by Jodee Brown
After a night filled with clashes, eye-raising moments and the return of a legend, STING 2013, the 30th anniversary of the ‘Greatest Dancehall show on Earth’ on Dec. 26 certainly entertained and provoked thoughts throughout, leaving music lovers with lots of talking points to dissect for a long time coming.
The show, organized by Supreme Promotions and Downsound Records was, in this writer’s opinion, the most intriguing one since 2008 when the rivalry between Vybz Kartel and Mavado came to a head. Highlights were prevalent and lowlights were evident; here’s a look at some of those performances and moments in this STING 30 review.
Early Segments: STING, perhaps given the amount of entertainers on the bill, started shortly after 8 a.m. Amongst the emerging artists that performed within the first two hours of STING were Kalado and Toronto based deejay Touchless, who gave short, yet effective sets, going into songs like You Make Me Feel and Summer Body respectively. However, it was fast-rising Reggae sensation, Jah Bouks that was a hit with the smaller crowd inside the Portmore-based Jamworld, performing his big hit, Angola as well as newer material such as Going Home. His performance savvy, seen at a slew of show this year, makes him a must-watch act in 2014 and beyond.
Reggae shines on stage (Romain’s last STING?)
Though STING draws a hardcore Dancehall following, pure Reggae acts always find strong favor with the crowd, and this year was no exception. As per usual, Etana andI-Wayne drew some of the best responses from the typically judgmental audience, with the former bringing out Alborosie for a strong rendition of their collaborative hit,Blessings while the latter connected with his female following with, Girl I Love You.
While the likes of Nature and Iba Mahr also presented high energy sets, the stand out performance came from one Romain Virgo, who repeatedly hinted that this year might be the last year he performs at the show. It was a surprising admission from the 23-year-old phenom, who went into hits such as Who Feels It Knows It, Rain Is Falling, Mi Prefer Wait and Serious Times while decked out in all-white. Whatever the reasoning was behind those utterances is unknown, but after giving one of the best sets throughout the night, no one will be hoping he actually lives up to his proclamation.
Wyclef props and 2 Chainz flops
STING 30 went out of its element by inviting international artists to the show to provide a different flavor to its fans. Unlike the more mixed crowd for Reggae Sumfest, however, it was always going to take a lot more effort to appease this crowd and in the case of 2 Chainz, he learned that the hard way.
The American rap star’s set started off on the wrong foot with technical issues dominating the first five minutes. Once his mic was finally fixed, his set just failed to get off the ground. In a performance littered with unapologetic cursing, he did songs like Birthday Suit, No Lie and others to an unmoved, silent crowd who did not seem to know exactly how to react. No matter how much he tried to warm up to them, it just was not connecting; frankly looking like a mismatch between artist and fan base. He incessantly complained about his stage time late in his performance, but perhaps this flop of a set should have ended sooner given the circumstances.
On the other hand, Wyclef Jean went over with the Portmore-based crowd by doing something that will always get you in their good graces, shouting out incarcerated Dancehall superstar and Portmore native, Vybz Kartel. After renditions of classics such as Gone Till November and911, as well as a smattering of poetry, Wyclef went into the crowd before unleashing a pair of Kartel hits for the crowd to savor. Also shouting out Buju Banton and convicted drug baron,Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke during his set, Wyclef endeared himself to the crowd the best way he could, by indulging in the culture.
Supercat still has the ‘Iron Claw’
Now at age 50 and 11 years removed from his last performance in Jamaica, the return of the ‘Don Dada,’ Supercat to the STING stage was filled with as much mystery as there was anticipation, considering how scarce he has been on the music stage in recent years.
However, the legendary Dancehall/Reggae star showed why he is still one of the most feared and respected performers in the game, recovering from a somewhat slow opening to launch into full gear with hits like Si Boops Deh, Unda Pressure and Dolly My Baby.
