by Jodee Brown
As we close the book on a milestone year for Jamaica, there is a litany of moments that our people can take from various aspects of our vibrant culture.
Not only was our 50th year of independence filled with memorable moments from the sports world, but the entertainment industry had its various bright spots: From the emergence of Jamaican music’s brightest young star,Chronixx to the return of a legend in Shabba Ranks, the local music was invigorated in 2012 with new life.
Whether that energy will carry over into a new year remains to be seen. 2012 offered possible answers in the form of rising stars and new innovations, but several questions await us going into 2013. Here are five such queries that should be addressed in the New Year.
5. How far can Chronixx go? In recent months, everybody seems to be high onChronixx since he set the Jamaican music scene ablaze with instant classics such asWarrior and Behind Curtain. But fans should be careful not to put too much pressure on this multitalented phenom, or his career could go up in smoke.
While watching his superb debut at STING 2012, a seemingly overzealous supporter commented on Twitter that Chronixx could become the ‘next Bob Marley.’ Seeing that remark made me fringe as it pointed to the amount of hysteria surrounding the Roots Reggae star. Though his thought-provoking messages and sound are unique and ear-pleasing,Chronixx now faces some of the highest expectations laid on an upcoming Jamaican artiste, maybe since Vybz Kartel.
The hype surrounding Chronixx is understandable as Jamaica is in dire need of fresh young talent who make strong, positive impacts on and off-stage. But before anointing him music chosen one, 2013 marks a year of choices for this soulful musician as he seeks to prove, unlike too many artistes in recent years, that he’s not a ‘fly-by-night’ sensation. Chronixx has the credentials and mental capacity to do it, but he should be allowed to welcome such expectation as a motivational tool and not as a burden.
4. What does the future hold for our female entertainers? Undoubtedly, Tifa was this past year’s most accomplished female artiste as she took flight locally and internationally through efforts like Hold On and Wife Mi Up. Her evolutions suggests she’s more than fit to assume the role as Dancehall’s leading diva as the Queen of Dancehall, Lady Saw turns her attention to a higher calling.
Though Tifa and Spice have emerged as Dancehall’s present day stars, the future for female artistes in the genre seems murky. Despite the efforts of Magnum Kings and Queens and other shows to find that next great female deejay, the talent pool seems more shallow than deep at the moment. Additionally, the constant infighting amongst the female contingent of Dancehall (Macka Diamond vs. Spice, Tifa vs. Lady Saw) has only served to hinder any momentum gathered by any of these divas. Given the daily struggle female artistes constantly face in the industry, the constant bickering needs to stop. The divas in place now must set positive examples for up-and-comers to follow and should unite to help push each other to greater heights.
3. Can Konshens maintain his momentum? It’s often said that a sequel will never match the original act. Hopefully, for Deejay of the Year favorite, Konshens, he doesn’t live up to this phrase.
Konshens has been Jamaican music’s top man in 2012 as singles like Gyal a Bubble, Stop Signand his debut album, Mental Maintenance have connected him with markets in Europe, North America and even Oceania. With high praise comes high standards and given many of Dancehall’s greats such as Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Shaggy, Sean Paul and Vybz Kartel all getting up there in age, the genre needs a young, fresh face to ascend to such an elite status.
Konshens has the imagination, work ethic and arrogance to reach that level and odds point towards another successful year in 2013. But should he reach that next frontier, he’ll have to find ways to strengthen his connection with his growing fan base overseas, which would make him a universally recognized face.
2. Will the ‘Uncle Demon’ act wear thin? Keeping with the theme of young stars, Tommy Lee Sparta made one of the quickest to superstardom Jamaican music has seen in recent memory. However, his devilish gimmick can’t be tolerated for that much longer, can it?
No one’s denying that Tommy Lee has talent. But some of the hype surrounding Vybz Kartel’s prized protégé seems unwarranted given some of the restrictions in his arsenal. His constant ‘demon’ references push the limits of sanity and have caught the ire of fans and industry players, notably Bounty Killer.
As Bounty himself said on CVM’s OnStage recently, such a gimmick might work for him now but may not be in his best interests for the long run. In some way, Tommy Lee’s Uncle Demoncharacter resembles legendary rap star, Eminem’s Slim Shady persona. However, Eminem’s character lasted as long as it did because his range expanded, concepts were ingenious and lyrics grasped attention with ease. Tommy Lee has yet to consistently show any of these traits.
2013 will be a make or break year for the ‘Gaza’ artiste as he’ll need to prove that he can make songs that can appeal to people outside of Jamaica, so that Kartel’s time and investment into building his career doesn’t end up being a waste. And speaking of Kartel…
1. Will Kartel/Buju finally secure freedom? The legal drama involving Vybz Kartel and Reggae legend, Buju Banton appears to have dragged out for an eternity. Hopefully 2013 will finally see some resolutions to these ongoing sagas.
Kartel’s murder trial has seemingly had more delays than an airplane carrier as the case now enters its 16th month in the news. Fans have grown weary of the legal system in hopes that ‘Di Teacha’ will finally get his day in court, and that a verdict will soon be forthcoming. Not only does the resolution of this matter affect Kartel’s well-bring, but Jamaican music’s progress in turn.
The same fate lies with Buju Banton as he seeks another out of his 10-year conviction on drug charges and possible five-year sentence on a gun charge. Having seen several appeals rejected by the American court system in 2012, Buju’s fate appeared sealed.
However, the Gargamel received a precious lifeline in late October when law enforcement officials decided to review Buju’s claim that a juror researched aspects of his February 2011 drug case, thus violating federal court laws and possibly triggering a mistrial. This may be Buju’s last opportunity to escape the proverbial shackles and should it fall through, his uneasy road might lead to a dead end.