Vybz Kartel burst onto the musical mainstream in 2003 after his feature on Bounty Killer’s Girl Like Mine. His subsequent features with the likes of Wayne Marshall and even his own solo efforts Start Well with Don Corleone, formed the core of the new millennium sound.
What followed was the beginning of Kartel’s reign. He had the lyrical prowess of a writer and penning lyrics for Bounty Killer earned him access to vicarious and eventually first-hand performing experience. He was able to build a distinct style that set him up to dominate and he did, until 2005.
That year, Mavado had his breakout single and it was such a smash hit that people immediately wanted to know who this artist was. Another protege of Bounty Killer, Mavado brought something fresh to Dancehall. He brought unique melodies into the realm of the gangster, and he embodied that persona completely. He became a sensation and that brought new eyes to Killer’s Alliance. But Mavado’s star power was massive very early. His singing appealed to the Christian mind, and we know, Jamaica is a Christian country. Mavado became a clear threat to Vybz Kartel’s dominance, but perhaps the two did not see it that way, initially.
In 2006, Vybz Kartel left the Alliance and struck out on his own, which started a feud between himself and Mavado that spiraled into an all-out war. It was in earnest, a war of lyrics, personal to a great extent, but not physical in nature. Eventually, the diss tracks back and forth spilled out into underground street violence and the two came together for a press conference in 2007 enforced by the police, to publicly denounce their beef.
The feud subsided for a while when, rumors say, organizers of Sting, a prominent and long-running stage show, instigated a rehashing of the beef in 2008. This feud culminated into a most anticipated clash between the two at the Sting Dancehall Festival. With an uncertain verdict of who the winner was, their feud persisted into 2009.
On December 8th of that same year, both artists met with the Prime Minister of Jamaica, who was Bruce Golding at the time. Again they concluded their feud as being a physical one, and they later began to perform together on the same shows, reminiscent of the Bounty Killer Vs Beenie Man feud.
Fast forward to contemporary music, and the lines that split the Dancehall landscape into two during the Gully vs Gaza feud, are still prominent.
The battle royale between Vybz Kartel and Mavado was such a historic moment in the history of the music, that it created two principal philosophies or schools of thought that are still at work today in Dancehall.
For instance, the Gaza had many proteges many of whom branched off to do their own thing, finding success in their own rights. They are reverent to their leader and his teachings to this day because it has brought them much of what they desire, Popcaan being a primary example.
The Gaza had informal fraternities in different places including Montego Bay (Mobay) and that connection later blossomed into the now popular 6ixx, which includes Squash, Chronic Law, Daddy1, and more. Even though the 6ixx are a group of their own, they pay homage to Vybz Kartel and merge their brand with his through collaborations. Masicka and Genahsyde is another great example of this.
Yet Mavado’s philosophy, his school of thought still holds a particular sway because he is the freeman of the two. Hence we find artists that either denounce Vybz Kartel, the Gaza, and its affiliates or just by virtue of not being included, end up on “the other side”.
Currently, there are many pieces that have been shuffled on the chessboard, allegiances have been made and broken. Aidonia and the 4th Genna camp, for instance, have embraced (including many other artists) Alkaline and his Vendetta camp, who are sworn enemies of the Gaza camp. This is a novel move on Donia’s part, an attempt at unity perhaps, to embrace an enemy of his own musical father, “Addi a mi daddy who wah vex gwaan vex”.
IWaata and Intence, who have long been members of the 4th Genna camp have also recently tightened their association with the Vendetta camp, squarely placing them on “the other side”.
Popcaan has merged his Unruly brand, with Skillibeng’s E-syde, through pivotal collaborations. Skilli also garnered his own cosign and looks from Vybz Kartel with a feature on the Of Dons & Divas album. This places him as an ally of the Gaza.
There are currently rumors of an Intence & Iwaata Vs Skillibeng & Rytikal feud brewing, which further affirms the prominence of the lines in the music.
Many lines are being crossed, many pieces are being shifted, but the old war lines remain. The Dancehall audience is intimately invested in this musical family tree, and how the tensions develop between these two schools.