some lyrical content heard in songs recorded by some dancehall artists is graphic one cannot ignore the fact that people...

The Government of Jamaica Blames Specific Lyrical Content In Dancehall Music for the Cause of Crime in the Country

With a spiraling crime rate specifically murder and rape, an unstable economy, and the effects of a pandemic, Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness blames specific lyrical content from the music of some dancehall artiste as the cause of crime. His statement caused outrage within the music industry. 

There are some industry players who agree with the Prime Minister’s views but several popular artists have come out against it using constructive and insightful arguments to make their points. It is also important to note that the Prime Minister in his last election campaign during the peak of the pandemic, had dubplates recorded mimicking some of the same content to which he refers and even taps into the music culture bearing an alias name as he sported Clarke’s shoes to demonstrate his ‘down-to-earth persona and attract targeted young Jamaican voters. Aspects of the election campaign replicated a hardcore “Dancehall Clash.”

While this writer must agree that some lyrical content heard in songs recorded by some dancehall artists is graphic one cannot ignore the fact, that people, in general, gravitate to that which is attractive to them as well as, that which is popular (as in the case of the PM’s election campaign) but usually make decisions as it relates to choices based on personal preferences. In other words, the person who takes a gun and kills another person would have had that intention already. The music to which that person chooses to listen in that context supports his idea whether the writer of that specific song or songs intended to create such perception. An example could be that of a love song written specifically about an artist’s own personal life but resonates with fans because they can relate to the content or, perceive the lyrics to be sensual, loving, warm, sensitive, or bold. 

Most fans who listen to explicit and graphic dancehall songs, more often than ever, do not carry out violent acts of any kind more rather, quite the opposite. The music is perceived and interpreted in several different ways based on the individuals who listen to it.  There are those who are impressed with the mode of the music which will always be perceived on the basis of good or bad. A song depicting a tough, rough, gangster can also be perceived to demonstrate specific qualities such as competitiveness, strength, dominance, greatness as opposed to violent, arrogant, murderous.

There is also the case of inspiration behind the construction of a song. There is no denying the fact that an artist (or individual) can find themselves involved with crime, but to say the music is the cause of crime, and not, a specific crime, is wrong. The increase in crime in Jamaica has grown with successive leaders and is, at this point, at its highest under the present leadership. The underlying crime management issues are still to be addressed and have over the years evolved resulting in, among others, the continuous creation of musical content by some artists that are disgusting, threatening, scary, and violent to law-abiding citizens yet reflective of a society that lacks good governance and leadership, security and failure to address the real cause of the problems albeit willingly or unwillingly.

Sophia McKay