On any given occasion, in any given release you may find Kartel voicing about money, girls, mother, sister, aunty, taxi driver, and the list goes on. The artiste who dares to challenge the top spot in dancehall must also go beyond the main topics, and widely explored genres, maintaining currency within hits after hits.
Artistes such as Agent Sasco, Govana, Alkaline, and Busy Signal are easily regarded as serious businessmen who continue to present current, relatable music across a wide topical range. Categorically, Busy Signal dominates with a wider topical range in his music collection.
Right now, Govana is named among the list of specialists. Noted in his recent album – HAMANTS, where he serves up style, flow, and range not seen every day from the mentioned possible contenders.
Volume of Work
Aidonia tussled with Kartel last year December after he tweeted “Dem drop million song and me use one and bussssss dem head”. He quickly retreated after Kartel proudly posted on Instagram, a fan-made list comparing their careers. In an interview later, Govana admitted, “Vybz Kartel ah release 10 song fi de week, and 10 ah dem ah 10 bad song. Yuh a try keep up wit a man like Vybz Kartel wey is a musical monster.”
Maybe to Aidonia’s chagrin, frequency and consistency in dancehall has increased on all levels. Often not to the compliment of each other, but the presence of one without the other. For to have the compliment of the two is found only but in a few – classic case of many being called, but only a few chosen. Artistes like Popcaan, Masicka, and Intence, are right now leading the pack of categorical contenders constantly releasing in high volumes.
Tops in Kartel’s class are – “Dancehall caan stall, forever and ever dancehall caan stall”, and “Mi get a compass and circle the town, wol a umbrella an circle the ground”. Kartel is versatility intertwined with artistry in volumes and frequency. His title as ‘Di Teacha’ is an earning only to the credit of simply surpassing the competition. The Clarks DJ has been set apart because of higher-level performance, cases in point, “ADIADKING”, “Up Top Gaza”, “Tony Montanna“ the lyrics are lit with the full range of literary devices employed by the greatest poets.
Along with his witty delivery and style, almost always accompanied by a broad smile, Kartel is a believer in his craft and his artistic ability. This innate component is one most important to run the race, stay the course and win the place of wearing the starlit crown of ‘King of the Dancehall’. The Money Fi Spen’ artiste continues to lead categorically and otherwise, because of his raunchy, raw, unveiled, untethered, uncensored artistic flow, complemented by effortless realism. Accompanied by mastery across an extensive range of topics are an unmatched volume, frequency, and consistency.
To unseat Vybz Kartel or come up to his level; one must make him uncomfortable, yielding his fans’ attention.
Recently, Kartel appeared as infuriated in his seat at the helm, he took umbrage to the fact that someone else was trending No.1 on VEVO when he had just dropped a major collab. That someone, Intence led Di Teacha and Teejay’s latest hit song on the music platform for several hours. The observation perhaps did not sit well with Kartel, who rendered unsolicited responses to Intence’s lead. These recent activities suggest that there may be a lack of challenge for the incarcerated Worl’ Boss, which leaves us with the question, who of the contenders dare to be in his ‘class’?