In the last year, the most talked about entertainer in Jamaica, aside from Kartel of course, has been Alkaline.
From his tattooed eyeballs (though this has often been disputed) to the recent admission to bleaching his skin, the deejay has often drawn comparisons to the aforementioned Kartel in terms of his persona and controversial lyrical style. These elements have made Alkaline one of the most polarizing artists in today’s music industry.
But the entertainment industry at large has provided with several talented figures, whether in music, media or otherwise, who were just as controversial as they were successful, whether due to their persona, alleged incidents or lyrics/statements that made you raise their eyebrows. Here’s a look at the most polarizing figures within the Jamaican entertainment industry.
Jah Cure – A rape conviction as a teenager in 1999 threatened to destroy his career to and still stirs up talk to this day. However, advocacies for his release due to alleged inaccuracies with the case, the support he has received since rejuvenating his music career after being freed and family
Macka Diamond – Sex sells; that’s a fact which cannot be denied. However, in Macka’s case, she has gone above and beyond to promote her music; from her chart-topper, Dye Dye to having a man in a very compromising position in her Twist Me. Disagreements with some male and female artists, including Spice and Lady Saw get her an honourable mention here.
Isaiah Laing – The STING promoter and ex-detective within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has garnered controversy for disagreements with fellow entertainers with regards to ‘The Greatest Dancehall show on Earth.’
Anthony Miller – Regarded as one of Jamaica’s best journalists, Miller has a penchant for being one of the most controversial and flat-out hated figures in the industry, particularly if you watch his judging exploits on Digicel Rising Stars. His dismissive and blunt approach towards talents on the show combined with his hard-hitting weekly interviews on Entertainment Report.
Lady Saw – When you are widely regarded as the Queen of Dancehall, you are likely to garner as much criticism as praise throughout your accomplished career, with the likes of Tifa, Macka Diamond and Spice having taken issue with her in the past, while her risqué performance style and hardcore lyrics winning her plaudits and scrutiny simultaneously while issues within her on again-off again relationship with producer, John John have often played out in the public, leaving her subject to all sorts of reaction, particularly when his cheating exploits were chastised on social media by the Dancehall diva.
To the list…
His recent interview on TVJ’s Entertainment Report summed up his persona through his two years in the spotlight – Unassuming, willing to do anything to have people talk about him and having an affinity for causing a stir. Having admitted to bleaching his skin was just the latest in a string of controversies involving the old boy from my alma mater (Ardenne High School), including an X-rated video for his debut, tattooing his eyes (allegedly), a lyric about his interest in anal stimulation, among other things.
His image and hardcore lyrical content have drawn comparisons to one Vybz Kartel, with some suggesting he should credit Kartel for paving the way for him and inspiring his persona. Alkaline continuously shoots down those comparisons as he aims to continue making his own waves in the industry. But at just 21, this artist may have only just scratched the surface when it comes to success and controversy in the music world.
9. Sean Paul – Undoubtedly one of the most successful Jamaican artists on the international stage ever, Sean Paul Henriques will always be highly regarded for the doors he helped open for Dancehall in the United States and worldwide.
His Grammy-winning album, Dutty Rock (2002) and collaborations with the likes of Beyoncé and Busta Rhymes have long been celebrated as breakthrough achievements for the genre and made him one of the bigger crossover stars of our generation.
But with that success comes scrutiny, particularly from fans in his native country, who have consistently accused him of ‘selling out’ and abandoning the Dancehall/Reggae sound that helped make him into a global superstar in favour of more pop-oriented music; even forcing a hard-hitting response from the deejay at one point.
Though Shaggy can also be accused of the same shift, he hasn’t come close to the level of criticism levelled at Sean Paul throughout his career, perhaps because Shaggy was never considered a purely Dancehall/Reggae artist to begin with. Though some of the criticism is warranted, it’s also unfortunate as his work certainly helped raised Dancehall’s profile, both on the charts and in pop culture worldwide, all while endorsing his culture. Nonetheless, such a debate will always make him a polarizing figure in the Jamaican music industry
However, he won just as many enemies as friends from the moment he entered, with his high-profile beef with former Alliance teammate, Vybz Kartel drawing worldwide attention considering the violent lyrical and physical exchanges between camps, with STING 2008 being the peak of their rivalry.
Once he and Kartel settled their disagreement for good in 2009, Mavado continued to score local hits, particularly his single, Come Into my Room featuring Dancehall diva, Stacious. However, he couldn’t stay out of his own way with a slew of off-stage incidents threatening to derail his career during that period.
With a desire to become more of a crossover act, the singjay, like LeBron James took his talents to South Beach by the turn of the decade, joining with DJ Khaled’s We The Best Music Group in 2011.
Though the move has seen him collaborate with hip-hop superstars such as Nicki Minaj, Akon and others, Mavado, who now lives in Florida, has earned Sean Paul-like criticism for ditching his original style to gain more acclaim. Despite the detractors, his mentor perhaps being the biggest one, he still drops his share of Dancehall tunes, but hasn’t found the same favour with Jamaican music lovers that he did previously.
Her marriage to the ‘King of Dancehall’ caused consternation from the minute they said ‘I Do,’ dogged by allegations of infidelity as well as accusations she married the deejay to help boost her then emerging career. When the marriage ended, not even her teary interview with Winford Williams did much in terms of garnering sympathy from the viewing public as she was booed at various events she performed at following news of the split.
To this day, she remains a derisive figure to many music lovers, gaining lots of ridicule for her wardrobe malfunctions late last year, one of which landed her in hot water with STING promoters.
