Fri | Dec 2, 2016

Gully Bop: Living the Jamaican Dream

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Not so long ago. I was at the New York Metropolitan Opera to see Rossini's Barber of Seville with its famously difficult baritone aria "Largo al Factotum". In it, Figaro, who is what we in Jamaica would know as a low-level don of his area, is at pains to point out that everybody makes their way to him eventually, because everyone needs something to be taken care of, and that's his specialty. The context leaves no doubt that women particularly find their way to Figaro if they're in need.

Make way for the best man in this city!

Hurrying to his shop, now that it's morning!

Ah, isn't life good, how pleasant it is

For a barber of quality!...

Everyone asks for me, everyone wants me

Women, young people,

old people, the blonde young ladies ...

Quicker and quicker the sparks fly with me,

Because I am the best man in this city!

All of a sudden I realized I had heard this before. Rossini was "pirating" offah Beenie:

Gyal a tear off mi garments!

And a cry fi come inna mi apartment! (Woieee)

De gyal dem want de length and strength,

Action! Speak louder dan argument!

OK, so it's not an exact translation, but it's the exact sentiment. Can you imagine my delight that another Figaro has burst onto the national stage? Gully Bop mi seh!

I haven't been to Sting for a while, but this year I was sorely tempted to go see Gully Bop crush it. Being Jamaican, I'm certainly not above dropping cash for an opportunity to be bottled, stampeded and shot at while the high priests of dancehall perform ritual murders on stage.

As background, the Bop erupted from utter obscurity after a phone-video clip of him freestyling in Grant's Pen went viral on Youtube and Facebook. You see a wizened man, hair unkempt, many teeth missing (only two conspicuously left), lisping and spitting rhymes while dancing down a lane. The lyrics are incredibly scandalous, so they can't be quoted extensively.

But the juxtaposition of the "Largo al Factotum, gyal-getter" bravado in a diminutive frame is irresistible. And never mind any apparent physical limitations, because Gully Bop is making it abundantly clear that his specialist mechanic skills are available to fix female issues.

"Every gyal want a wuk offah mi,

Every gyal seh dem want piece ah mi! Boom

An every gyal dem ah dive aftah mi

Within a month, he has skyrocketed from poverty to where "money breeze ah blow pon mi". Then came multiple appearances, including Sting. A pretty 25 year-old Jamerican princess, known as "Shauna Chin Buffness" online, searched out the 50 year-old talent, and she's now his fiance and manager. He has offers from dentists to repair his grill. Meanwhile he's now feeding his dogs Island Grill. He's got new wheels and hit songs on the road. He's seen chillaxing poolside at hotels with his girl. God Bless Gully Bop! The man is living the Jamaican Dream.

NOT GULLY FLOP

Of course, because bad mind is always active, his new fame and fortune has also attracted naysayers and critics. Inevitably, there are a host of deejay frenemies that wish to make him Gully Flop. But Bop hasn't been backward in coming forward with criticism of them either. In particular, Ninjaman and he seem to have enough beef to feed a village. Then his record label "dropped" him because he was "getting too hype", dissing "everybody whe start him ting", and refusing to perform for agreed prices unless promoters give him "more food".

But Gully Bop attributes his steep rise to social media and fan support, so he's not putting up with any rubbish, and is stubbornly demanding independence. The soap opera is ongoing, but I'm hoping Gully Bop can keep his balance and ride the wave to riches.

It's not exactly parallel, but there is the cautionary tale of Cliftwang. Who can forget his dazzlingly brilliant interview with TVJ and DJ Powa's mashup of it? Cliftwang's community had been cut-off by the raging Yallahs River, leading to his uniquely eloquent appeal for a bridge.

Nobody canna cross it, is only who can understan it,

Like a fisherman an a fisherwoman who can swim

Cause if you cannat swim, trust mi, yuh gawn to St. Thomas pond!

He made it to Reggae Sumfest in a hot minute. I cherish a photo of Cliftwang dressed to the nines with fedora, grinning like the Cheshire cat, surrounded by scantily clad babes. His look of surprised delight brings me immense joy as a reminder that somewhere over the rainbow, or around the next bend, life is sometimes magical.

Unfortunately, with such a rapturous initial public reception, and magnificent hotgirl photographs circulating, it wouldn't be long before Cliftwang inherited some celebrity problems. I saw that pic of him and knew immediately that no man who has done his solemn duty and committed to the holy Christian sacrament of marriage is permitted to grin like that. I'm sure all his excellent debating points - that it was just a photo op, that he was ordered to smile, and that he didn't even enjoy it - made not the slightest dent. Guilty!

In short order, newspapers were reporting various court appearances for bounced checks and unpaid child support. Then by 2013, Cliftwang was appearing before RM Pusey to answer a rape charge. From his wife! So I doubt Cliftwang is currently enjoying celebrity status.

Look, a man who has many millions generally gains negligible satisfaction by acquiring a million more. But a man with nothing is overjoyed by that money. To him it's a fortune. So tell me about a rich man making more, I'm generally bored. But tell me about a sufferer who, by luck and skill, hits it big, and I want details. That's how I understand this collective pleasure, and my own utter enjoyment, when another yute buss weh. But there is no gain without loss in human affairs, even when the Jamaican Dream comes true.

n Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.