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Vybz Kartel

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  • Formed: Portmore, Jamaica
  • Years Active: 2000s


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A controversial figure and a superstar in his homeland of Jamaica, Vybz Kartel was hailed as one of the leading new artists to emerge from the dancehall scene following the release of his 2003 debut album, Up 2 Di Time. Born and raised in the Waterford district of Jamaica, Kartel was only 12 when he released his first single, "Fat Women," under the name Adi Banton. In 1996, he formed Vibes Cartel with his friends Mr Lee and Escobar, but the group quickly dissolved. Vybz would keep the group's name in altered form and became a solo artist; he soon became the protégé of popular dancehall singer Bounty Killer. Kartel began writing for artists on Bounty's Alliance management roster, including the Killer himself, along with the Scare Dem Crew featuring Elephant Man. Vybz broke out on his own in 2002 with a string of solo hits including "Guns Like Mine," "Badman," and "Most High," along with some collaborative hits with reggae singer Wayne Marshall. Being crowned 2002 deejay of the year at the Stone Love Sound System's 30th anniversary party meant the singer had officially arrived amongst the Jamaican dancehall community, but a year later he would break on a worldwide level, releasing his debut Up 2 Di Time to wide acclaim while making headlines thanks to an on-stage clash with Ninjaman during the Sting festival in Kartel's hometown of Portmore. The planned clash was highly anticipated, but when members of Kartel's crew assaulted Ninjaman on-stage, chaos took over with numerous arrests and the future of Sting coming into question, forcing Kartel to make a public apology while announcing a truce with Ninjaman during a press conference held four days after Sting. If all the gun talk and curse words in the man's songs hadn't already labeled him a possibly "dangerous" artist, the Ninjaman incident surely did.

More Up 2 Di Time would land in 2004, the same year that Vybz was nominated for a MOBO award in the U.K., although that was quickly withdrawn along with those of Beenie Man and Sizzla over concerns with lyrics representing homophobia. The J.M.T. album dropped in 2005, but that year would see as many headlines as hits as Kartel and Bounty fell out, trading insults in the Jamaican press as accusations of stolen girlfriends, baby fathers, and bogus songwriting credits flew. Kartel would be out of the Killer-led Alliance a year later, immediately joining forces with one of Bounty's biggest enemies, Beenie Man. He then released a series of diss tracks aimed at Bounty Killer's new protégé, Mavado, and it only took a moment before the Jamaican media was entranced. The next few years would be filled with diss tracks and gossip as young dancehall fans chose sides, declaring themselves Gaza if their allegiance was with Kartel, and Gully if they sided with Mavado. A truce was announced in late 2007, but things escalated during 2008, and in 2009 Vybz released his "Live We Living" single as a call for peace. He also stepped outside his usual genre that year, and partnered with electro producer Diplo for a track on the Major Lazer album Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do. Back home, fans had become so divided into Gaza and Gully camps that gang violence had come into play, prompting Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding to call both artists to the capital for a peace meeting. A peace concert featuring the two artists and promoted by Christopher Coke -- aka "Dudus," the drug lord whose capture later in 2010 would make headlines worldwide thanks to a three-day police standoff -- was planned for early that next year, but was canceled by the country's Minister of Culture. That year's "Clarks" single became a huge hit for Kartel, spawning two more follow-up singles about the shoe brand that would also climb the charts, while the 2010 album Pon Di Gaza 2.0 produced the hits "Ramping Shop" and "Life Sweet." In 2011, Vybz would release the Kingston Story album with Brooklyn house music producer Dre Skull handling the beats. Kartel was arrested in September of that year and charged with the murder of Barrington "Bosie" Burton, a music promoter based in the St. Catherine suburb of Portmore. In America, the Vice label issued a deluxe version of Kingston Story in 2012, and even though Vybz made bail on the Burton murder charge, he remained jailed based on new charges in connection with the murder of alleged gang member Clive "Lizard" Williams.


