Over the last couple of weeks, a number of legal controversies have surrounded the infamous Vybz Kartel (aka Adidjah Palmer), self-proclaimed “World Boss”. While the musical artiste is no stranger to contention, often creating it himself with his overtly sexual lyrics, outlandish bodily alterations, and compromising situations, the attention he has garnered in local media recently is of an entirely different nature.
In September, Jamaican police discovered a partially burned, decomposed body in a residence in Havendale, St. Andrew that was said to belong to Kartel. A couple weeks the deejay was later picked up at a capital in the nation’s capital, only a few hours after he had rapped up the second series of his new hit reality show Teacha’s Pet, the Jamaica Observer reports. After the searching the premises, a small amount of marijuana (approximately four ounces) was found, resulting in Kartel and three others being arrested and charged with possession of an illegal substance. When arraigned in court, Kartel later pleaded not guilty to drug charges, but these were later pushed aside for the bigger charges prosecutors were mounting. More trouble was brewing for the infamous dancehall icon.
It seems that the drug charges were only the beginning of Kartel’s woes with the law as he was indicted and incarcerated on charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of a firearm, which is as a result of the death of Barrington “Bossie” Burton. Burton, a businessman from St. Catherine, was allegedly killed as he stood talking outside with friends along a road in Gregory Park. Even more recently, Kartel was slapped with a second murder charge in connection to the killing of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams on August 16th of this year in Havendale, St. Andrew. With these new charges, things are seeming rather grim for the dancehall artiste.
Upon the release of the news of these new charges against the artiste, there was a large outcry from Jamaicans all over the world who suspected foul play was at work behind the scenes. Several twitter users expressed their concern that law enforcement was manipulating evidence in order to ensure that Kartel remained behind bars. Some believe that this is another dancehall artiste falling victim to a situation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – earlier this year Buju Banton received a sentence of ten years in a United States prison for drug charges. But is this really the case?
For many years, Vybz Kartel has written and performed several songs that often times blatantly speak about violent acts that he has performed or intends to along with the illegal acquisition of weapons. For example, a song entitled “My Gun” he says, “Mine mi murdah yuh!/In fronta Kim… Inna him cerebellum/Slug en’ up…Me buss mi gun dem whenever mi like…” In “My Scheme”, another one of his songs, he mentions, “Nuh dead by accident/We buss him head for spite” as well as countless other examples of violent behavior. Based on the lyrical content of some of his most popular songs, it is not outlandish to expect the executions of such actions in real life. Life often imitates art and it is rather hard to believe that after so many of these songs, their contents have all been created and that nothing is based on real life events.
However, it would be more than a little unfair to make this assumption. Just because J.K. Rowling created the fantastical world of Harry Potter does not make her a witch – to make this assumption would completely forget the purpose of art. It is first and foremost an expression of those who engage in it.
This leaves Vybz Kartel in a bit of a sticky situation because the fact remains that his songs paint a dim picture that the court may use against him when deciding his fate and while this is unfair, it is undeniably damning. I think it’s unfair to laden law enforcement with the accusation of framing the young artist when he himself has played a major part in the perception of him as a criminal. At the same time, allowing these same perceptions to play a significant role in his legal fate goes against the founding principles of justice. Now, with all of this to consider, there is no telling what will become of Vybz Kartel, “dancehall hero”, in Jamaica’s courts.