Since the advent of dancehall music, feuding has been a part of its fabric and given it the extra bit of hype and personality that has made it an increasingly popular genre as the years have passed by.
With the ongoing issue between premiere deejays, Mavado and Popcaan bringing some much needed buzz to an industry that has been largely tame in that department for years quite frankly. Using this as a backdrop, we explore the battles that helped shape dancehall music, giving us headlines and memories; throwing words while we catch on to the animosity and sheer drama expressed in song between artists, pitting factions and fans against each other.
In this feature, we look at feuds that were settled on wax by both competing artists at some point or another, so any rumoured wars, instances where artistes strictly threw words in interviews or stand alone lyrical clashes like the classic between Supercat and Ninja Man at STING 91. No honourable mentions for this one, let’s get straight to it!
10. Bounty Killer vs. Supercat: It is only fitting that the ‘War Lord’, Bounty Killer would kick off this list – he features very prominently – and one of his earliest foes was another master of dark lyrical arts, Supercat
This feud is largely forgotten in the annals of Dancehall history, but at the time, it was big. It all started in 1994 when, after Bounty recorded a single dubbed, Riding West, Supercat, also known as the Wild Apache, took offense to a lyric in the song referencing Indians. Supercat recorded the diss track, Scalp Him to which Bounty counteracted with Ancient Days Killings before the hostilities seemingly died down.
That tension would be resurrected at the 1996 edition of Reggae Sunsplash in which the Don Dada threatened to knock Bounty’s teeth out, leading to the ‘Grung Gaad’ replying on stage, calling him ‘old furniture,’ among other things. After years of cease fire and an apparent resolution through a phone conversation, Supercat revived the hostilities at the Sashi stage show in 2002, when he again threatened Bounty on stage and later told the Jamaica Gleaner, “He has no manners. I hear say him going around calling up mi name. I have never met the guy. I know Beenie Man, but I have never seen Bounty Killer in person. Him need to leave me name alone.”
In an open letter he wrote addressing the 2002 incident, Bounty squashed the beef, saying he always had respect for Supercat and believed he used Sashi as an opportunity to get old feelings off his chest. Since then, things have cooled off, but it would have been interesting to see two of the greatest clash artists of all time settled their differences in a clash.
9. Spice vs. Macka Diamond: There were quite a few beefs to choose from among the top divas in the industry. Dancehall’s top diva all-time, Lady Saw had her share of them, including Tifa, Tanya Stephens and Macka Diamond.
Though Lady Saw settled her beef with Macka Diamond in the studio and a clash at STING 30 where Saw decimated Macka to the point she would ‘die trying – Macka’s beef with another dancehall vet, Spice (another Lady Saw foe at one point) takes the cake because not only have they clashed in song, they have literally clashed with Spice once detailing a fight the two had as far back as 2006 in which she claimed to CVM’s OnStage that she “box her down jook out her eye and nearly take out the eye them out her head.”
The two have released a slew of diss tracks over the years such as Let Out the Donkey (aimed at Macka) and Sodomite Spice and have constantly blasted each other in interviews. The two were supposed to settle their grouse at STING 2012, but Macka no-showed claiming she was not paid to do so. The beef simmered for a while, but was revived in the summer of 2016 when Macka Diamond recorded a diss track, Dem Anuh Nobody, claiming Spice acts like no other female deejay exists in dancehall. It will be interesting to see if the clash fans missed out on in 2012 will finally happen on dancehall’s biggest stage.
8. Aidonia vs. Busy Signal – This feud between two of dancehall’s top guns could have ended much sooner and much more tragically during an incident at Mavado’s birthday party in 2006 when Busy Signal approached Aidonia and his camp with a knife during Mavado’s set, causing a big fight on stage and the crowd to disperse.
The beef, according to Aidonia, was started long beforehand by fellow deejay, Ninja Kid as he argued Busy was the more promising of the two. As the tension escalated, Aidonia took the war to wax with the hard-hitting Busy Tone and others with few retorts from the Turf president. The bad feelings continued until the two deejays smoothed things out with a joint freestyle with Konshens in 2015 at a Trinidad radio station.
7. Beenie Man vs. Mavado – These two recently kicked off when Beenie Man took offense to a line in a Mavado song, but there’s a deep-rooted dislike dating back to a tragic incident in 2006.
