Vybz Kartel Speaks On Mavado, Mad Max, And Those Masonic Rumors

In last week’s episode, Kartel broke down his roots of the Gaza/Gully conflict, and insisted that his lyrics were strictly entertainment, even as he called himself “the realest thing.” But what is the truth about his interest in Freemasonry? And is there any lyric that even he would consider too much?

BOOMSHOTS: GOING BACK TO BOB MARLEY TIMES, JAMAICAN POLITICIANS HAVE TRIED TO USE REGGAE MUSIC. THEY KNOW THAT ARTISTS HAVE MORE OF A LOCK ON THE PEOPLE THAN ANY POLITICIAN.

Yeah music is powerful. And music is a powerful way of sending a message. But as I was telling you before, politics and religion are two more powerful mediums than music. Because the most people have died through politics and religion. Nobody has died through music, unless there was a freak accident and a man fell on a fan and died. You know I mean?

UH, YEAH…

I think it’s just that all politicians need scapegoat and society always needs scapegoat and people to take the blame from time to time. And the artists in Jamaica are the perfect candidate. Because we are from the places in Jamaica that are always violent. But they’re always violent through the political ideology. The seeds that were sown by politics, they’re reaping now.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE’S ANY LYRIC THAT IS OFF LIMITS? IS THERE ANY LYRIC THAT JUST GOES TOO FAR, OR IS ALL FAIR IN MUSIC AND MUSICAL COMPETITION?

[long pause] Well, not really. Sometimes a man can say something and you might hurt the fans, cause not everybody can digest everything. But from it is happening, it can be said.

MAVADO DID NOT APPRECIATE YOU TALKING ABOUT HIS MOTHER AT STING. IT SEEMED TO BOTHER SOME OF THE CROWD TOO.

Yeah, that’s what I said. They can’t cope with it. But as you said it was some of the crowd. Cause remember Gaza fans were there and it didn’t bother them one bit. You can say that I am the aggressor, but I can also say that you are the aggressor, because it takes two to war you know. And all is fair in love and war. [laughter]

THAT’S WHAT I’VE HEARD.

Ahh… so I’ve heard.

WASN’T THAT THE FIRST TIME A SINGER AND A DJ EVER CLASH AT STING?

Yeah man. But as I’ve said, dancehall is like a melting pot and it’s always reinventing itself. So it come to a point now where a singer is not really a singer, he’s like a singjay, and a DJ is also like the same thing, cause as you see dancehall is utilizing a lot of melody. So it’s just that point in time where a dancehall artist have enough melody to be called a singjay and a singer have enough lyrics to be called a DJ.

OKAY, I HAVE TO ASK: ARE YOU A MASON? OR ARE YOU INTERESTED IN MASONIC THINGS IN ANY WAY? THERE’S A LOT OF SPECULATION ON THE INTERNET. PEOPLE HIGHLIGHT CERTAIN LYRICS…

Okay, okay, well I would plead the fifth on that one. We’ll just have to leave it to the imagination of the people—if they think that is something worth wasting their time thinking about. You get me?

YEAH I DO. LOOK, I’M A PERSON WHO JUST COME UP FRONT AND ASK.

Well you have to, cause you’re the media. That’s why I want you to write what I said. Because a lot of people want to know what you just asked. If they think that it’s something worth wasting their time to find out, and not try to find out certain more serious things in their life, whether personal, social, physical, spiritual or otherwise—well, let them gwan try figure it out.

ALL RIGHT, TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU PUT THIS ALBUM TOGETHER.

Watch this now: This album was done at a time when Vybz Kartel was going through a lot of things. This album was done in four days you know. In my washroom. Four days in my washroom—four songs a day. I did four songs the first day, four songs the second day. They took me up and carry me to jail and charge me for murder and political activity. I came out like the third day. I did four more songs the other day and four songs the next day. So each day I did four songs, with a little pause in between for a little jail time and come out.

SO YOU TAKE A LITTLE TIME OUT FOR A SMALL MURDER CHARGE?

All right… So I was going through a lot of stuff at that time. Even in the music where Vybz Kartel was trying to find back himself, trying to reinvent myself and find back the perfect formula that I am using now. And it was a lot of personal issues at the time with my baby mother dem. No matter what else is happening in life, I always concentrate on music and use it to blow off steam. Yeah. To keep sane.

SO IT’S KIND OF AN OUTLET FOR YOU, A WAY TO VENT?

Definitely, the biggest one. It’s like you can shout out and talk your mind.

AND NOT JUST AN OUTLET FOR THE ARTISTS, BUT FOR THE LISTENERS TOO. I’VE HEARD IT SAID MANY TIMES, WITHOUT DANCEHALL, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO JAMAICA?

The athletes would be the only ones who could really take up the mantle of giving poor people hope. And then they would be classed as the ones who are buying guns, who are mashing up society, who are doing all these things. Bwoy me nuh know. Jah know the world no really level.

IS THAT USAIN BOLT TUNE ON YOUR NEW ALBUM TOO?

