Most of my childhood memories are soundtracked to Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Bounty Killa and Buju Banton.
My Mum was/is a die hard Beenie Man and Elephant Man fan but even she cannot deny the greatness of the now incarcerated Vybz Kartel. Kartel dominated dancehall and although he still releases great music whilst behind bars (‘Hi’, ‘Fever’, ‘Hey Addi’), it can be said that there is notably a difference without his heavy presence in the dancehall scene.
I know I am not alone in saying that I miss Vybz Kartel.
Whenever I tell people that Alkaline is currently my favourite dancehall artist, I get two responses: either agreement or disgust. With the latter, I receive a lecture on how the artist is merely a Kartel imposter.
I’d be blind to pretend that there are not clear similarities: the skin bleaching, the tattoos, the hairstyles and the slackness in the lyrics. I’ve been told that people only rate Alkaline as he’s filling a space that Kartel left empty. I personally think that this statement undermines Alkaline; you cannot deny his talent, style and ability to be the highlight of any riddim he jumps on.
Perhaps Alkaline’s likeness to Vybz Kartel isn’t malicious but instead an homage. Alkaline is similar to me in age and it can be argued that to our generation, Kartel is the biggest dancehall artist we’ve seen in our lifetime.
Maybe Alkaline is merely following in the footsteps of the best example of how to dominate a genre on a global scale.
I guess the question is where does imitation stop being flattery and become exploitation? Especially when one artist is unable to fully capitalise off themselves due to being incarcerated. Although an interesting question, as a fan of both artists, I don’t care to answer or consider it.
Vybz Kartel carbon copy or not, Alkaline is, in my opinion, one of the best artists in dancehall.
See below ten of my favourite Alkaline songs:
- Nice Suh
2. More Than Happy
4. Spoil You
5. Extra Lesson
7. 12 pm (Living Good)
8. Block and Delete
10. My Side of the Story