Friday, November 13, 2009

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 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 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...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tweet Tweet! Tweetmeats anyone?

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
Former ACP Mark Shields as depicted by Clovis in Observer, Nov. 5

Well, we know who the new Bank of Jamaica governor is going to be--Brian Wynter, son of Hector Wynter and nephew of the brilliant Sylvia Wynter. When it comes to the new Police Commish, your guess is as good as mine. No, contrary to previous speculation in this blog it won't be L.A. Lewis, or Hell A. Lewis as some have named him. And much to the regret of many, his fans at Tivoli notwithstanding, its unlikely to be The Most Wanted Whose Name I Dare Not Utter here. So that leaves Daddy Cool, Mr. Reneto deCordova Adams, and a field of unknown talent. One grasps at any clue, however faint, and in that context i offer here the last three tweets of Mark Shields, or @Marxshields as he's know in in Twitterland. These are the most informed 140 characters you're likely to encounter anywhere on the subject of the new Commish. Tweet Tweet!

Yesterday, my worse fears came true. The beginning of an erosion of external influences over an organization that is already inward looking.
@Marxshields Mon 02 Nov 12:42 via web

The aftershock. Uncertainty and speculation. Insider or outsider? Let's hope they act swiftly; make the right decision for JM; and not them.
@Marxshields Mon 02 Nov 22:00 via web

A job description has been requested from London. The post will be advertised but is it a foregone conclusion? The fool will apply - again.
@Marxshields Thu 05 Nov 08:21 via web

Who's the fool? Who Who? and the new Commish? You have a clue?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hardley Surprising...Let us resign ourselves...

Clovis, Jamaica Observer, Tuesday, November 3 2009

Well, you might say the country is resigned to it. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that the economy will continue to decline while the crime rate continues to spiral. The mood of resignation even influenced some influential people into resigning over the weekend. On Friday the 30th of October the Governor of the BOJ resigned. On Sunday the first of November the Police Commissioner resigned (Hardley Lewin), incidentally just a few hours after I wrote about the pressure on him to resign (see below).

Derick Lattibeaudiere had been Governor of the BOJ since 1996 and was no stranger to the public sphere where his unorthodox expense accounts had come under scrutiny. He was not however one to profile with the Page Two class and seemed to share a sense of privacy almost as comprehensive as Christopher 'Dudus' Coke's. Like the latter he was said to rule with an iron hand, and shunned rather than courted media attention. In fact when contacted by Cliff Hughes (Nationwide radio) for an explanation of his sudden resignation, his forthright rebuff seemed to suggest that it gave him no end of pleasure to turn Hughes down because for once he didn't HAVE to answer a journalist's questions; he was no longer a public servant obliged to account to the media for his actions. When the pugnacious Hughes persisted, Latty, as he's fondly known, essentially terminated the interview by exhorting the media whiz to avoid vulture-like behaviour.

You have to remember that both these resignations have taken place while an IMF team is here negotiating terms with the Finance Minister (or explaining whatever new method of lassoing us it has developed) for a loan. I would have to conclude then that these two resignations had the approval of the IMF, if not actually coming at their instigation. Someone like Latty would have been a prime candidate for an IMF-recommended chop. He was hired in the 90s when neoliberalism reigned supreme and fatcat salaries were the order of the day "because if the public sector wanted the best they had to pay private sector salaries and perks."

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
Clovis, Jamaica Observer, Nov. 2, 2009

Whereas fatcat CEOs have fallen or been taken down in the US as a fallout of the failure of their banking and investment system we haven't gone through such a process here. Maybe this is the beginning?

By the way there were some interesting responses on Twitter and Facebook to the Police Commissioner's resignation:

bigblackbarry Since mostly clowns get the work I wonder if dem going to give Hell A Lewis the commish job??

Winsome (Fbook)
Strait! Me go start a campaign dis week fi Hell A! Plus e ave nuff nuff button pon him clothes already!

@Fledgist: Dem a go mek Dudus di commish.

and echoing that this last one from the comments on the Observer website is priceless:

kgn 13 yute

Christopher Coke is the man for the job. If all the JLP enclaves are under one order and the prezi gives the orders, he most certainly can handle the job

Ask some police officers, they are already under the order.

I will wait sit here in the US and be the first to nominate Mr. Coke.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

The extradition of 'Dudus' and Good Cop, Bad Cop...

At first I thought it was someone banging on the door; then I realized that the persistent hammering that woke me up in the wee hours of the morning today was the sound of gunfire from August Town. The barely healed wounds of this historic community that lies less than a mile away from my home are once again being ripped open after almost three years of calm ensuing from a peace treaty signed by all contending parties. August Town, adjoining the University of the West Indies, has also benefited in many ways from the outreach programmes of the university and it is sad to see what had become a model for other violence-torn communities being destroyed like this.

Although public discourse in Jamaica might lead you to believe that at the root of the country's problems are the 'irresponsible' lyrics emanating from its dancehalls, reality suggests otherwise. And that reality is now staring us in the face with the kind of unblinking gaze that makes it difficult to keep it under wraps anymore. I'm referring to the case of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, wanted by the Americans for a number of drug-related crimes. Their demand for his extradition to the United States to stand trial for his offences has literally thrown a cat among the pigeons here for the government seems in no hurry to ship Dudus off to keep his tryst with destiny.

Las May, The Gleaner, September 27, 2009
Las May, The Gleaner, September 08, 2009

“Why are we waiting, Prime Minister Golding?” asked Jamaica and the World a blog that never fails to put its finger squarely on the problem. The blogger went on to remark:

“Then today, October 15, 2009, we hear that our Commissioner of Police Hardley Lewin is being pressured to resign. Probably because he doesn’t like the Prime Minister who is presiding over the non-extradition of “Dudus” and the non-resignation of Joe Hibbert, complaining that the Jamaica Constabulary Force isn’t doing enough to combat crime……. Yeah, right.”

