Vybz Kartel’s recent conviction for murder is a tricky subject. We don’t pretend to know all the details of the case (some of which actually went missing during the course of the trial), but what we do know is that the verdict has led to an outpouring of support for the World Boss from dancehall musicians and fans alike. Tribute mixes to Kartel have rolled in from many of the top soundsystems around the world. Here are just four of the many, many post-trial Vybz tapes:
1.Tek 9 Movements- “Vybz Kartel 2K5: Lyrics in Overdrive”
The Brooklyn-based Tek 9 Movements presents an even sampling of Vybz’s catalog, from ganja praise (“Visa”) to social commentary (“Society”) and romance (“Never Love Another”). The dubbed-down sound of the mix leaves Vybz’s lyrics to speak for themselves, giving ample evidence of the talent that has backed up his major status in the dancehall community.
2. Federation Sound- “Vybz Kartel: From Time to Time”
Federation Sound (which includes DJ Max Glazer, a contributor to our “Jamaica in New York City” program) re-released “Vybz Kartel: From Time to Time,” a collaborative mix that came out back in 2003 when Vybz’s career was first taking off. At this early stage, Vybz sounds much more care-free than he has become since his run-ins with the law over the past few years.
3. PONdENDS.COM- “Unfair Trial”
The Jamaican online radio station, PONdENDS.COM put out the most trial-focused mix of the many we came across, titled, appropriately enough, “Unfair Trial.” It begins with reactions to the verdict by many of danchall’s biggest artists, including Ninjaman. Patrick Gaynor of Twin of Twins calls the day Vybz was found guilty “a sad day for the music, a sad day for Jamaica as a whole,” while dancehall scholar Carolyn Cooper says that it is “dancehall culture that has been on trial.” Among the songs on the mix is “Locked Up,” Vybz’s collaboration with Akon and Styles P.” Vybz, reflecting on his incarceration, raps, “Prison life, never-never-never nice, prison life anno nutten like paradise.”
4. DJ Nate- “100% Vybz Kartel”
From London, the impressive two-hour career retrospective “100% Vybz Kartel” comes courtesy of DJ Nate. The mix begins with “Life Sweet,” on which Vybz contrasts an optimistic chorus with the weary lines: “Ghetto youths have it harda/ Nuff a we nuh grow with no fadda (no fadda)/ So we end up tun gangsta.”
Whatever side you might take on his murder charge, there is no denying the power of the Vybz’s music. Thankfully, he was prolific enough over the decade before his conviction to supply the material for the tribute mixes that will keep on coming for quite some time to come.