The crowd loved it and there was a flow to his set, the longest of the night. Supercat also showcased some new material, including talking about his ‘doggie leg,’ but his mere presence in a white suit, sporting a beard and curls was a pleasure to witness. Hopefully, there will be more sightings of this Jamaican music great in the years to come.
Lady Saw trounces Macka Diamond in clash
Truth be told, to call this highly anticipated showdown between the ‘Queen of Dancehall’ Lady Saw and Macka Diamonda clash may be overstating it a bit. This was more of a shouting match than anything else; providing more moments of entertainment than quality lyrical content.
Saw was in no joking mood throughout the night, giving a X-rated performance that kept eyes fixated throughout, particularly during her performance of Heels On, when she called out model, Tyson Beckford and simulated a sexual position on stage while singing. Following her standout performance, she called out Macka to the stage. Macka, donning all-black and face paint, did a clash-friendly rendition of her hit, Dye Dye before all hell broke loose. The two nearly butted heads before Lady Saw went out in full attack mode, alleging several sexual relationships Macka had in the music business before letting her lyrics do the talking.
Though said lyrics were not up to the standard we’re usually accustomed to from the legendary deejay, she was never pushed to go into second gear with a seemingly intimidated Macka pushed to the brink of admitting defeat near the end, saying ‘Mi will die trying.’ That line alone proved how one-way this ‘clash’ was. Saw was ruthless as she saw her prey and wouldn’t let up once she had it in her clutches, making Macka ‘die die’ lyrically as she unleashed her vocal bullets.
D’Angel gets raunchy during clash with Ninja Man
Ninja Man has faced his share of tough opponents in the clash arena – Supercat, Mad Cobra, Merciless and Kiprich – but this year’s clash rival was relatively new in that area of music. After winning a celebrity clash against Ishawna in November,D’Angel decided to respond to a lyric the ‘Don Gorgon’ sang about her during his set. She used her retort to address a fresh controversy about a picture exposing her privates that circulated on the internet shortly before Christmas. Not only did she use it as material in her answer to Ninja Man, she even ‘skinned out,’ in front of the audience while wearing a short blouse, adding a raunchiness to her set that she is not typically known for. She was unafraid of the repercussions and certainly prompted bulged eyes to be made throughout this short-lived clash.
Performance of the night – Sizzla
Otherwise, Aidonia and Beenie Man were relatively solid throughout their sets, Tommy Lee seemed reflective as he talked about his car accident and expressed his desire for a United States visa during his performance and Mavado put to rest any recent speculation about his relationship with mentor, Bounty Killer by shouting him out during his performance – a combination of old school gangsta hits mixed with a few newer songs.
But the single best performance of the night had to be Sizzla Kalonji, who was in a militant mood, performing classics like Thank You Mama, Trod Mount Zion, Be Strong and many more. Often free styling and even throwing a couple of barbs in the direction of STING’s lead promoter, Isaiah Laing, Sizzla made several points addressing homosexuality, Africa and many more topics to overwhelming approval from the crowd. He did not miss a beat, and should be given serious consideration to close the show in the near future.
Ryno beats Kiprich in title clash
After disposing of General B, Mercilessand even the clash king himself, Ninja Man, Kiprich was hoping for some competition for the clash title and a US$30,000 on the line to close the show. On stage stepped a surprise opponent in Black Ryno, who at the same show last year was pushed off stage by Popcaan during a heated exchange between ex Portmore Empireteammates.
Donning a very unusual costume, Kiprich looked to have underrated Ryno’s ability from the jump, but was quickly put in line by ‘Ryno Di Stinger’ with a quick, devastating flurry of lyrics which included mostly freestyles. After ‘Kippo’ made a reference to last year’s incident involving Ryno, however, the Facebook singer did not garner many likes as the clash went on as impatient, bipartisan crowd booed him as they rooted for their hometown artist. This was a unanimous decision in the end, leaving Kiprich with too much to overcome and Black Ryno with US$30,000 more in his pocket. Hopefully, this will be the start of a renaissance in the career of an artist still looking for his first big hit since severing ties with Vybz Kartel.