Adidja Azim Palmer (born 7 January 1976) better known as Vybz Kartel, is a Jamaican dancehall reggae artist, songwriter and businessman. Some of his singles include "Clarks", "Ramping Shop", "Poor People Land", "Tell You Say", "Summertime", "Dancehall Hero" "Like Christmas" and Major Lazer collab "Pon De Floor".

Kartel is now serving life imprisonment for the murder of Clive 'Lizard' William at his home in Havendale, a suburb north of Kingston, on 16 August 2011. He was sentenced on 3 April 2014 and will not be eligible for parole for 35 years.

^ "Defence accuses cop of misleading court in Cartel case". JamaicaObserver.com. Retrieved 3 April 2014. ^ [1]. RRRMusic.com; retrieved 26 December 2014.^ [2]. 6lyrics.com; retrieved 27 December 2014.^ [3]. Musictory.com; retrieved 26 December 2014.


Kartel started his career as a teenager in 1993 with his first recording "Love Fat Woman", released on Alvin Reid's label "One Heart", using the moniker "Adi Banton", an homage to Buju Banton. Palmer was later part of the three-member group "Vybez Kartel", keeping the slightly altered name after the group split up, and became a protege of Bounty Killer, for whom he claims to have written nearly 30 songs, including "Gal Clown".

Vybz Kartel rose to prominence in 2003 after a string of hits in Jamaica. The year culminated in a pre-planned on-stage clash with Ninjaman at the annual dancehall festival Sting in Kartel's hometown of Portmore. The clash turned violent when Kartel's crewmembers, as well as Kartel himself, threw punches and assaulted Ninjaman onstage. While Kartel's manager initially blamed Ninjaman for the fracas, Kartel himself quickly apologised to Ninjaman and Sting organizers for the fracas. Four days after the incident, the two artists appeared before the press to announce a settlement of their differences and to end any animosity.

He established his own label Adidjahiem/Notnice Records with his business partner and producer Ainsley "Notnice" Morris. In 2010, he released his album Pon Di Gaza 2.0 on Adidjahiem/Notnice Records in collaboration with Tads Record Inc. In Spring 2011, Vybz Kartel released an album on Mixpak Records entitled 'Kingston Story' with Brooklyn hip hop/electro producer Dre Skull.

Kartel has worked on collaborations and remixes with hip hop and R&B musicians Jay-Z, Rihanna, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, M.I.A, Pharrell Williams, Kardinal Offishall, Akon, Jim Jones, Lil Wayne and Eminem.

In 2009 his song featuring female Jamaican deejay 'Spice', "Ramping Shop", debuted on the Billboard Top 100 Singles charts, and "Dollar Sign" being in regular rotation on urban radio stations in the US. His 2010 single "Clarks" was one of his biggest international successes, remaining in the top 3 Reggae Singles gaining the most radio plays in North America for 40 weeks. "Clarks" was also featured on the TV series So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and on a CNN segment on dancehall dance. MTV's Vice Guide to Dancehall featured Kartel at his weekly dance party, Street Vybz Thursday.

After splitting with Bounty Killer-led Alliance in 2006, Kartel founded the Portmore Empire, a group of dancehall DJ's and singers from his Portmore neighborhood that he signed to his newly founded Adidjahiem/Notnice Records. Members of the group as of 2011 were: Popcaan, Gaza Slim, Shawn Storm, Sheba, Gaza Indu, Tommy Lee, Singing Maxwell, Singa Blinga, Lenny Mattic. Former members include Lisa Hype, Gaza Kim, Blak Ryno, Jah Vinci, Dosa Medicine and Merital Family.

