Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Kingston Red Hot

Written by Sherry Southe

Our Morning Revolution News Team this month has sifted through the streets of the Third Worlds’ most famous city, without the editorial dictate of Area Dons and henchmen to prepare a scathing report. We are letting the world in on the most happening hotspot on the planet. Kingston, JAMAICA… Concrete Jungle, Beaston City, Killtown, Port Royal, or simply put, ‘town’ or whatever you choose to call it, is an urban city centre that has amassed some riotous people and a culture that is blazing a new path.

We begin our coverage looking at the Rude Boy culture and its contribution to Kingston’s current social arrangements.

Kingston Red Hot
Dancehall Capitol, the most dangerous city on the planet…

JAMAICA is a vibrant epicenter of artistic flair & cultural vibrations…

“Kingston, birthplace of Mento, Ska, Reggae, Rock Steady, Rub-a-Dub, Dancehall music; Bogle, Skank, Shuffle, Dela Move, Bend Down Low and Log On dances… Origins of a smooth language, cool accents, Holy Spirit filled-laid back-smiling faces…”

“Kingston, it’s a bustling capital city of extreme contrasts dominated by the passive majestic Christian and Rastafarian religious movement’s. These sacred holy havens, now co-exist with a raw and risqué yard core resistance movement known to be part of the Rude Boy culture.

“Kingston has for centuries developed its own authentic political, religious, creative and natural philosophies, which all blend together making for a spontaneous realistic social atmosphere.

Story Manager: Philip Dinham, Editorial Assistant: Justin Howell, Copy editor: Simmy, Executive Producer: Xavier Murphy. Resource: the Jamaican Gleaner – Jamaica Observer – Radio Jamaica – The Rasta Reader – Chant Down Babylon – Wake The Town and Tell The People, Dancehall Culture in Jamaica by Norman C. Stolzoff.

In addition to partisan politics and Rastafari, another influence that shaped Kingston after Independence was the emergence of a rebellious youth movement of disenfranchised urban males called Rude Boys.

Beginning around 1961 and blossoming years later, the urban centres erupted as a distinct force of unemployed male youths began to run things.

The Rude Boy phenomenon is a formidable, unofficial movement within Jamaican circles; it’s been developed using the machinery and guidance of sub-cultures artistic leaders, in the popular mass media. The sound forces of electronic hardware have distinctly embedded fresh trendy noises to influence a now fashionable, overtly hostile and randomly crude image that most Jamaican young men cling upon to represent themselves.

The profiling of the afro-sensitive underclassmen by the ruling class during the late 1950’s1960’s era brought about a new social player. The Rude Boy emerged as a cool, aloof, dangerous, menacing, trendsetter. Influential, he has the right flexibility in temperament, to negotiate and fuse wittingly through unassuming cults, making formidable attempts to conquer his adversaries.

To be a Rude Boy was in itself a protest, a show of defiance against the social construct or strained successors of slavery, racism and poverty. It is the Rude Boy who has always made attempts to challenge and reorder constituted authority by protesting, controlling, subduing and eventually stringing together enough contacts in all levels of society to assist him in leading the massive.

The millennial generation of the groovy nation have been the ones to fully embrace all angles of this new cult, recycling and repackaging the prerequisites of being a Rude Boy through a placid art form…Music. A mood and message altering sound that has taught love and peace in Kingston, as well it encourages persistent aggression, as man and man role play in a new rebellion, shouting their lilting voices from the ghettos, hoping to wake up the entire world.

Girls jump up to this no turn and twist… Walk like a champion, talk like a champion, gyal tell me where you get it from??… “Buju B”

It’s never been a secret but yet few outside those who have journeyed to the Island of JAMAICA or lived there know factually, that daily its people pulsate into such dramatic energy forces, warm, friendly, breathtaking beauty, so exotic, a earthy type of naturalness which all emanates from the capital city Kingston.

For renowned Jamaican personalities, Marley, Tosh, Cliff, Garvey, Belafonte, strangely enough are remembered from this Island. They have continued a tradition of enlightening crowds to new levels of consciousness, re-birthing an uncrushable creative spirit among the souls of peoples throughout the streets of the world.

Jamaica an Afro-centric society has been uncompromising, using its’ abilities to empower the scattered peoples of the African continent. Yet through the many achievements of sports, music, cuisine and beauty, Jamaica today faces its most challenging times. The Reggae capital of the world today is a society torn in socio-economic hardships and the criminal ethic is sadly in full flight. Within recent years Kingston, Jamaica has mistakenly grabbed the global crime headlines as it explodes in obscene gestures.

