Controversial Jamaicans

Vybz Kartel

When we think of controversy we automatically think of shame and scandal, but some people are considered controversial because they stand up for what they believe in. In Jamaica, when a rumor gets started that someone is controversial, as they say, “If it nuh go so, it go close to so…”

Here is a list of some of the Island’s most notorious figures who have been labeled controversial.

Honorable Orette Bruce Golding

Golding was born December 5, 1947, in Jamaica. He attended St. George’s College, Jamaica College and the University of the West Indies. Mr. Golding is married to Lorna Golding and has three children. He served as Prime Minister of Jamaica from September 2007 until October 2011. He is a leader of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and founder of the National Democratic Movement. In September of 2011 he announced his decision to resign as Prime Minister of Jamaica. Many citizens speculated that his resignation came as a result of the drama surrounding Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a Jamaican drug lord. The Golding Administration refused to sign extradition papers allowing Coke to be tried in the United States. The administration told the public that the information obtained to bring the case against Coke was in violation of Jamaican law.

Horace Garfield Burrell

Burrell was born on February 8, 1950. in Clarendon. He is the president of Jamaica’s Football Federation and former captain of the Jamaica Defense Force. In May of 2011, he became embroiled in a scandal surrounding FIFA (International Federation Association of Football). The scandal involved bribes and money exchanged in foreign hotels for votes. Although Burrell was not directly involved, he was tainted by association and banned for six months by FIFA. Burrell lives in Clarendon with his wife and two children.

Yendi Phillips

Phillips was born on September 8, 1985. She was the winner of the Ms. Jamaica World Beauty Pageant in 2007 and the Ms. Jamaica Universe Pageant in 2010. She was also first runner-up in the Ms. Universe Pageant in August of 2010. The controversy surrounding Yendi Phillips occurred when many Jamaicans thought she should not compete in the Ms. Universe Pageant because she had just finished participating in another international pageant. She was called  “greedy” for entering one pageant after another. The drama continued once Ms. Mexico won the Ms. Universe pageant because it was reported that she did not answer her questions completely. Most people did not pay attention because she responded in Spanish. Some fans believed that Yendi Phillips should have won the crown, instead of being first runner-up, as she answered her questions intelligently and completely.

Shanique Myrie

Although Myrie is not a public person, she was thrust into the spotlight as a result of her unfair treatment at the hands of Barbadian Immigration authorities while passing through that nation’s , Grantley Adams Airport.  Ms. Myrie was inappropriately touched and searched by a female immigration officer and then illegally detained in terrible conditions, even after no evidence of drugs or firearms were found on her person. After she reported the incident, the Barbadian authorities deemed her accusations untrue. However, Jamaican authorities declared Ms. Myrie’s story credible and she ultimately prevailed in court, winning damages from Barbados.

Renato Adams

Adams was Jamaica’s former Senior Superintendent of the Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCF), and former leader of the defunct Crime Management Unit. In 2004, he was suspended from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, along with five other members of the CMU, for murdering four people in Kraal, Clarendon. He was acquitted and reinstated to the JCF in June of 2005 in the capacity of an intelligence officer. While he was cleared of the crime, many Jamaicans believe there was ample evidence indicating his guilt. His reputation as a no-nonsense cop made his vindication plausible because his persona was often used to fight crime and criminals in Jamaica.


Born Byiome Muir in 1989 in Clarendon, this Jamaican dub, reggae and roots singer started performing at school concerts and barbeques. He always believed he had above-average talent, so he changed his name to “I-Octane.” In 2000, he signed with Penthouse Records and released the singles “Oh Jah Stepp A Seed” and “Love in The Streets.” Collaborations with other reggae artists such as Beres Hammond, Assassin, and Beenie Man contributed to his  stardom. I-Octane became controversial for his song “Informer Ah Work.” The song was banned because of its outspoken lyrics describing people who take money to spread gossip.

Buju Banton

Born Mark Anthony Myrie on July 15, 1973, Banton is a ragga and reggae artist. He rose to fame with the Mercury Records release “Voice of Jamaica” and his single “Boom, Bye Bye.” The single “Boom Bye Bye” became controversial because gay rights activists felt it encouraged the murder of gay men. In 2007, Buju Banton and other artists signed the Reggae Compassion Pact to end the recording of derogatory lyrics against homosexuals. His stellar career has produced numerous albums, including “Before The Dawn.”  In 2011, Buju Banton was arrested and convicted on drugs and firearms charges. Although he was found innocent of drug possession, he was convicted for drug trafficking and is serving a ten-year sentence in federal prison.

Beenie Man

Born Anthony Moses David on August 22, 1973. He is a Jamaican reggae singer and the “King of Dance Hall.” He has over 20 albums to his credit and is a Grammy winner. He is also co-founder of the Mafia House Production Company.  Beenie Man’s lyrics have been interpreted as an inspiration for violence against gays. Gay rights’ activists have staged protests against Beenie Man and his songs, even though Beenie Man has insisted that his songs are really against pedophiles. Groups such as Outrage! continued to protest against him. In 2007, he signed the Reggae Compassionate Act to stop performing anti-homosexual songs.

Bounty Killa

Born Rodney Basil Price on June 12, 1972, he is a reggae and dance hall DJ. He has produced several albums including “Come Again,” “My Experience” and “Present G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories,” to name a few. He has been arrested twice for using expletives in his performances, disobeying traffic signals and assaulting the mother of his child.

Vybz Kartel

Born Adidja Palmer on January 7, 1976, he is a dance hall singer, songwriter, and business man. Vybz Kartel began his singing career as a teen in 1993. His musical collaborations with Jay Z, Rihanna, Missy Elliot, Lil Wayne and Eminem propelled him to fame. He is best known for his international hits “Ramping Stop” and “Dollar Sign.” The feud between Vybz Kartel and Mavado kept his name in the spotlight for several years. He has come under fire for his outrageously indecent lyrics, which caused his music to be banned in Guyana. He has also been accused of “whitening” his skin by using “cake soap,” In October of 2011, he was charged with murder and firearm possession. He is currently serving his sentence in a federal prison.

Christopher “Dudus” Coke

Coke has been called Jamaica’s most notorious criminal, primarily because he has the support of the people in his community. Coke was born Nicholas Christopher Johnathon Coke. His father was a drug lord, which reinforces the notion that “children live what they learn.” He was characterized as the most dangerous drug lord on the island by Jamaica’s Minister of National Security. Coke is known for controlling an illegal drug operation. In 2011, Christopher Coke was captured and extradited to the United States, where he is serving prison time for murder and drug trafficking.

About the author

Stephanie Korney