^ Biography: Vybz Kartel aka Adijah Palmer, UrbanIslandz.com, 28 August 2010; accessed 25 December 2014.^ Max, James. Vybz Kartel: I wrote about 30-odd songs for Bounty Killer. UrbanIslandz.com. 17 December 2010.^ Mills, Claude. Terror at Sting. Jamaica Gleaner. 28 December 2003; retrieved 26 December 2014.^ Vybz Kartel apologises to Ninja Man, Sting organisers. Jamaica Observer. 30 December 2003. Retrieved 3011-3-3.^ Sinclair, Glenroy; Smith, Germaine. 'We were wrong' - Ninja Man, Vybz Kartel arrested and charged following Sting 'slug-fest'. Jamaica Gleaner. 31 December 2003; retrieved 26 December 2014.^ GoodHeart, Korry. 'Not Nice', the man 'engineering' the Empire dominance in dancehall. RisingStarsTV.Net. 18 January 2010.^ Kartel releases Pon Di Gaza 2.0. Jamaica Star. Retrieved 2011-2-16.^ Vybz Kartel Announces New Album Produced By Dre Skull. DreSkull.com. 23 December 2010; retrieved 26 December 2014.^ Ramping Shop Hits The Billboard Chart. Dancehall.Mobi. Retrieved 2011-2-16.^ WRFG Radio Free Georgia. Retrieved 2011-4-15.^ Clarks: De Mixtape Raw Hits Stores. Jamaicans.com. 5 January 2011.^ So You Think You Can Dance - Canada (Vybz Kartel - 'Clarks'). Harrington Kommunication. 3 September 2010.^ CNN Reports Jamaican Dancehall Goes Global. The Sweet 7. 21 January 2011.^ Henry, Krista. Dancehall episode for MTV series. Jamaica Star; retrieved 26 December 2014.^ "'Lisa Hype is no longer part of the Portmore Empire...', Vybz Kartel announces split with Lisa Hype", YardFlex.com, 30 December 2009; accessed 26 December 2014.^ Gaza Kim Exits Portmore Empire + England Town Medley. RisingStarsTV.net. 17 January 2010.^ Black Rhyno leaves Portmore Empire. Jamaica Observer, 25 February 2010; accessed 26 December 2014.^ "Merital Family Leaves Portmore Empire", mydancehallmadness.com, 7 June 2011; accessed 26 December 2014.

Feud with Mavado[edit]

A public feud between Kartel and former collaborator Mavado arose towards the end of 2006, stemming from Vybz' much publicized departure from the dancehall conglomerate group The Alliance. The feud resulted in numerous diss tracks released, in which each artist dissed the other and their associates over popular dancehall rhythms. In a police-overseen press conference in March 2007, both Mavado and Vybz Kartel publicly announced an end to hostilities and apologized to fans.

However, by the summer of 2008, tensions flared with a renewal of "diss tracks" from each artist, and a lyrical clash between the two at Sting 2008 left mixed views as to the "winner".

Most of 2009 saw a continuation of the public feud, which dominated Jamaican media and, to a certain extent, Jamaican culture, with the two artists' factions, Gaza (Kartel) and Gully (Mavado), being adopted by Jamaican youth, in some cases leading to street violence.

On 8 December 2009, Kartel and Mavado met with Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding in an attempt to end the feud, which had by that time fueled mob attacks in some of the inner city neighborhoods of Kingston. The two had performed together on-stage the previous night in a sign of goodwill at the West Kingston Jamboree, a concert promoted by drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke. After the truce in December 2009, the two artists were scheduled to perform a unity concert in March 2010 in Barbados, which was later cancelled by the prime minister of that country.

^ Dreisinger, Baz. Reggae's Civil War Why Mavado and Vybz Kartel might be the Biggie and Tupac of Dancehall. Village Voice, 2 March 2010; accessed 26 December 2014.^ Kaylia Williams: Unprecedented Press Conference ends feud between Vybz Kartel and Mavado. YardFlex.com Archives, 2 March 2007; accessed 27 January 2011^ Mavado and Vybz Kartel at it again. YardFlex.com. 22 August 2008. Retrieved 2011-4-15.^ Black, Francine. Entertainment insiders say... STING CLASH WAS A DRAW, Jamaica Star. 29 December 2008; retrieved 15 April 2011.^ Boyne, Ian. The Gully-Gaza war. Jamaica Gleaner. 20 September 2009. Retrieved 2011-4-15.^ BEATEN FOR 'GULLY' MUSIC - Driver assaulted, householder threatened after playing Mavado songs, Jamaica Star, 4 August 2009; retrieved 15 April 2011.^ Prime Minister to meet with Kartel, Mavado. Jamaica Gleaner. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 2011-4-15.^ "Jamaica drug lord 'Dudus' Coke admits racketeering". BBC News. 31 August 2011. ^ Barbados PM says no to Mavado, Vybz Kartel show. Jamaica Observer. 26 March 2010; retrieved 15 April 2011.