The city capital has been buried with youths and mature middle age men alike, whom have developed a robust tribal rebellion. Armed and dangerous, displaying a newly found rage for rapacious warfare, a bunch of ruffians have been moving on tuff to protect their hegemony. Whether it’s a car, their neighbourhood turf, their job, their money, their family, their woman, or their bellies, Kingston men have become notorious for backing up their livelihood with more than their fist. The rude thugs have unleashed grievous anger and sordid behaviour splitting an already traumatic community into pens of wounded special interests.

Most Jamaicans believe its been a natural progression we are witnessing from the political culture, as with the help of the music industry and entertainment session scene they who want to run things have triumphed, becoming sole winners of an explicit and vulgar popular mass.

History begs to intervene on that matter, for most Jamaican culture to date has been featured around personalities and struggles, the suffering and the triumph, which was instructed by the musical tones of Africa and the language of the Bible. Its no lie, Jamaicans have always relied on spiritual themes as the essence of life, this as a requisite to grappling with our many adversities. Yet in this new culture, spirituality has been low keyed and even absent; guns have risen in glory and women flung to the abyss, as sexual lust and strife takes root.

Loud persuasive assaults by young bloods is the rave, as DJ’s scream and blast electronically mixed tunes to sold-out crowds in town squares weekly. For indeed, self -proclaimed musical messengers are dropping hundreds of new tunes, hitting a saturated market place running. It’s through Reggae’s success during the 1970’s, that Jamaica was able to dig trenches towards building a formidable music industry, and with it came untold opportunities for urban youths.

Representing the Community

The elaborate showcasing of raw musical talent had become big business and as one youth’s hopes rise, so did the passion of his yard community. His supporters remain loyal, hoping that their home-grown success would make it big and represent them, for in return the patriot of the community had a responsibility to give back something.

Marketing strategy of street “bashments”/club sessions and wild parties are all a part of the industry of the music and entertainment business. Folk from all bout in line to cash in, advertising whiz promoters and business gurus who spin and rock the voices of the ghetto, watching as it transforms an entire population…

Good business one may say, amassing hundreds of millions of dollars annually, contributing heavily to the coffers of the economy. As in all enterprise in a liberalized industry, business becomes competitive as well, polarizing the micro-community between individual groupings.

It’s no wonder that like its’ early predecessor “Reggae”, (which high-jacked the popular African tones of the Ska-Rock Steady genres) which capitalized on the influence [of politically motivated advocates of a natural humanity] Rastafarians were having on the micro-community, the new Raggamuffin crowd has been spitting dub and materialistic sensuality in crass chatter, presenting lyrics in a message that chops up and vandalizes the tenets of the Christian-Rastafarian religion and civilized community.

In sync with the evolution of popular genres of rap, hip-hop and British garage scene, the yankies and expats in cities and far away lands have forced our youths at home to catch up or shake out of the World music market. Jamaica and Kingston’s ghetto tribes, whether uptown or downtown, swapped the natural for the unnatural delivering new champions of Reggae.

People dead, what I said, the crime must be led, the hungry must be fed…look into my eyes, tell me what you see, can you feel my pain, am I your enemy, give us a better way, things are really bad, the only friend I have is this gun I have, listen to my voice this is not a threat, now you see the nine are you worried yet? Rodney Price aka “Bounti-Killer”

The “punnanie and gun” are the earliest weapons of this new age of culture wars and they have and are still being driven to a point of abuse. The result an urban ghetto scene that has risen directly opposed to any sense of civility. Stone love, Renaissance, City Rock, Metro Media, Bass Odyssey, Body Guard, etc. … while drumming in the massive, these sound systems have for several decades virtually controlled the mass of the Kingston metropolitan area. Pulsating midnight clashes, have been a ritual for most teens to attend. Drum pan sound on every avenue, lane, pen, farm or village, all night long promoting the community hero, heckling the Prime Minister, bashing the homosexual with shouts of death. Its Dancehall music at its most ugly that is leading a crusade across Jamaica and converting Jah’s children to an assembly hall of death. The disturbed silent flock, in disgust have fled the area for fear of the terror that a powerful vexed and rising Dancehall generation is flexing.