No it never made the album, but it’s on iTunes already. It’s been doing well.

SO THE SINGLES ARE ALL AVAILABLE FOR SALE DIGITALLY?

Yeah I got a lot of songs on iTunes because I’ve got a distribution deal with my artists and myself. But as I’ve said before, time is always evolving so you have to move with the time. Ringtones, downloads. We recently sign a deal with Digicel too. One time artists would have to go through VP to get to distribution. Vybz Kartel just have his own company in Jamaica to deal direct with whatever we have to do.

YOU’RE A MAN WHO LIKES TO BUILD HIS OWN THING.

Just call it the Empire.

IT SEEMS LIKE THE WHOLE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS STARTING TO RESEMBLE THE JAMAICAN MUSIC BUSINESS. EVEN BIG INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS ARE EMPHASIZING SINGLES NOW MORE THAN ALBUMS.

Yeah true, true. That’s why in Jamaica you have to have a lot of singles to be a top act. You can’t just have one album. You know how many songs I’ve put out since the album finished?

EVEN SINCE THIS NEW ALBUM…

Yeah even since the new album I’ve put out like three songs.

THE AMOUNT OF SONGS I HEAR COMING FROM YOU, YOU MUST LIVE IN THE STUDIO.

Actually I do. [laughter] I got a studio in my house and I got another one nearby, that’s the Gaza studio where all the artists record. And then the songs are mixed in Portmore by another studio in Not Nice’s house.

DO YOU STILL VOICE BY DON CORLEONE TOO?

Yeah now and then. He got a number one, it was “Million Dollar By a Morning,” my first number one this year. And me and him got “Doll-la-la-la-lars.” That’s in the charts now, going to number one.

YOU’VE GOTTA STAY ON THE GRIND IN THIS BUSINESS.

Yeah because Jamaican music has some little indigenousness to it. In terms of even how we pull up music in dancehall. How we have to have a lot of singles. How you can’t really take a break and you can’t come back. We have some little indigenous qualities with dancehall music that make it dancehall.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT TO SAY TO YOUR FANS?

Yo, the only thing I want the fans to understand—and I’m saying this because of what society in Jamaica is trying to get the media to force upon the people’s minds—is that this Gaza/Gully thing, it is music. And when Vybz Kartel and his rivals are gone there will be new rivals. There will be new champions and contenders, new people to lay blame on. And the fans can take a lot of blame off the artists by acting as if they know this thing is music. Separate and apart from that, the people should just support Vybz Kartel and the Portmore Empire musical endeavors. Cause we strive to give them quality music.

THE HITS KEEP COMING.

Have to.

WHERE ARE YOU HEADING TO NEXT, BACK TO THE STUDIO?

No actually I was in my house organizing some new juggling. Beca’ we got a new juggling called “School Yard.”

OKAY, IS THAT THE RIDDIM THAT HAS “DO ME DAT” AND “NAH LET GO”?

No, that’s the “England Town.” The “School Yard” is the one that got “Make Sure Say You Gwan Ah School,” with me, Javinci, and Gaza Kim—“Schoolers Anthem.” Cause it’s that time of year. So we release it a little bit before September. And we did the promotional posters—we did books and give them out islandwide as far as Mobay. Vybz Kartel giving out books. Crazy.

Vybz Kartel, Javinci, Gaza Kim “Schoolers’ Anthem”

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THE PRESS NEVER WRITES ABOUT THAT.

No that’s what I’m trying to tell you. Everybody feed off the negative. But I can’t blame them like how them blame me. Because if I was to blame the media to that level I would have to blame CNN for showing me all this violence on TV. But it’s all about society and how they set it. They set it that dancehall artists never do anything good for society. Which probably is true, beca’ we do good for the garrison, which is our own type of society.

THAT’S A DIFFERENT SOCIETY.

All right, it’s like an underworld—remember Mad Max?

THAT KINDA REMINDS YOU OF THE GARRISON LIFE?

Yeah man, definitely. Mad Max and them show deh—that ah the real thing in Jamaica. You have one society, and you have a next society, and the two of them deh pon the same geographical landscape but ah two different world.

POLITICIANS NEVER ADDRESS THESE ISSUES.

Nooo, no they talk about artists being bad role models, while they rob like 200-odd million dollar for lightbulb project, 300-odd million dollar for housing project that the government of America WOULDN’T send as grants. Those are the things they need to talk about. Them raise up saltfish, flour raise, salt. Them raise up license, insurance. They don’t talk about those things.

WHAT WAS THE DEAL WITH THAT CASH PLUS SITUATION?

Yo well anything that is looking like a beacon of light for poor people it’s gonna get a fight and it’s gonna get disintegrated. You done know, it’s all about the economics. Bwoy, me no wan’ get into that. Cause that is all about politics. Ah Gaza me say.

WELL PLEASE KEEP THAT LIGHT OF HOPE SHINING FOR POOR PEOPLE AS YOU SAID A WHILE AGO.

Yeah definitely, cause I’m one of them.

AS THE SONG SAY, “THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE…”

I’m gonna let it shine.