In October of that year, Beenie’s brother, Brian Smith was gunned down by unknown assailants; a case that’s still unresolved. Soon after Smith’s death, Mavado released the song, How High containing a reference to ‘Baby Brian,’ in which he said, “Give him some fat teflon fi try on, mek him mother cry cause him die by my hand.” This incensed Beenie and led him to believe the ‘Gully Gaad’ had a hand in Smith’s demise. Bounty Killer later insisted the song was recorded before the murder and the lyric in question was not a reference to it in any way.
Beenie responded with several diss songs while Mavado called out Beenie in songs such as Chat Too Much and Songwriter. Following this latest flare up, Beenie stated in separate interviews that he felt offended because Mavado insinuated his career was in decline and that while he holds no animosity towards Mavado, he will always see his brother when he looks at him given his brother was the one who made him know who Mavado is. It’s unknown whether these two will ever be on friendly terms.
6. Vybz Kartel/Bounty Killer vs. Ninja Man – If there is one man in Dancehall Bounty Killer respects more than anyone else, it’s Ninja Man. An idol who supported and advised him since his early days in the business, the ‘Don Gorgon’ was a father figure to Bounty and was someone he respected and would defend to no end, particular at the aforementioned STING 2000 and STING 2001 clashes with Merciless.
However, there would be times the two would throw take small jabs at each other, jabs which had a bit more power attached to them following STING 2003 and the brawl between Ninja and Bounty’s then protégé, Vybz Kartel. This was a result of months of taunting between Ninja and the Alliance.
Ninja Man blamed Bounty for the incident and famously took a roll of Bounty tissue paper, throwing it to the ground and stamping all over it, accusing him of selling out. The Alliance leader responded, saying Ninja long wasted his chance to be a mainstream success after two decades in the business.
The two would continue to call each other out in the media, but would come to their senses and have performed together a few times. In a 2013 interview, Bounty Killer hailed Ninja Man, saying he continues to follow Ninja’s lineage and will always respect him for paving the way for himself and other deejays.
5. Bounty Killer vs. Merciless – One of the most personal and longest-lasting feuds on this list, Bounty Killer’s issues with Merciless dates back to the mid-90s, when Merciless debuted and had a sound very similar to Killer.
Initially, Merciless hailed Bounty as someone he looked up to and the two even performed together. But relations between the two slowly deteriorated after allegations Merciless stole Bounty’s melodies and really escalated when he recorded the song, Mr. Houdini, which Bounty took as containing subliminal disses.
Soon thereafter, the lyrical war was ignited and appeared to be coming to a head at STING 97 when it was thought Bounty and Merciless would clash. But when Bounty tried to enter the stage, he was cordoned off by police and show organizers, who said they were not paid for a clash. When Bounty finally reached the stage, Merciless was long gone, bringing an anti-climax to the anticipated showdown.
Peace was restored in 1998, with the two having a friendly lyrical clash at Merciless’ birthday party. But the two butted heads again at STING 2000 after Merciless lyrically eviscerated Bounty, Beenie Man and Ninja Man. The following year, Bounty got the upper hand on the ‘Warhead’ at STING 2001, another clash that involved Ninja Man. The two clashed many more times over the next three years and intermittently for the rest of the decade but have not crossed paths since.
4. Shabba Ranks vs. Ninja Man – The ‘Don Gorgon’ has had his share of wars in his three decades in the industry, from Bounty Killer to Vybz Kartel to countless others. But the one that cut the deepest perhaps, was Ninja’s feud with one-time protege, Shabba Ranks, who he helped bring to the masses.
Once Shabba started to achieve international status, tension between the two started to bubble. The two dancehall titans clashed at STING 90 where Ninja acquired his ‘permit fi bury and license fi kill’ and slaughtered his ‘son’ on stage.
Though they both have the utmost respect for each other, Shabba Ranks has long claimed that Ninja Man tried to stop his progress once he gained international stardom and that Ninja stole bits of Capleton’s style.
In late August, a video of Ninja Man emerged blasting Shabba, insisting that Shabba has been ‘ungrateful,’ denied the Capleton accusations and said the two-time Grammy winner owed his career to him. He also claimed he didn’t want to kill Shabba at Sting, but felt he had to after Shabba said Ninja ‘bow’ during his initial salvo.
