Reggae, Dancehall, VP Records and Race in Jamaica.

Many people in the reggae dancehall community like to talk trash about VP Records and their stranglehold on reggae and dancehall music. Artists, fans, and producers alike talk equally negative about VP Records, especially after they bought Greensleeves to create what was essentially a monopoly in reggae music. Of course the monopoly title does not really fit today as vinyl and CD continues to dwindle while digital music is on the rise. Now you have numerous digital distributors that specialize in reggae and dancehall, mainly Zojak, 21st Hapilos, and VPAL which is actually the digital arm of VP Records.

I myself used to see VP Records as an evil entity.

Then last night I was watching the CEO from AT&T on CNBC. He said in a capitalist society, the goal of every organization should be to crush all competitors and buy out those who are just too good to be crushed. He said the ultimate success to him would be for every person on the earth to be walking around with an AT&T phone, not because of unfair monopoly but because AT&T’s products and business execution was just superior to the competitors.

Then it hit me. VP Records is not some evil company that bought out Greensleeves to create a monopoly in reggae. They are not blood suckers that take advantage of artists, producers, and fans. VP Records is simply an excellent run business that has been able to rise to the highest heights among all distributors of dancehall and reggae music. As their motto says: “Miles ahead in Reggae music.”

I think instead of hating on VP, artists and producers should come together and study VP. Find out what it takes for a company that started as a small record shop in Kingston, Jamaica to rise to the heights that it has risen. Of course this will be a difficult task, because you know us Black people can’t do anything positive collectively.

We are experts when it comes to tearing down and destroying each other but when it comes to actually building up, we are mere novices. We are great at shouting out “Gaza,” “Gully,” “Alliance”; we are even creative when it comes to foolishness like “one plus few equal three because I don’t deal with two” but we never seem to be creative where it counts.

How long will Black people sit, whine, and complain about corporations destroying or making all the money off our music while the original creators have to settle for crumbs? When will we realize that action is what is needed and not just words. Why did it take white Chris Blackwell to uplift the careers of people like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Jimmy Cliff? Why are today’s artists so dependent on VP Records? Why can’t they pool their resources and create their own marketing, promotion and distribution company? If Chris Blackwell did it for Island Records and Randy Chin did it for VP Records, what is stopping us Black people from doing it?

Didn’t Marcus Garvey tell us the following:

<strong>If you cannot do it, if you are not prepared to do it then you will DIE. You race of cowards, you race of imbeciles, you race of worthless good for-nothings, if you cannot do what other men have done, what other nations have done, what other races have done, THEN YOU HAD BETTER DIE.</strong>

Marcus Garvey’s words are so true. We can talk shit about VP all we want, but let’s face it, if there was no VP Records, only digital music would save dancehall.

Instead of criticizing VP, we should humble ourselves and ask them what it takes to build a VP Records. We should learn from them how to sustain a record company through good and bad economic times.

Last but not least, we Blacks in Jamaica who write the music, build the rhythms, perform the music, and produce and arrange the music should ask ourselves why is it we get the least financial benefit from OUR music.

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