In 2008, Kartel launched his own liquor line; Street Vybz Rum. He hosted a weekly dance party Street Vybz Thursday, at the Building, a Kingston nightclub he managed with Street Vybz Rum business partner, Corey Todd. The rum is officially distributed by Vybz Distillers Limited. The same year, he also released his own condom line, Daggering Condoms. Street Vybz Rum production was stopped in 2011 because of a disagreement between him and Corey Todd. However, the collaboration resumed in 2012 as the two settled their differences, and despite Kartel's ongoing incarceration.

In 2011, he released his own shoe line, named Addi's, as well as his own line of "cake soap".

When his singles "Clarks", "Clarks 2 (Clarks Again)" and "Clarks 3 (Wear Weh Yuh Have)" featured the British shoe brand Clarks in 2010, its sales numbers and prices in Jamaica increased considerably.

Vybz Kartel has also hosted his own reality television show "Teacha's Pet" on CVM Jamaica broadcast channel, the first reality television show hosted by a dancehall artist in Jamaica. The premise of "Teacha's Pet" found 20 women living in a Kingston house vying for the artist's affection; the show's lascivious content elicited condemnation of its sponsor, telecommunications company LIME. The show came to a halt with the artist's arrest on murder charges in September 2011.

He is also part owner of the website Media Vybz, which he announce in 2010.

^ Henry, Krista. Kartel Takes Over Club. Jamaica Star. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 2011-3-4.^ Introducing ‘Daggering Condoms’ by Vybz Kartel. YardFlex. 2 September 2008.^ "Vybz Kartel, Corey Todd Officially Re-launch Street Vybz Rum". Boomstation. Retrieved 25 December 2014. ^ Henry, Krista. Kartel to start own shoe brand. Jamaica Star; retrieved 25 December 2014.^ "Kartel's Addi's brand hits the market". Jamaica Star. Retrieved 25 December 2014. ^ "Vybz Kartel Releases Skin Bleaching Line While Awaiting Trial For Murder". Rapfix.mtv.com. Retrieved 25 December 2014. ^ Staff. "Sales of Clarks shoes skyrocket in Jamaica thanks to Vybz Kartel". Repeatingislands.com. Retrieved 25 December 2014. ^ "Vybz Kartel on murder rap". Cnweeklynews.com. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 


Controversies1.1 Whitening (Bleaching)1.2 Airwave ban1.3 Murder conviction


Whitening (Bleaching)[edit]

Kartel has come under controversy over perceived skin whitening, or "bleaching", leading him to claim the use of "cake soap" to lighten his skin. The Blue Power Group, Jamaican manufacturer of the popular cake soap (or "blue soap"), has refuted claims it changes skin color. Kartel stated the soap used to lighten his skin was his own company brand, which he intends to release on the local market and to overseas clients.

Airwave ban[edit]

In September 2011 the National Communications Network of Guyana banned Vybz Kartel from the airwaves—the first such action against a specific artist. His music contained "obscene lyrics" and brought "nothing positive" to the entertainment industry, said NCN spokesman Martin Goolagong (Wednesday, Sept 21) after a week of internal debate. He said NCN was reviewing the lyrics of other musicians and could ban them as well.

Murder conviction[edit]

On 29 September 2011, Kartel was arrested by police for marijuana possession. Jamaica's Major Investigation Taskforce (MIT) later charged him with the murder of a Jamaican businessman, Barrington Burton, conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of a firearm.

While in prison in 2012, his book The Voice Of The Jamaican Ghetto: Incarcerated but not Silenced, co-written with business associate Michael Dawson, was published.

