R.I.P. Sting: The End of an Era in Dancehall

Remembering The Greatest One Night Reggae and Dancehall Show on Earth

When the history of dancehall music is written, 2016 will go down as the year when mainstream stars took over the worldwide pop charts using Jamaican styles and sounds. It will also be remembered as the first Boxing Day in over three decades that went down with a staging of Sting. Sad to say the legendary stage show that has seen some of the most talked about performances—and lyrical clashes—in dancehall history is no more. Just three years after celebrating Sting’s 30th anniversary with a star-studded lineup that included the return of the Don Dada Super Cat, American artists 2 Chainz and Wyclef Jean, and an epic clash between Lady Saw and Macka Diamond, Sting founder Isaiah Laing has called it quits. Despite pledging in years past that “if I am alive there will be Sting,”  Laing made it official on Jamaican television’s popular show OnStage, saying that Sting has not made money in several years—despite significant investment from the likes of Josef Bogdanovich, who has since moved on to revamp another great Jamaican festival, Reggae Sumfest. Laing and his longtime partner Heavy D further noted that the artists who are big enough to draw a crowd are not willing to perform on the show. The clashes that made Sting a sort of musical heavyweight bout eventually came to be its undoing. Who can forget the time when Popcaan had to shove Blak Ryno off the stage because the other artist was “somehow” given a live microphone and allowed to rush the stage during Popcaan’s solo set back in 2012? These types of antics eventually take their toll on artist loyalty. Whether Sting will ever come back is anybody’s guess. Talk of a gospel festival sounds like a major departure from the hardcore format we have come to know and love. For the sake of those who don’t know—and the pleasure of those who do—Boomshots takes a moment to remember the best Sting had to offer. Memories After The Jump…

Biggie in a Wheelchair (1996)

Clef and 2Chainz were hardly the first rappers to touch the stage at Sting. Over the past three decades the show has featured many notable artists, such as Busta Rhymes, Foxy Brown, the Fat Boyz, Kris Kross, DMX, and Biggie Smalls who did not let a serious car accident which resulted in a broken leg stand in the way of his performance at the biggest show in his mother and father’s Jamaican homeland, making history at Sting 199y when he took the stage in a wheelchair.

Love & Unity at Sting 1987

While there was always plenty of healthy competition in the earlier days of Sting, the epic clashes were more like friendly one-upmanship as this amazing video clip displays.

Sister Nancy and the Onions

During a recent interview, the dancehall pioneer spoke about her admiration for current star Queen Ifrica and how Nancy used to clash with other female artists at Sting.

Which artists did you used to clash against?
I clash with a couple of them. The earlier ones.

Like who—Lady Anne?
Lady G and… the early ones, I clashed with all of the early ones.

Sister Charmaine?
I clash with all of them.

And what would those clashes be like? There’s different kinds of clashes.
A clean clash man. Clean clash yunno. We no call nobody name. Just lyrics. And the crowd decide who win. Youzeeme? Yeah, crowd decide.

Where were these clashes happening?

Oh, so you worked on Sting?
Me? I’m the first female DJ to perform on Sting. The first woman DJ to perform on Reggae Sunsplash. The first woman DJ to perform on Reggae Sumfest. The first woman DJ to leave Jamaica. The first woman DJ to take it internationally.

Sting has become such a legendary yet notorious show…
Well I wouldn’t know about it now, because I haven’t performed on it from 1990-what? Three? That’s 1993… What? Twenty three years, innit? I haven’t performed on it since then, and I don’t think I will ever again.

Wasn’t that the year that Beenie and Bounty got into it?
I think the last year was Ninjaman and Super Cat. I think.

That got pretty wild didn’t it?
Very bad.

But you hung out all night?
Oh yeah, I stayed until the finish. They fling onions, they fling bottles, they fling everything.

[Laughing] Yeah people come with bags of onions in there. Some big onions. They throw onions. The whole stadium—it was in the National Stadium—and the whole stadium stinka honion me ah tell you.

But no onion fling during your set?
No no no no. I never had a bad day. I don’t remember a bad day. And I have to give thanks to God for that. But I never have a bad day. No I never had a bad day. No.

The Return of Super Cat (2013)

Thirty years after his historic clash with Ninja Man, the Don Dada returned to Jamaica to finish his show.

Busy Signal’s Triumphant Homecoming (2012)

Months after his incarceration on an old case in the U.S., the Turf Prez prevailed in Federal Court and returned home to Jamaica for this unforgettable show.

Vybz Kartel Vs. Bounty Killer (2009)

The Warlord and Di Teacha traded some harsh words on the big stage.

Lady Saw Vs. Macka Diamond (2013)

Macka was no match for the Queen of the Dancehall. She had been a no-show against Spice the year before, so Spice brought a donkey onstage as a stand-in. Saw seemed reluctant to take up the challenge but then obliterated her competition and retired to become a gospel artist soon after Sting.

Ninja Man Vs. Mad Cobra (1995)

The Don Gorgon in his prime takes on another of his brightest students.

Vybz Kartel Vs. Ninja Man (2003)

The infamous clash during which Kartel and his entourage crossed the line from lyrical to physical conflict, crossing a line that should never have been crossed.

Beenie Man Vs. Bounty Killer (1993)

One of the greatest rivalries in dancehall history played out on this stage. Killer got the best of him that day but this lyrical war would go on and on for years to come. Check Buju at the end of the clip at the dawn of his Rasta renaissance.

Shabba Ranks Vs. Ninja Man (1990)

An epic confrontation that Shabba still regrets his part in. “Clash of the dunce-head people,” he said looking back on that night. “Clash of the bad man and corrupted people, star. There is never a time where a record is being released when two DJs are clashing with each other. See—they combining. So how are they going to stay there and clash against each other? Where do you see music clashing? Music hasn’t clashed yet. Music combines in order to make a better hit. Clashing destroys because when they clash, one is being disrespected, while the other is being jubilated. ”

Vybz Kartel Vs. Mavado (2008)

The Gaza vs. Gully wars came to a crescendo on the Sting stage, although the abrupt ending proved controversial.

Super Cat Vs. Ninja Man (1991)

When bad things happen to great arists, the result is the most talked-about clash in Sting history. Ninja and Cat never got to finish the show before bottles started to fly.

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One Response

  1. […] for his flamboyant costumes and fierce musical “clashes” with other artists at the once annual Sting music festival (it took place each Boxing Day for about 30 years, but the event has now been […]

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