The LGBT community once labeled dancehall music as “Murder Music” and in the process tried to stifle numerous dancehall artistes because of the anti-homosexual lyrics that were coming out of dancehall. That movement became mainly an issue of freedom of speech as dancehall lyrics has never been proven to cause the killing of any homosexual.
Dancehall is at the point now, however, where artists, producers, promoters, fans and all other stakeholders must ask the question; has the music we loved become murder music?
We can no longer dig our heads in the sand and pretend that the music has no impact on people’s behavior or that there is no correlation between Jamaica’s runaway crime rate and the excess amount of violent music in dancehall.
Right now, the man who is considered by many to be the greatest dancehall artiste ever, Vybz Kartel, is serving a life sentence for murder. Right now, the man who is considered to be the greatest dancehall clash deejay of all time, Ninja Man, is in the middle of a trial where he is charged for murder and could learn his fate this week. Right now the artiste who introduced auto-tune to dancehall, Munga Honorable, is free on bail while awaiting his court date to face murder charges. Right now, dancehall artiste, Shawn Storm is also serving a life sentence for murder. Just a few months ago, the hottest dancehall artiste right now, Alkaline, was arrested and questioned over a murder, however, he was not charged. Just last night, dancehall artiste, Unicorn, was murdered.
It is no secret that when it comes to dancehall, it is good to be bad. Artistes like Josey Wales, Supercat and Eek-A-Mouse were revered as being rude boys, however, the essence of their music was to promote unity and not the violence and destruction we hear in dancehall songs today.
Dancehall culture is so entrenched in the Jamaican lifestyle that it has become more than just music, it is actually the way of life. There is no trend in dancehall that is not reflective in Jamaica’s everyday life. Likewise if something is trending in Jamaica, you can bet your paycheck that it will be put to song by a dancehall artiste.
So it begs to reason that should dancehall become more about love, peace and unity and less about shooting and killing, we would see a drop in crime on the island. Of course that is putting a lot of pressure on dancehall artistes but that is how important and special dancehall is to the way of life in Jamaica.
In a recent survey, it was shown that young Jamaicans actually adore Vybz Kartel more than Bob Marley. So imagine if Vybz Kartel started to make songs of love and unity instead of sex, murder and mayhem? Jamaica would be nice again.
There are those who say that Jamaica is a very violent country and thus the music is a reflection of the violence. Maybe that is partly true but who says dancehall has to be part of the problem? Why can’t it be the solution?