The problem to put it quite bluntly is that Dudus is probably Jamaica's most important 'non-state actor'. Dudus is widely credited with wielding influence not merely amongst supporters of the ruling party but also across party lines in West Kingston, an area that is almost a state within the Jamaican state. A shadowy figure, he runs the 'mother of all garrisons'--Tivoli--strategically located near Kingston Harbour. Garrisons are vote banks, communities where all residents are required to toe the political line set down by the strongman, in this case Dudus. Tivoli also happens to be the constituency of the Prime Minister. But if the Prime Minister appears too anxious to please the US by handing over the 'President' (as Dudus is also known) he stands to lose the political support of a constituency that has always been loyal to his party. This could prove devastating to his term in office as his party rules by a very narrow lead.

As a result of this tense standoff Jamaica stands uneasily poised between the long arm of the world's de facto 'police' force, the United States, and the united state of West Kingston which has already showed its muscle once before when another strongman from the area, Donald 'Zekes' Phipps was arrested in 1997. Despite the fact that Zekes was a PNP don, the entire West Kingston area, which is predominantly JLP, united in closing down downtown Kingston to protest his arrest. Dudus is the person who is said to have engineered this unprecedented unification across party lines and if anything the respect for his rule of 'law' has only increased over the years (much of the power of the 'Dons' comes from their ability to deliver swift justice and maintain peace in the areas they govern in the absence of a functional state judicial system). “Don’t Touch Di President” warned Bunny Wailer (of Bob Marley and the Wailers), in a song pointing out the benefits Dudus had brought to the people of West Kingston. “If you remove the Queen Bee from the hive you get a lot of mad bees,” Wailer declared in an interview with Cliff Hughes on TVJ's Impact programme.

In fact the entertainment world is making the most of this uniquely Jamaican predicament. Entertainment Report, TVJ's pertly provocative telemagazine has been putting the question "Do you think Dudus should be extradited?" to a range of unsuspecting interviewees from the man on the street to the Honourable Edward Seaga, former JLP party leader and architect of Tivoli. All have ducked the question, with one man actually exclaiming, "You can't ask me that!" and then turning tail and running for his life from the probing TV camera. Below is a youtube video of the Twins of Twins spoof of the Dudus situation:


BREAKING NEWS! The commissioner has resigned since
I wrote this post this morning.

Meanwhile rumour has it that Jamaica's beleaguered police commissioner may soon be leaving to take up a lucrative contract elsewhere. In a recent speech he identified the nexus between crime and politics as one of the top obstacles in the ever escalating battle to control crime. He has also spoken out against corruption within the force as did the previous police commissioner Lucius Thomas. A week or so after Lewin's speech Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green, one of the UK imports into the police force, roused the ire of the Police Federation when he said that some cops who are murdered may be involved in illicit activities themselves. Predictably the Federation demanded his head on a platter claiming that there was little truth to his statements. Well, if there's any truth to these statements what else would one expect them to say?

Clovis, Jamaica Observer

Needless to say speculation is rife about whether the Police Commissioner is being pressured to resign. Another UK import, Mark Shields, who was until recently also an Assistant Commissioner of Police here has recently set himself up as a security consultant. A wise move considering the lay of the land, wouldn't you say? He has also joined the twittering classes and his laconic but telling tweets are worth following. On October 22nd this was what he tweeted:

“...Another attempt to remove the Commish. Beware the elements from within. They've a personal interest in removing ALL outsiders.”

And two days before that: “Things looking up?”.

When you clicked on the link it took you to the following letter in the Daily Gleaner:

Police force needs a DCP Mark Shields
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dear Editor,

One cannot fault persons for believing the "rumours" that Commissioner of Police Hardley Lewin had resigned. While the commissioner has speculated as to who such rumours could be attributed to, and their less than honourable motives, I wish to put forth a simpler, less sinister motive: the commissioner is no longer seen nor heard from at a time when crime remains our most pressing concern!

The only person within the JCF who seemingly realised the need for visible leadership, and who was willing and brave enough to be the "face" fighting crime was former DCP Mark Shields. Since his recent retirement from the police force, no one seems willing or able to take up that mantle. While Shields was vilified in some quarters (wrongly, in my view), for constantly being both seen and heard, it is exactly the type of reassurance that a frightened public need, not to mention it was only under DCP Shields that the public's confidence in the JCF was restored, in that witnesses finally felt they had an incorruptible but approachable person in whom they could confide. Again I ask, who is taking up that mantle at a time when much of the public views and fears the police in no different a light than they view the common criminal?

In his usual manner the commissioner claims to be "working quietly behind the scenes". While I am not questioning that fact, with all due respect, Commissioner, the job calls for far, far more. The public needs visible and inspirational leadership in the fight against crime. We need hope. We need someone to inspire confidence and a trusted "face" in the fight against the ruthless criminals who terrorise us daily. Dare I say we need a DCP Mark Shields? His departure is certainly a case of our not knowing, nor appreciating what we had until it's gone! ...”

Richard Isaacs

Now that is the kind of refreshingly cheeky tweeting that I thoroughly enjoy. I hope @Marxshields the tweeter enlivens the Twittersphere for a long time to come though I predict that like the Indian Minister, Shashi Tharoor, he may encounter several attempts to clip his wings. In the meantime it does seem that Jamaica could definitely use “an international crime and security sector” shield of the kind he is offering.

For an update from March 2010 click here.