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Vybz Kartel Gets Wrapped Up


Submitted by Joseph Patterson


In his first full-length interview with a UK journalist in over 5 years, Vybz Kartel speaks to The Wrap Up’s Marvin Sparks about his beginnings, writing for Bounty Killer, the infectious tribute to footwear brand Clarks, working with Major Lazer on ‘Pon Di Floor’ and much more, in the first of this two-part interview...

Vybz Kartel were a group comprised of three artists, including Adijah Palmer, then known as Addi Banton. The group split due to differences in vision, but Addi Banton kept the name Vybz Kartel, joined Bounty Killer's crew, Alliance, and the rest, as they say, is history. Initially coming to prominence flexing his lyrical skills in 2002, Kartel became one of the genre's leading artists shortly thereafter, which included featuring on the Def Jam's US and Jamaica collaboration album, ‘Def Jamaica’, working with Missy Elliott and fans including Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z. Controversy has never been far; from clashing Ninja Man, which lead to a fight on stage, leaving the Alliance then performing at his former mentor's biggest rival Beenie Man's wedding to Bounty Killer's ex-girlfriend, 2 years on-and-off feud with Mavado, to being sued for creating the explicit 2009 hit ‘Ramping Shop’ from Ne-Yo's ‘Miss Independent’.

The Wrap Up: You broke through with a unique style of deejaying (rapping) to dancehall in 2001/2002. Tell us a bit about why you adopted that style...
Vybz Kartel: That style was a combination of listening to all genres of music when Vybz Kartel was growing up. Vybz Kartel always wanted to be different from the regular deejay and wanting to bring something different. In my effort to become different, that style was created.

TWU: Who were your influences back then?

Vybz Kartel: My influences were universal: Lt. (Lieutenant) Stitchie, Ninja Man, Papa San, Will Smith (back from Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince), KRS-One and Slick Rick. My musical influences were universal and multi-national.

TWU: You started off writing songs for Bounty Killer, so how did that come about and what songs did you write for him?

Vybz Kartel: I wrote about 30-odd songs in total. ‘Gal Clown’ and a lot of those war lyrics were by me.

TWU: You don’t write your lyrics anymore, do you?

Vybz Kartel: No, I don’t write lyrics anymore. I have graduated from that stage. I just meditate or pre-meditate the lyrics depending on if I get the riddim before I go into the studio, or when I go to the studio. I just voice the riddim and listen to the music. The music talks to me and I respond.

TWU: And your work ethic is probably better than any in dancehall, with the amount of songs you release...

Vybz Kartel: My work ethic comes from my father, because I’ve seen that man work seven days a week, so I get my work ethic from my father.

TWU: What work does your father do?

Vybz Kartel: He still works at the flour mill in Jamaica. Yeah man, seven days a week. I said to myself, ‘I couldn’t do that’, but I guess I meant I couldn’t do that with something I didn’t like. But doing music, which is something that I live for, I put in that same work ethic.

TWU: One of if not the biggest dancehall tunes this year has been ‘Clarks’. Did that come as a surprise to you?