Despite the lingering issues between them, the respect both artists have for one another seems to be preventing them from triggering an all-out war. We hope at some point, these greats can come together for the good of the genre.
3. Bounty Killer vs. Vybz Kartel – One of most personal and hard-hitting of feuds has to be Bounty’s feud with arguably his most talented protégé, Vybz Kartel.
Since being introduced by Killer on stage for the first time in 2000, Kartel was perceived as Bounty’s heir, making just as quick an impact on the Dancehall scene as Bounty did in the 90s with hits like Sweet To The Belly, Tek, Buss It Off, Picture This and many more.
But by 2006, things soured, with one of the tipping points being Kartel’s collaboration with the aforementioned D’Angel during the height of Beenie’s feud with Bounty. When Kartel began engaging in his high-profile feud with Mavado, lyrical shot after lyrical shot was fired by ‘Di Teacha’ at his former tutor while claiming in interviews that he wrote a litany of songs for Killer during his time with the Alliance.
The two exchanged strong disses against each other in 2009 and it was thought by most in Dancehall circles that a ‘father vs. son’ clash was a certainty for STING. However, after Mavado and Kartel publicly settled their feud in December of that year, the clash never happened.
Since the turn of the decade, Bounty became very vocal about Kartel’s bleaching and alleged demonic practices while Kartel continued to claim that Bounty was past his prime and not worth his time. Bounty later claimed in an interview that his feelings towards ex-protégé came from a place of hurt rather than hatred due to being upset about Kartel’s departure from the group.
The feud now is essentially on ice given Kartel’s murder conviction, but there are sure to be lingering feelings given that they never settled their issues. Whether they will ever get a chance to resolve those issues, however, is another story.
2. Bounty Killer vs. Beenie Man – It’s December 1993, Jamworld, Portmore, the setting for arguably the greatest clash in STING history between the two hottest deejays in the game, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man. This feud was based strictly on one deejay trying to prove to another who was better and that night, Bounty came out on top lyrically, but both artists raised their profiles and earned universal respect for their crafts.
This battle has been on again, off again ever since, flaring up again in the early 2000s when Bounty slaughtered Beenie at Follow The Arrow 2002 and the two recorded stinging disses on the Skatta Burrell-produced Martial Arts Riddim, among other disses. It then got really personal after Beenie dated and went on to marry fellow recording artist, D’Angel, who happened to be Bounty’s ex-girlfriend. Diss songs such as Bulletproof Skin and Bulletproof Vest were exchanged and the two would continue to trade insults throughout the rest of the decade.
Seemingly, the two put aside their differences after performing on stage together in 2010 and 2011. But by the spring of 2011, the two were at it again and tension escalated after Beenie and D’Angel announced their divorce, with Bounty claiming that the two never truly loved each other.
After Beenie Man apparently tried to make a truce with the LGBT community after gay rights groups protested his shows for years due to alleged violent lyrics against homosexuals, Bounty chastised him, leading to more words being exchanged.
Fast forward to 2016, however, the two are seemingly on the best of terms. Dancehall’s ultimate frenemies who, despite their differences, always had the utmost respect for each other; having taken the industry to unprecedented heights through competition and each man’s desire to be the genre’s greatest.
1. Vybz Kartel vs. Mavado – The most intense, most captivating and most personal feud of them all; two of Bounty Killer’s legendary musical ‘sons’ fighting for dancehall supremacy.
The ‘Gaza’ vs. ‘Gully’ feud became so intense, that it required two government interventions, triggered several arrests and became the hottest topic in media and pop culture at large over a three-year span. Kartel and Mavado were friends and Alliance teammates, but fell out badly when Kartel left the super group in 2006 and started a war which had no limits to how nasty things would get.
The quality diss songs in this feud are too long to list for this battle, with some of them perhaps triggering The Broadcasting Commission’s strict regulations against the playing of gun lyrics on radio. A much-anticipated clash between the two at STING 2008 – which most agreed Kartel won – was not enough to settle the arguments and the two seemed to be on a crash course to a rematch in 2009. However, the second government intervention, which took place three weeks before STING 2009 and a peace concert shortly thereafter ended the feud once and for all, with the two seemingly cool again.
The ‘Gaza’ vs. ‘Gully’ era was the peak period of dancehall music this century as fan interest and scrutiny was at an all-time high and attracted unprecedented media attention worldwide, cementing their legendary statuses along the way.