Whenever Dancehall stalwart Bounty Killer speaks on his former rivalry with Beenie Man, he’s quick to point out that they kept it lyrical. But there was one instance when the ‘Warlord’ erred, and he’s using the story as a lesson on having self-control.
The scene was the 2002 staging of Follow Di Arrow in St. Mary, where Beenie, who was kicking it as a patron, was baited by Ninjaman into a lyrical exchange with Bounty.
“Me and Beenie deh pon stage and Beenie have the cordless mic where him can go everywhere; me limited and me have one mic,” Bounty recalled in a recent interview on SK Vibemaster. “First thing, Beenie nuh book for the show, a my show. Beenie find himself pon stage a clash me which is no problem – mi love clash Beenie cause a mi main rival…”
Throwing lyrical jabs on the Showtime rhythm about who’s gay or not, things seemed copacetic until Beenie signaled that he wanted a turn to deejay. A passionate Bounty ignored the call, which saw Beenie taking hold of his mic. Bounty’s reflex was a punch to Beenie’s side, but the ‘Doctor’ kept his cool, asking, “A weh yaa do Killa? Nuh do that.”
Bounty left the stage after recognising his wrongdoing.
“Same time, show done, cause that nuffi happen…” Bounty said, before sharing a previous incident where Beenie had invaded his set at Reggae Sumfest.
“Him come a Sumfest come siddung pon the stage and then mi walk weh lef him, and then the man find himself a Follow Di Arrow. But hear wah now, we have sense, we nuh idiot, and then if an entourage (was there), something woulda happen like weh yuh see happen to Ninja and Kartel. Is because a me and Beenie, me know seh me fi control myself and just lowe that Killa. If me did have man wid me now, dem woulda waan come fight Beenie and gwaan with one bagga things and mek it look like me waan fight Beenie.”
Now both incarcerated for separate murder convictions, Ninjaman and Vybz Kartel brought Sting 2003 to a premature end after going for blows on stage – entourage and all.
“It was after Ninjaman and Kartel incident, things start to get physical like that on stage,” Bounty said, listing “hardcore” artists like Shabba Ranks and Super Cat who never resorted to violence. “Dem things deh don’t happen in a clash. Real Jamaican culture, we nuh know bout nobody a fight… (The entourage) a destroyer to the artist… A part unno fi part the artist dem.”
Bounty and Beenie’s since-squashed feud started as the former felt Beenie was copying his style. Challenged by the claim, the Memories deejay saw the conflict as an opportunity to work on his war tunes, and the two put it down at Sting 2003, the setting that would cement them as the future of Dancehall. For this reason, Bounty said he’ll always defend the need for clash culture.
“Some of the artists made it seem like clash is not a good thing,” the Look Into My Eyes deejay said. “If me and Beenie never clash ‘93, I would still be a big act, but I wouldn’t be the big act that I came out 1993 to be. I wasn’t the biggest thing when I go Sting that night; is coming off made me the biggest thing.”
They were each with singjay D’Angel at different points in their lives, which worsened their tit-for-tat, but the entertainers have also displayed moments of unity throughout the years. They hopped on the remix of Dennis Brown’s Revolution in the mid-90s and later showcased mutual respect when Bounty’s mother Miss Ivy died in 2012. Their biggest display of brotherhood was on show during their viral 2020 Verzuz battle.
If there’s anything Bounty wants the new crop of artists to take from his and Beenie’s squashed rivalry, it’s to not take things personally.
“Some younger ones who a follow the wrong direction, cause dem think it mek dem look like dem a badman, but you mek the music look like foolishness, look like a playpen. Nobody nah spend pon that.”
Bounty and Cham are currently on a promotional tour for their Time Bomb EP in the UK.