Spragga’s Name Is Called, But Who Are The Real “Persons Of Interest?”

What’s wrong with this picture? Spragga on tour in Aspen, Colorado.

Reggae fans have endured so much bad news over the past several months that some of us have come to expect the worst. But when f*ckery shows up as expected, do we really have to embrace it with open arms?

Most recently the dancehall blogosphere has been crackling with the news that a triple murder in the Dunkirk area of Kingston JA has, somehow or other, been linked to one of dancehall’s biggest stars, Carlton Grant aka Spragga Benz. All it took was a police report naming the DJ as a “person of interest” in the case, and asking him turn himself in for questioning. The message was blasted far and wide as if by a giant sound system, with a digital echo chamber repeating the official Jamaican Constabulary Force account verbatim, ad nauseum.

In their rush to be first to break the news, these retweeting journalists seem to have forgotten some fundamental tenets of reporting. The most basic questions, known as the 5 Ws: Who? What? When? Where? and Why?—too often go unasked.

Let’s review the facts: WHEN the shooting occurred, on the evening of Friday, April 22nd, Spragga was WHERE? Not in Jamaica but at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins, Colorado, working some tour dates with Stephen Marley. By the time Spragga got the news that Jamaican police wanted to question him, he was on his way to perform in the ski resort town of Aspen. It’s still not clear WHO committed the crime, only the names of the dead are known for sure. So WHAT evidence is there that the DJ is a “major person of interest” in this particular triple shooting thousands of miles away? The police don’t say—if they were even asked. But the biggest question of all is WHY?

It’s an increasingly common practice: police simply call up somebody’s name in the press—very often a famous somebody—and ask them to turn themselves in. Rather than keeping their theories under wraps until they’re certain of the facts, they work their cases through the media. Lately, this practice has met with criticism from the local human rights group Jamaicans for Justice. And more recently the Jamaica Observer came out against this police strategy of holding press conferences instead of conducting criminal investigations.

Although he is still on an overseas tour, Spragga’s legal representatives in Jamaica have made it clear that their client is more than willing to assist with any investigation—”reserving all God-given inalienable rights”—and that until his return to the island they will be “working with the relevant authorities to clarify this situation and to duly exonerate Spragga.” But Spragga is not the only one in need of exoneration.

On August 23, 2008 Spragga’s first-born son, Carlton “Carlyle” Grant Jr., was shot dead by Jamaican police officers. Ever since this tragic loss, Spragga has refrained from publicly criticizing the cops, tamping down all talk of revenge with his Rastafarian faith, and taking every opportunity to express his confidence in the justice system. Meanwhile he established a scholarship fund in his son’s name, partially funded by a big concert called Life Fest.

Two police officers were charged with murder in the shooting of the 17-year-old honor student—based not on innuendo but on a wealth of evidence, including eyewitnesses. For nearly three years now, Spragga and his family have patiently waited for the trial, which has been adjourned and postponed numerous times. The next hearing is scheduled for June.

So we return again to that vexing question of WHY? Why is it that shortly before Carlyle gets his day in court, Spragga finds his own name mixed up in this messy media maelstrom? One hates to think that the authorities would stoop to such smear tactics. Yes at times there seems to be a war on dancehall in progress, a sort of cultural counter-insurgency. But no amount of character assassination can overcome a positive vibration: As the song from the Shotta Culture album says, “Leave all vengeance.”

Spragga Benz performs “Livication” live at Wembley Arena in London.

Lighters! Cell phones! Blaze it up and let it go…