Posted on 07 August 2011.
Photo Credit: Ports Bishop
Vybz Kartel isn’t just the biggest star in dancehall. These days, it seems like he’s the only one. The 35-year-old deejay from the gritty Kingston suburb of Portmore has dominated the Jamaican music conversation for the last year to such an extent that even his headline-grabbing (and only recently resolved) feud with long-time rival Mavado now seems a distant memory.
Fueling the phenomenon is a striking, Michael Jackson-like visual transformation that has seen him lighten his skin several shades, his hair suddenly long with extensions. A master of spin, Kartel first chalked his new coloring up to air conditioning and cake soap, a powerful cleanser used to wash clothes. Without actually copping to what most people suspect—that he bleaches his skin— he’s defended the practice by likening it to tanning white people and black women who straighten their hair. Fittingly, one of his biggest recent hits is called “Cake Soap”.
Kartel (aka Adidja Palmer) is also, arguably, Jamaica’s most prolific artist, churning out provocative commentary and lowbrow throwaway tracks with Tupac-like (in)consistency. His latest project, Kingston Story, is different, though. Recorded entirely with a single producer, Brooklyn’s Dre Skull, the result is a rarity for singles-driven dancehall: a proper album with a uniform sonic aesthetic. While the lyrics are primarily sexual in theme, the LP, with its quasi-orchestral rhythms, points to a new, more emotive direction for this most hedonistic of genres. MTV Iggy spoke with Kartel by phone from Jamaica about Kingston Story, his growing business portfolio, and what exactly he’s trying to prove with his outlandish behavior.
Click to read more at MTVIGGY.COM