Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Clash-free Sting to rebuild brand

Published:Monday | December 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Ninja Man (right) stalks Super Cat just before moving in for the 'Kill' at Sting 91, Thursday night, December 26, 1991.
Directors of Sting (from left): Heavy D, Dimario McDowell and Isaiah Laing.
Bounty Killer (left) and Beenie Man engage in a friendly lyrical battle on stage.

Popular stage show Sting will not be having a clash this year, despite developing a reputation as a musical battlefield. According to Sting’s publicist Keona Williams, while the shows have been extremely entertaining, controversial encounters have helped to influence a negative perception of clashes in Jamaican music.

Williams pointed out that clashes can be executed without being aggressive. However, the new generation of recording artistes are ignorant of what a clash should be, and have consistently interrupted the flow of the show due to their tendency to behave inappropriately during clashes.

She told The Gleaner that the organisers of the event are this year looking to revert to the type of Sting that was celebrated in its formative years, boasting a line-up of mature acts who are serious about the development of Jamaican music, hence their decision to book a strong line-up comprised of veteran dancehall and reggae artistes.

“We are going back to the icons that set the pace for what dancehall is today. This type of package is one of a kind, and we will be showcasing the greats from the start of the 1980s like Josey Wales, leading up to icons from the present crop of artistes,” she told The Gleaner.

She also encouraged up-and-coming dancehall artistes to pay keen attention to this year’s show, so as to learn from those who paved the way.

“A clash does not mean war or to fight. It is supposed to be a lyrical battle – tune for tune – with great energy and vibe. With this special staging that should not be missed, we are addressing the incidents that ended the show prematurely last year and those incidents which affected Sting’s image in previous years,” Williams said.

Over the last 32 years, Sting developed such a reputation for its clashing that the show perhaps changed the manner in which the music industry operates during December’s festive season. As is now customary, rival recording artistes are known to put their feuds on pause until December, with the hope of settling grudges on the Sting stage.

This is evident by an increase in the amount of ‘dis’ records released by record producers in months leading up to December. Each producer and artiste, of course aiming to have the last say at Sting.

In November alone of this year, a number of recording artistes, including Beenie Man, Masicka, Kalado, Mavado, Bencil, Prince Pin, Rhyme Minister, Chilando, Blak Ryno, among others, released songs aimed at their musical rivals.

From the list of artistes noted above, Kalado and Masicka perhaps pulled the most attention to themselves on social media for their recent explicit spat . However, Williams says Sting 2015 will not be biting the clash bait, and the brand itself might not endorse clashing again until the youngsters learn how to handle themselves on the musical battlefield.

"We have elements like 'two the hard ways' and 'three the hard way', and this will show people how it was done back in the day and how it should be done now. We want the icons to lead by example and show this current crop of artistes that music is about togetherness. The 'two the hard way' concept and others like it are sort of like clashes, but it's more about lyrics and song choice than a brutal display of disrespectful lyrics, and we think it will be just as entertaining and fans will be entertained," she said.

Iconic dancehall artiste Ninja Man is known for his onstage clash exploits and triumphs over several top dancehall acts at Sting. Despite being left out of the line-up for Sting 2015, he appears to support the view that the new generation (of recording artistes) is too explosive for live lyrical confrontation.

The self-proclaimed Don Gorgon, who was physically assaulted by Vybz Kartel and his entourage during a Sting clash in 2003, said in an interview with media that the new crop of recording artistes are more interested in hurting each other than a lyrical sparring.

"A war dem artiste ya wah war now. Dem nowadays artiste yah, dem nuh have nuh lyrics, dem carry dem gang and dem wah war ... I sit and look into myself and jail is not a place for me, and when I see where I might put myself in trouble, I am not going to walk that route with them. I am not going in any competition because dem don't have no protection for the artistes," Ninja Man said.

Sting 2015 will feature performances from Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Fantan Mojah, Tiger, Johnny P, Admiral Bailey, Peter Metro, Super Beagle, Burro Banton, Terror Fabulous, among others.