Mr. Vegas Says Vybz Kartel Can Never Be 'King Of Dancehall'

Mr. Vegas says incarcerated deejay Vybz Kartel can never be the ‘King of Dancehall’ as he doesn’t make Dancehall music.

“He’s not and he will never be the ‘King of Dancehall’ because Kartel nuh buss inna the era weh Dancehall dominate,” the Heads High singjay said on Instagram on Sunday. “Kartel create a different sound; unno haffi give Kartel the king of dah sound deh…”

Be it self-proclaimed or by general consensus, the ‘King of Dancehall’ title is often passed among Beenie Man, Yellowman, and Kartel.

Going down the origin of dancehall space, culture and music, Mr. Vegas said the key to the success of his dancehall contemporaries was their wide vocal range which allowed them to maneuver any rhythm.

“To call yourself a dancehall artist, you have to have the range, so, if you listen to all Shabba dem, dem actually a sing,” said the Tek Weh Yuhself entertainer before listing similar acts like Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Terror Fabulous and Louie Culture. 

“Nuff man used to go inna studio and because the rhythm inna C and the key high, dem couldn’t voice. Dem couldn’t manage the note… It nuh matter how yuh song bad, from yuh inna the wrong key, yuh nah voice because it nuh sound good.”

He continued, “The majority of the bad rhythm dem did inna the happy key dem – the C key dem and dem key deh – so, nuff man couldn’t manage dem rhythm deh. But when an artist manage dah rhythm deh, that is what you call a dancehall artist; that is what you call a successful dancehall artist.”

He said Kartel’s music career has seen him “avoiding the Dancehall key”, instead opting for an easier vocal range and complementary rhythms.

Vybz Kartel

“Kartel is the king of dah sound deh fi mek him more comfortable. Not taking away (what he’s done) as a man who create a whole genre and him supposed to be the face of dah genre deh cause if it wasn’t for him, nuff artist weh buss now, nuff artist weh buss after Kartel, wouldn’t buss because how much artist can manage dem type of rhythm here?… The sound weh Kartel create, nuff more youth can manage the key pon dem rhythm deh cause is more like talking, more like a rap style.”

The “sound,” often called trap dancehall, became popular in 2016 through Montegonian Rygin King, who, at the time, defined it as the marrying of trap music and dancehall elements. Technically, trap dancehall is based on the pervasive clap and signature of the Roland TR-808, significantly changing the sound of foundation dancehall, which integrates instruments like the Casio MT-40 and Yamaha DX100.

Though King laid claim to the name and style, ethnomusicologist Dr. Dennis Howard traces the trap dancehall sonic (which he calls ‘one beat’ music) to Kartel’s 2011 hit Summertime, produced by Swedish audio engineer Andreas Nilson.

Mr. Vegas refrained from calling Kartel’s sound trap dancehall, arguing that the term is misleading as it deviates from Dancehall’s musical framework. He further argued that it places unfair scrutiny on Dancehall as many believe the quality of the genre has decreased. 

“(People will say) Dancehall is trash. No, no, no. Dancehall is not trash. You’re comparing Dancehall with a sound weh create around Vybz Kartel epoch – that is the problem. If Dancehall had stayed where it is supposed to be, not even Kartel coulda compete with the Dancehall artist dem; dem woulda give him problem… In other words, they had to change the sound for Kartel to be the greatest, learn that. But is not Dancehall dem change it to, or it’s not Dancehall dem still doing.”

Kartel, whose given name is Adidja Palmer, is set to appear before the Privy Council in February to appeal a 2014 murder conviction. 

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