by Jodee Brown
This being Jamaica’s 50th year of independence, many of us expected lots of fireworks, chaos and the celebratory hoopla that comes along with such a significant anniversary. In the entertainment world, we got that and then some throughout 2012.
From triumph to tragedy, and the stuff in between, here are the 10 stories that gripped the Jamaican entertainment scene in 2012.
10. Deanna Robins reaches Miss World final: I won’t lie. In June, while watching theMiss Jamaica World pageant, I was home shouting my objection to the final results, thinking that Trishauna Clarke and not the eventual winner, Deanna Robins should have won the crown, mainly because of my bias towards Clarke given she’s a an old prep school classmate of mine. At the time I doubted Robins could deliver the goods on the Miss World stage. After her performance in China, it re-affirmed why I shouldn’t be allowed near a pageant judging panel.
Robins was the epitome of brains and beautyas not only did her beautiful skin tone ad angelic face win her plaudits, her dancing and sporting skills proved her all-round qualities. Not only did she represent ‘The Rock’ well, she excelled on the Miss World stage, earning a spot in the Top 7. Reminding me of a young Lisa Hanna, Robins was undeterred by the pressure and pulled off our best performance at a major pageant since Yendi Phillipps’second-place finish at the 2010 Miss Universepageant.
Her excellence made us proud and for that, I salute her.
9. Yendi and Chino have child together: Speaking of Yendi, she garnered attention for her belly more than the rest of her body in 2012. Phillipps received much praise and scrutiny when she announced her first pregnancy.
News of her first child with boyfriend and prominent Dancehall/Reggae star, Daniel ‘Chino’ McGregorbrought lots of joy and congratulation to her life. However, Phillipps also faced tongue lashings from several detractors, including fans of her ex-boyfriend and former world-record holding runner, Asafa Powell.
Despite the trolling cartoons and the hateful messages, Phillipps was unmoved by the criticism. In late September, the Smile Jamaica co-host gave birth to a bouncing baby girl in late September. Reports of a possible engagement soon followed, but it’s clear that Yendi and Chino are now one of Jamaica’s power couples.
8. Deaths of Mighty Mike/Ewan McRae/Captain Barkey: With the joy of life comes the inevitable fate of death, and that sadly was realized in the case of three Jamaican entertainment veterans.
In July, the radio world was in shock when veteran IRIE FM disc jock, Mighty Mike was found dead in his St. Ann home following complications with diabetes. His death stunned many of his contemporaries and friends, particularly Dancehall legend, Shabba Ranks, who sobbed during a subsequent interview when talking eloquently of his late friend.
Just over three weeks later, prominent promoter and Flava Squad CEO, Ewan McRae was murdered at his home in Florida. The popular promoter was the creator of over 10 Riddims and was well-respected for his musical intellect.
Then, there was the sad story of veteran deejay, Captain Barkey who was murdered along with his lover, Tracy Bennett in New York by Bennett’s deranged ex-boyfriend in October. Barkey was best known for being in the comedic Dancehall duo, Captain Barkey and Wickerman and scored his biggest solo hit in 1996 with Go Go Wine. May all their souls Rest in Peace.
7. The Portmore Empire dissolves – This story had a domino effect on the ‘Gaza’ side of Dancehall when embattled deejay, Vybz Kartel disbanded the Empire while behind bars.
The move meant that promising protégés, Popcaan and Gaza Slim would now have to build his repertoire on their own. It also exposed the friction that existed within the Gaza camp: From Gaza Slim calling Popcaan a liar regarding his relationship with Kartel, to the Worl’ Boss himself claimingTommy Lee and Popcaan were ‘opportunists.’
Despite the rumored tension, Popcaan and Tommy Lee re-affirmed their loyalty towards the ‘Worl’ Boss,’ and continue to enjoy success without their mentor. But many questions remain going into 2013. Can Tommy Lee prove that he’s more than ‘Uncle Demon’? What happens to the careers of Sheba, Gaza Slim and other going forward? And, should ‘Di Teacha’ somehow secure freedom, how will that affect the status of his highly-touted student s? Only time will tell.
6. Kartel/Buju’s ongoing legal sagas: Kartel and imprisoned reggae superstar, Buju Bantonmanaged to secure some breaks in their ongoing legal sagas. But they still face uncertain futures as their fates are still up in the air.
Vybz Kartel was freed of the drug charge that he was booked on during his initial arrest nearly 15 months ago. He also copped bail on a conspiracy charge last month pertaining to one of his murder cases. However, that same murder case is the reason Kartel remains in a Spanish Town jail cell, and with reports of a ‘star witness’ set to testify against him during the pending trial, things still look murky for Dancehall’s most controversial product.