6. Tony Matterhorn – Unafraid of the repercussions from his often eyebrow-raising statements or songs, Matterhorn is certainly one of Jamaican music’s more controversial figures.
The sound selector turned deejay has garnered a reputation for being quite mouthy on the music circuit, mostly to draw attention to his much-lauded work, but in some cases, to simply irk his contemporaries.
After first garnering acclaim and controversy for his 2006 chart-topper, Dutty Wine, promoting one of the most talked about dance crazes since the turn of the millennium, Matterhorn has often exchanged words with some of the music’s most popular figures, including Bounty Killer, Twin of Twins, Mr. Vegas. Kiprich and others. He even caught heat earlier this year in an Instagram video in which he was wearing a wig, making his antics all the more hair-raising (couldn’t help the bad pun).
At least we can credit Matterhorn for being consistent with his persona as he always has tongues wagging with whatever statements he makes.
5. Yendi Phillipps – She’s one of Jamaica’s most successful pageant winners and celebrated for her beauty and eloquence when speaking on several important issues, the latter becoming more evident during her current spell as a media personality.
With those accomplishments, you’d think the former Miss Jamaica World and 2010 Miss Universe runner-up would be as popular as former Miss World winner, Lisa Hanna. However, whenever Phillipps name is mentioned, controversy is somewhat attached and in all honestly, there’s no clear reason why.
Her much-publicized relationships with Asafa Powell and Daniel ‘Chico’ McGregor made her a target of rife rumour-mongering, with people accusing her of everything from infidelity to, in the latter case, over-publicizing her love life. With the announcement of her first child with McGregor came lots of mean-spirited comments, some even claiming that her deceased mother would be ashamed of her having a child out of wedlock. Other critics also point to her personality, claiming she’s far from the darling she appears to be in real life.
The criticism all seems baseless on the surface and fueled out of either jealousy, dislike or a similar emotion. But while she may be one of Jamaica’s most celebrated figures, she’s equally as polarizing for reasons that aren’t necessarily of her own doing.
4. Mr. Vegas – Always accused of being somewhat of a drama king by both fans and fellow artists, Vegas has found himself in the spotlight just as much for off-stage controversies as he has for his music.
Disputes with Sean Paul, Bounty Killer and I-Octane are well documented. But his biggest public squabble came after finding his ex-girlfriend and baby mother, Shellian McBayne with another man in his Florida home in front of Vegas’ daughter and going on an epic social media rant about the situation.
Initially, many thought Vegas was making the most of the situation for the sake of his career, doing a bevy of interviews, including this tear-jerker with HOT 97 and released a song chronicling the incident. However, after a recent video of the incident was released earlier this month, much of the criticism levied at Vegas initially turned to sympathy and even praise for not resorting to violence to handle the situation.
Still, his aforementioned squabbles within the music world have made him come across as petty, particularly when he claimed his recently-ignited feud with Killer started because he dated one of the Alliance leader’s exes while the Octane feud started because Vegas wasn’t too gung-ho about him being the closing act for Sumfest. His outspoken nature wins just as many detractors as fans, but with a new reality show on the way, he never seems too perturbed by the attention.
However, he surely knows how to agitate as much as he gets the ladies to gyrate to his songs. His feud with Bounty Killer could be a story within itself, his marriage to and eventual divorce from D’Angel, taking unnecessary shots at artists such as Shabba Ranks, Elephant Man and others in recent years, Beenie is constantly accused of being full of himself by detractors and a drama king in his own right.
He has been less of a fixture in the news in recent years as he focuses more on his career, but still ignites furious debate whenever he speaks.
2. Bounty Killer – You can never accuse the ‘War Lord’ of being shy. Matter of fact, the confrontational aspect of his persona has made Bounty one of the most revered and respected lyricists and entertainers of all time.
He could have his own list of feuds frankly (one compiled by yours truly a while back), with his issues with Beenie Man, and ex-protégé, Vybz Kartel well noted, while his penchant of speaking out against homosexuality and perceived slackness in Dancehall has made him both celebrated and disliked for being ‘badmind’ by his detractors, making him a lightning rod within the industry.
Allegations of ‘hammering’ one of his exes, gun charges and other off-stage incidents such as the fatal shooting of a friend of his ex-protégé, Mavado outside his birthday party in 2011 which triggered their feud, have made him the subject of conversation for the wrong reasons at times.
But, as said with Matterhorn, Bounty is at least consistent with his approach and refuses to change who he is for the sake of being liked. This is how Killer is. Love him or hate him, he cares not.
1, Vybz Kartel – Who else was going to top this list? Not only is Kartel the most polarizing figure in Jamaican music history, he may be one of the most controversial music stars worldwide considering his resume.
Captivating countless audiences with his world-class wordplay, song concepts and ability to set tones in his songs with various personalities, Kartel’s musical legacy will forever leave an impression on Dancehall music and certainly took the genre to another level. However, allegations including ties to lodges, alleged beatings issued at his former protégés and links to gangs long dogged the deejay and made him a hard figure to warm to.
More serious allegations, however, would come to his undoing as he was later charged and convicted for the 2011 murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams back in April. That conviction put a huge black mark on his musical legacy and perhaps validated the concerns his critics had towards him given what was levied against him in the past.
Even then, his most loyal of fans refuse to accept the fact the ‘World Boss’ will be imprisoned for at least the next 35 years, with some stunningly saying he should be released due to the fact the victim was not famous. As delusional as it gets.
He may be the greatest lyricist in the history of Dancehall, but he is also Jamaican music’s most polarizing figure by some distance.