Infamous Dancehall began its trek across the Island with its heavy drumming baseline days of the late 1980’s and has continued unbridled, packing much punch with the blindaga bashment 21st century tones. Shabba Ranks, Ninja Man, Super Cat, Mad Cobra, early kings of the novel rhythms, melodies and beats of a third world nation, helped to expose the new genre connecting the artistic movement in a web involving producers, engineers, musicians, promoters and consumers. Enhanced by the stage scene, today the area dons of Dancehall are mere juveniles, young lions, who have no purpose, other than spinning the word and mixing up the tunes looking for that randomly huge acceptance that will deliver them into ambassador status.

The risqué singer/DJ becomes a high end product on sale; to him he is a global super star or modern day mogul, royal ambassador. Driving posh luxury cars, first class flights, wearing everything designer, rinsing nuff dollars and calling the shots. It’s a powerful job and so like local politicians, most DJ’s hardly want to leave the stage scene. The industry has a hard time harnessing succession as the princes and kings in the middle of dancehall prefer to play dirty among rivals, they normally perform maneuver clashes of defamation in ways directly and indirectly, severely affecting the progress of younger artistes in the business.

The purist argued that Reggae is almost a lost art at the top of the 21st century; for “Dancehall” punks have arrested the platforms and streets with their personal agendas. They rely on their personal preferences towards viciously mining gold. Shamelessly DJ’s convert the babe and suckling to freakiness and essentially are selling over an entire community to the marketing gurus of Babylon for the devils cash rewards.

Pirates turned extortionists many have twisted folk wisdom, dialect and street talk, using them to inspire vigilante practices within the urban communities of Kingston.

The problem is that dancehall idolizes the Rude Roy or Rudie, men of the ghettos who are unofficial foot soldiers, guerrilla armed, who have no comfort in the state armed forces of law and order. Rudies maintain underground networks to transport and distribute drugs within local, regional and international markets. Thus the Dancehall culture has further popularized pimps and thugs, maniac crews, youths who used to peddle their stuff on sandy beaches, offering guidance to the unassuming visitor, turned deadly warlords…

From a vantage point of Farrin being in exile in the Babylonian capitol of United States, the continued micro tug of war in Jamaica becomes obviously a cultural war, unto which most place their disappointments and failures, blaming the oppressive leadership of the former absent monarchy, the Catholic church and present day representational parliamentarians, and Partisan political hierarchies. However nervously, there is a failure by the public to name the individual dancehall acts as national security threats.

In 2001 the music industry was scolded after major assaults by DJ’s demanded reprimand from authorities, slapping them on the wrist, the courts found popular female DJ Lady Saw, Bounti Killer and Anthony B, guilty of obscenity in a public place. The light sentence makes one concerned, for they, the artistes chose to pay cash amounts totally $1000 instead of using the opportunity to give back to their fans and the nation through community service. Making it clear that the career of present day local acts is strictly about fame, dollars and hype. This leaves many shocked and fearful in some quarters, as those who study city life are seeing a rapid disconnection, as a chasm opens up dividing the ordinary from the movers and shakers. DJ’s, like politicians, can change our lives by what they say and do within their careers. Thus their actions as public leaders, people who influence our lives, should be subjected to codes of conduct of the highest distinction.

We have become a nation that is divided against itself and will gradually go to ruin, as no one party can stand, no one stakeholder can stand, they all fight for control in and out of season and put enormous pressure on the possessions/resources that the country owns.

The society is being shaped by images of crisis and counter crisis in every conceivable authoritative model that has evolved. Jamaica may be a diversely rich country of amazing natural resources of minerals, flora, fauna, marine and meteorological splendor; however the moment the Island accepted the Rude Boy cult of Dancehall and saluted its’ voices to greatness, they gave Dancehall much ammunition and authority. Today as we interact, the community finds itself jumping from heated daily riots into this austere fire of unpredictable perpetual war that will leave scores of hundreds injured and thousands dead yearly.

Thank you for sharing in our Part One in a series entitled ‘Kingston Red Hot’. We hope that this case study of our nations culture of community development may help you understand the delicate point we as a community have reached in our nations development.

Are you a Kingstonian born and grown or a lover of this city in distress? We invite you to drop us a line by e-mail and tell us what’s most disturbing about Kingston to you??? Or might you propose solutions to the challenges the inner city communities face? We welcome your comment at… [email protected]

About the author

Sherry Southe