Though Kartel was granted bail for the Burton murder on 23 March 2012 for JD$3,000,000, he remained in jail in connection with a second murder, of one Clive 'Lizzard' Williams, of Waterford, St Catherine. He was charged, along with two others including Vanessa "Gaza Slim" Saddler, with perverting the course of justice, after Saddler allegedly claimed that Williams had robbed her in order to mislead the police into believing that he was still alive. Kartel's trial was originally scheduled for 21 January 2013, but had to be postponed due to a lack of jurors, and was rescheduled for 11 July. On 24 July a jury found Kartel not guilty of the charge of murder of Barrington Burton. However, Kartel remained in custody pending the second murder case. His trial for the murder of Clive Williams started on 18 November 2013 on 13 March 2014 he was found guilty by an eleven-member jury (10-1) of murder of 27-year-old Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams. The 65-day trial was said to have been the longest in Jamaica’s history.

On 3 April 2014, Kartel was sentenced to life imprisonment. Justice Lennox Campbell said he would be eligible for parole after serving 35 years.

^ Hunter, Nadisha. Rub it out. Jamaica Gleaner. 29 December 2010; retrieved 25 December 2014.^ Farah. Vybz Kartel under fire for skin bleaching. The Tribune (Bahamas). 2 February 2011; retrieved 26 December 2014.^ Roache, Alicia. Cake soap company lightens Kartel's claim. Jamaica Observer. 12 January 2011; retrieved 26 December 2014.^ Cite error: The named reference shoesoap was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Associated Press (September 21, 2011). "Guyana bans Kartel's obscene music". Associated Press via The Jamaica Observer. Retrieved April 28, 2015. ^ Meschino, Patricia. "Vybz Kartel, Jamaican Dancehall Star, Charged with Murder". Billboard. Retrieved 23 March 2012. ^ Campbell, Curtis (2013) "Vybz Kartel's Book Offered At University - 'Voice Of The Ghetto' Gets Princeton Endorsement", Jamaica Gleaner, 11 August 2013; retrieved 11 August 2013^ "Vybz Kartel granted bail, but remains jailed". Jamaica Gleaner. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012. ^ Mundle, Tanesha (2012) "Nov 12 trial date for Kartel", Jamaica Observer, 30 August 2012; retrieved 1 September 2012.^ "Vybz Kartel trial faces further delay". ^ "Vybz Kartel not guilty... Acquitted after prosecution offers no further evidence". Jamaica Gleaner. 24 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. ^ Gayle, Barbara (13 March 2014). "Guilty - Vybz Kartel, three co-accused convicted, Shane Williams freed". Jamaica Gleaner. Retrieved 13 March 2014. ^ McFadden, David (13 March 2014). "Jamaican rapper, 3 others convicted of murder". Associated Press. Retrieved 13 March 2014. ^ "Jamaica dancehall star Vybz Kartel guilty of murder". 14 March 2014. ^ Jesse Serwer (April 5, 2014). "After Life Sentence for Murder Conviction, an Uncertain Fate for Vybz Kartel". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 31, 2014. ^ "Vybz Kartel sentenced to life in prison, to serve 35 years before parole". Jamaica Gleaner. Retrieved 26 December 2014. ^ "In Jamaica, Vybz Kartel gets life for murder". Associated Press. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 


Kartel has had several collaborations with international hip hop and pop stars. He has released two albums for the UK/US based label Greensleeves Records. He was also nominated for the Source, VIBE and UK MOBO awards, although his 2004 UK MOBO award nomination was withdrawn amidst controversy over homophobic content of his lyrics.

2003 Stone Love's 30th Anniversary DJ of the Year 20052008 CUMA (Caribbean Urban Music Awards)2009 EME AwardsMale DJ of the YearLyricist/Songwriter of the YearSong of the Year (Romping Shop ft. Spice)2010 EME Awards^ "Vybz Kartel pleased to be nominated for a Source award". ttgapers.com. Retrieved 2011-03-08. ^ Mobo drops 'homophobic' artists BBC News, 8 September 2004^ "2009 EME Awards". EME Awards. ^ "2010 EME Awards". EME Awards. 
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