Vybz Kartel – A brilliant Artist & Conflicted Human Being

Jamaica has had more than its share of talented singers, thugs, and murderers, but none quite like Vybz Kartel. If not for his self-defeating ways, Kartel would have been the most significant global Jamaican music star since Bob Marley. Within Jamaican, he might have been anyway.

Vybz Kartel and his life story is a Jamaican tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Only Busy Signal and Konshens come close to Kartel’s singjay talent, but in the end, Kartel is another gangster and murderer who preyed on the ghetto youths he so magnificently defended in his best songs. One minute, Kartel possessed the consciousness of a Bob Marley, but the next became the latest don to terrorize the Kingston streets (allegedly importing guns and cocaine, and committing murder).

This post is not to condone what was wrong with Vybz Kartel, but to recognize the songs that made him more conscious than any ten preachers on the island. Between all his pathetic sexual boasting and gangster glorification, Kartel wrote some songs that penetrated and touched hearts neglected by the political and religious establishment. 

Vybz Kartel – Poor People Land (Official Music Video)

Poor People Land is perhaps my favorite Vybz Kartel song. Beautifully and masterfully crafted, he asks the establishment questions I too want answers. Where did they get the system that treats poor people like “refugees” in their own country? How can so many go to church and claim religion, but ignore the most miserable people, even blame them for the poverty they suffer?

Poor People’s Land is one of the great political songs ever!

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Vybz Kartel – Life We Living (Official Music Video)

How can the world mistreat and neglect the ghetto youth and expect anything different than the same old song? The average person knows nothing about Ghetto life, viewing those forced to live in such conditions as dangerous eyesores better off forgotten. Unfortunately, neglecting ghetto problems comes at a high price for society. In Life We Living, Vybz Kartel makes similar points.

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Vybz Kartel – Ghetto Life (Official Music Video)

Listen and try to make sense of the person who wrote this song. Kartel could reach deeper to express genuine concern for those trapped in the ghetto than perhaps any singer or person of his generation. The side of Kartel who wrote songs like this could not conflict more with his dark side. 

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Vybz Kartel – Thank You Jah Jah (Official Music Video)

Again, I must ask how somebody so flawed as Kartel could address the Jamaican poverty and legal system better than the religious or political figures? Thank You Jah Jah (On and On) is another song I listen to and shake my head. Kartel was more than just a singer, songwriter, and performer. Vybz Kartel also was a philosopher who challenged the world around him. 

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