The same can be said for Buju Banton, who had an appeal and subsequent trial request turned down by courts in Georgia and Florida respectively. But with a five year sentence on a gun charge once again hanging over his head. Buju got some good news when a juror admitted to researching facts of his drug case, which is against federal trial laws. If proven, a mistrial could be ruled and Buju would secure freedom once more.
5. Shabba get hero’s welcome – If Buju or Kartel are finally allowed to walk the streets as free men once more, they still may not get the same welcome back that fellow Dancehall legend,Shabba Ranks received when he ended an 11 year hiatus from the island this past July.
Shabba was mobbed by hundreds of fans at the Norman Manley International Airport and got a motorcade as he toured his native Olympic Gardens neighborhood. But that was nothing compared to the constant ovations he received while performing a rousing set at Reggae Sumfest 2012 and copping the accolades his career truly deserved.
When will we see Shabba again? Who knows, but after seeing that performance, plus the interview of the year he gave to Winford Williams of CVM’s OnStage, let’s hope that comeback will be much sooner.
4. Mr. Vegas/Lady Saw cheating scandals – Entertainers are usually mum on their private lives but in the cases of Mr. Vegas and Lady Saw, they chose to ignore the protocol many public figures try to adhere to.
Mr. Vegas blasted his baby’s mother on social media when he caught her cheating with another man in his house, in front of his young daughter. Instead of handling it behind closed doors, Vegas went to the media with his story, even posting evidence of the incident at heart. Now he seems to be milking the event for what it’s worth, with a music video, website and a book outlining his heartbreak. While it seems like shameless PR, Vegas has used the incident to his advantage to engage fans and allow them into his world.
Lady Saw allowed fans into her personal space when she tweeted about the infidelity of her long-time boyfriend, John John. The Queen of Dancehall not only revealed the fact John John impregnated another woman, she openly soul-searched to try and overcome the news. In both cases, it’s proof of the chaos Twitter and Facebook can cause, especially when in a bad mood.
3. Struggling album sales in the U.S. – 2012 saw lots of good, authentic Jamaican music being pushed to the masses as Konshens, Romain Virgo, Busy Signal, Mr. Vegas and Sean Paul all released stellar albums.
But as successful as their albums were, none of them managed to muster a significant push in album sales. None of the aforementioned artiste cracked the 5,000 sold copies mark with their compilations in the U.S.A, a very distant cry from the Dutty Rock’s, Welcome To Jamrock’s and Hot Shots’ of the world that went multi-platinum in the early 2000s.
These lacklustre figures are indicative of the overwhelming shift to digital music as nearly every Dancehall/Reggae artiste of significance can be found on iTunes. Additionally, it points to another fact that as much talk as there is about our lead artistes retrieving their U.S visas, Europe is the new standard-bearing international market for our entertainers. More stage shows and promotional opportunities are available in the continent, where Reggae music has been highly revered since the days of Bob Marley. Thus, Jamaican artistes should continue to capitalize on the popularity of their craft there as sales in the U.S continue to plummet.
2. Busy Signal’s extradition/Elephant Man’s rape charge – Few stories get a strong reaction out of me as a journalist, but upon hearing that Busy Signal of all people was going to be extradited regarding a 10-year old drug case, my jaws literally dropped.
An artiste with no criminal record or history of controversy, Busy was booked by U.S. marshals after waiving his rights, and would later serve six months in prison for absconding bail while awaiting trial on a 2002 drug case.
Busy was punished for something that happened long before we knew him as a highly respected singjay and, though it broke laws, was a desperate attempt to make something of himself. He succeeded in doing so and the actions shown since that day in January 2002 prove it wasn’t a case of him being a bad person, but a good person who did something bad, and admitted it.
After serving his penance, the self-professed ‘Hothead’ is back home and preparing to deliver his first local performance in four year on December 26 at STING 2012.
Just three months earlier, fellow deejay and friend, Elephant Man was forced to fight his own legal battle when a woman accused him of rape and grievous sexual assault at his St. Andrew home.
The accusations were just as stunning given the Energy God’s clean record. After pleading not guilty to the charge, Elephant Man vehemently denied any wrongdoing and will face his day in court early next year to answer to these accusations.
1. Jamaica 50 celebrations: But what obviously stood out most in Jamaican Pop Culture this year was the celebration of our 50th anniversary as an independent nation.
Our roots were re-discovered this year with a plethora of all-Reggae albums, celebratory events and so much more that had the Black, Green and Gold colors out in full force. However, nothing showed Jamaica’s patriotism more than the historic performances our athletes pulled off in London. The defense of sprint titles by Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, the 1-2-3 finish in the 200m, the record-breaking effort by our men’s relay team and brave performances by Alia Atkinson, Dorian Scott, amongst others were moments we’ll cherish for a very long time to come.
2012 was one of the most eventful and memorable years in Jamaican Pop Culture, particularly because of what this year meant for our people. Our 50th was great to be a part, let’s hope the 51st will be just as fruitful.