Last Week’s News: Dear Bounty Killer
Dear Bounty Killer -
I’m a fan of your music. I respect that you’ve mentored and even nurtured many of today’s popular DJs, even though I think this Alliance business is nonsense and divisive (and I’ve thought so from the first rumblings of its formation surfaced). I actually think that you’re a very gifted DJ and a charismatic man. When I began high school I had hot debates with classmates over who was better, you or Beenie Man. At the time I was strident in my opposition to you because of your lyrics specifically the gun tunes. After all, this was the time of counteraction and you and Beenie were running the place hot. Somehow at age 11/12/13 I already felt that you had a responsibility to your audience to spew socially responsible lyrics. I was a sheltered young girl so I only heard about the Sting escapades but never saw them for myself. But I could not deny that despite that sheltered upbringing I came alive and I tingled when I heard dancehall and reggae…but moreso dancehall. That genre touches something deep inside that I cannot deny and will not reject. My love for dancehall music is as unquestioned as it is complex and conflicted. So at the time I loved Book, Book, Book and Down in the Ghetto but hit out against Riding West, Lodge and, ironically, Miss Ivy’s Last Son. Eventually, though, I became a supporter and an ardent lover of counteraction tunes, which I think are some of the best in dancehall. Eventually I also acknowledged and accepted that I liked your entire catalog…even you protest too much about performing oral sex on women. (Really, you’ve never done it it?) I think this acceptance coincided with a realization that Jamaica is a complex, dynamic, vibrant and often unforgiving society, something which I think you communicated well.
While I think Beenie Man is a gifted entertainer with a special ability to stay relevant, that Mad Cobra and Spragga Benz are gifted DJs and lyricists, and that Buju Banton is the musical voice and conscience of my generation (the almost 30s, that is *cringe*…almost 30s) you are in a special category I believe. Your voice and delivery contain a special dose of passion, relevance, and grit. There is something compelling about you and your skills. At times the eloquence with which you speak about contemporary issues in Jamaica – be it music, politics or otherwise – stuns me. I don’t mean that I underestimate you but sometimes you just speak with such vigor and clarity that you capture the essence of a situation in a succinct and pointed way. I’m not going to wax poetic about “what if you’d gotten a college education and professional training” because I think you’re in the profession you’re meant to be in. So, yes, I love your music. Yet for all these gifts and accomplishments something seems to have held you back from true stardom…what is that?
I sincerely wonder about YOU the man and your soul. Lately I wonder if you’re ill…like, physiologically and structurally unwell. At one time I wondered partly in jest but partly deadly serious whether you had an untreated disease. I don’t think that the recent domestic charges against you are simply a matter of losing one’s temper, mental or emotional fatigue, or a failure to manage and control one’s anger. I have come to believe that you are simply and dangerously unwell. There seems to be a rip in or some other damage to your soul that’s affecting your behaviour, because for some reason I don’t see you as an inherently bad or evil person. Am I wrong? The (un)settling realization that you’re in all likelihood unwell in some way saddens me for two reasons. The first is that I think you know better but simply refuse to act like it. Surely Miss Ivy has said something to you about how to treat the women in your life. Yet time and time again I hear anecdotes from friends and acquaintances about how you mistreat women. And I think “mistreat” is an understatement. And then come the published reports and actual charges of domestic violence and assault. The latest is with a hammer and a mosquito zapper. A hammer and a mosquito zapper. A HAMMER AND A MOSQUITO ZAPPER! What in God’s name are you thinking? Or rather, what’s missing in your thought and evaluation process? I cannot understand how you can look on any other human being and want to hit them with your fists so I cannot even imagine the use of a hammer and mosquito zapper. How can this behaviour come from a man who DJs so well about suffering and struggles? How can this behaviour come from someone who, from all appearances, has a deep love and respect for and strong bond with his own mother? Doesn’t her face ever flash across your mind as you inflict physical pain on another woman? I don’t get it…even as something niggles at me to separate the man from his music/art/work because I think you’re to be held to a higher standard. I think that YOU recognize that you’re to be held to a higher standard. Your talents and influence are too great to require anything less. Perhaps it is that you cannot handle the pressures and responsibility of that influence, I don’t know. But even then, there is no excuse for hitting a woman. None. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Quite simply, it is wrong.
So this brings me to the second reason why I am saddened by your (alleged) behaviour. It’s the comments masquerading as jokes that I’ve seen and heard, that have appeared in my Twitter timeline about “hammer time” and that you “hit the nail on the head.” Whenever I see them, for example in my timeline, I shake my head and keep scrolling. It seems useless to “call someone out” about the “joke” because for me the ability of one to make a joke like that belies a misunderstanding or lack of acceptance of the true harm caused by abusing someone else. For some reason people have come to the conclusion that (1) “this” is just “how you stay” and (2) that these women who are apparently aware of your behaviour have asked for it – it being a willingness and acceptance of being hit with fists, 2×4 pieces of board, hammers, and mosquito zappers. These two possible justifications for your behaviour are grounded in ignorance and a callous disregard for the (alleged) victims and your own wellbeing. Yes, your wellbeing. Domestic violence is, as I understand it, a complex and sometimes debilitating illness, so much so that many jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere have recognized it as a valid defense to murder. No one “asks” for “it” and no one deserves “it” even if that person instigated a quarrel or a fight or hits first. I won’t accept any shades of gray here because hitting someone else is simply wrong. And for the record I think that it is as wrong for a man to hit a woman as it is for a woman to hit a man. Moreover, domestic violence is and will never be a joke. How come you haven’t said anything publicly? Are you going to take responsibility for your actions? Though earlier this year one girlfriend of yours withdrew the charges, this current girlfriend hasn’t. Are you going to say anything except show up in church beside your mother again? In fact, how can you stand beside her knowing what you’ve done? I mean, where there’s smoke there is usually fire…something horrible and troubling is going on with you. Where are your friends? Are you going to confront this problem and deal with it, or is that we’ll have to wait until you get into trouble as Buju has done for there to be an outcry and condemnation? Or do you genuinely feel that you have done nothing wrong and therefore have nothing to apologize or be punished for?
Domestic violence is a serious issue that I think Jamaica has not and is not dealing with. You seem to me to epitomize that unwillingness to deal with this issue and the ignorance about its deleterious effects on the abused person and wider society. (And yes I know you’re not the only man, DJ, businessman, lawyer, doctor, judge, policeman, carpenter, mason, rasta man, or politican to beat his partner or spouse…I have, however, shared no such arms length but profound relationship with them as I have with you…or more accurately through your music). Beating someone is not a sign of love or affection. You also do not own anyone nor should you have the ability or attitude that you control anyone. If these are lessons that you picked up somewhere, reject and discard them. They are doing you no good. No man or woman should behave this way and no man or woman should accept this. The law recognizes the effect that domestic violence can have on the abused. Maybe it is this charisma that you have that has lured women into a false sense of security and into thinking that you’ll never do “it” to them. I really don’t know. But I wonder if people ever wonder and consider the effect that domestic violence has on the abuser. I don’t understand why it is that people make these comments about you – and maybe even to you. What effect has this apparently long history of beating women had on you? Have you lost your humanity?
So, for me the “jokes” reveal a stunning acceptance of your behaviour and of domestic violence as the status quo in Jamaica (which is ironic considering the outcry by many Jamaicans against Chris Brown and his booking for 2010’s Sumfest, and for the record I thought that Chris should be allowed to perform not in small part due to the fact that he had been and was being punished by the U.S. legal system and had, I believed, expressed remorse and contriteness for his abuse of Rihanna). But you have received no such punishment. So far you’ve escaped any punishment from Jamaica’s justice system. You’ve not even been charged and brought to trial! You’ve also escaped any public condemnation from your peers and friends. I have not seen a single DJ condemn your actions…did I miss it? Again, I ask you, where is own responsibility or comment about this? Wait, do you also need to be blackballed and ostracized as Chris Brown was? Does the Jamaican entertainment industry have the wherewithal – the balls – to do that, or is it simply going to focus on your talents to give you a free pass?
You still remain a favourite DJ…but as a person I cannot say that I admire or even like you. It is hard for me to reconcile those two things, and truthfully, I am not sure if those two feelings about can be reconciled. I write this near epistle addressed to you because this issue has rested on my mind for months. It is sincerely an expression of concern for you personally but also as an expression of concern about Jamaica and our general unwillingness to speak up forcefully and demand better from those who are our leaders, elected or not. I also write it to remind anyone who’s reading this who has or is being abused or who knows of someone who is being abused or who is an abuser to seek help and to speak out if you can. Know also that if you are being abused that, as a human being, you deserve better than to be anyone’s punching bag or beating stick. You deserve your humanity and to be treated as the valuable and precious being that you are.
You too, Rodney Basil Price, deserve better than to behave thoughtlessly and, really, like an animal…through your music I have seen glimpses of your capacity to care and your capacity for compassion toward others. Was this all an act? I don’t think so but I am no longer so sure what to believe. Maybe it was and is, in which case I shall simply have to deal with my disappointment. But in any event, you need to take control over this thing that is now controlling you.
if you’re in the U.S. and are being abused or know someone who is being abused or who is an abuser, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224. Take note of your friends who develop an affinity for loose and/or head to toe covering when s/he would not normally do so.
If you’re in Jamaica *sigh* I’d say call 119 but that would be idealistic of me. Talk to a trusted friend or mentor. Contact the Women’s Center at 876-926-5768 & read what the UNHCR has to say about domestic violence in Jamaica and what The Jamaica Gleaner in 2008 reported reported about domestic violence in Jamaica. We have an insidious yet dangerously silent problem.