LIME in a very sour pickle
Carolyn Cooper, Contributor
BEFORE LISTENING to the lyrics of Potential Kidd's song Yah So Nice, I assumed from the title that 'yah' meant Jamaica. I figured that the song was an echo of Tony Rebel's big tune, Sweet Jamaica:
Help mi big up Jamaica
The land of wood and water
The system might no proper
But wi love the vibes, the food and the culture.
Woh, can't you see
The beauty of this country?
Mi never know, a serious thing
Until mi reach a foreign.
Seh wat a nice place fi live
Di only problem is dollars nah run.
As it turns out, Potential Kidd's 'yah' is located in another territory. It's a land of wood and moist valleys and it lies at the intersection of a woman's legs. Yah So Nice is actually all about sexual intercourse, particularly the DJ's fixation on female genitalia. This is not a surprising theme in dancehall lyrics. But there are a few unusual images. Potential Kidd compares his sexual encounter to religious conversion: "A yah so nice, mi tink a God a save me".
Especially on Easter Sunday, some saintly souls will surely consider those lines sacrilegious. But ecstasy, whether religious or sexual, is at core a form of rapture - being carried away out of the body. In fact, the English word rapture comes from the Latin raptura meaning 'seizure, rape, kidnapping'. In English, the connotations of the word are not at all rapacious.
Potential Kidd seems to be caught in a state of perpetual amazement. Apparently, the inexperienced DJ is not accustomed to having intercourse - whether verbal or sexual - with women who are both physically attractive and literate:
Baby skin clean a dat amaze me
Wat a girl body right
A dat amaze me
She can read and write
A dat amaze me
Clean and dirty versions
Out of the blue come the truly amazing lyrics that have put LIME in a pickle for promoting 'Yah So Nice': "Before mi turn a b—-y man/Mi prefer turn a raper". Did no one at LIME listen to these lyrics before selecting Potential Kidd and 'Yah So Nice' for an advertising campaign targeting high-school students? It is true that these offensive lines are edited out of the 'clean' version. But since the 'dirty' version is easily accessible on the Internet, the distinction between the two is purely academic.
To be fair to Potential Kidd, his statement shouldn't be taken out of context as a straightforward promotion of rape. It is a hypothetical situation he imagines in which rape is conceived as the lesser of two evils. Socialised in Jamaica, he has been brought up to believe that homosexuality is the worst possible fate that could befall him. Even worse than becoming a 'raper'. And we all know where that fear of homosexuality comes from: straight from the Old Testament. Potential Kidd's choice of the word 'turn' suggests another kind of conversion, definitely not salvation by God. This 'turn' seems to be the possibility that a heterosexual man could be forced to take a turn to homosexuality in rapacious circumstances beyond his control.
Backward rape law
At a time when the rape of women and girls is such a grievous issue in Jamaica, Potential Kidd's lyrics cannot be taken lightly. Any suggestion that rape is an option must be condemned. But we cannot forget that men are also potential victims. The World Health Organisation defines rape as "physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration - even if slight - of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object".
Not surprisingly, Jamaican law does not acknowledge this all-inclusive definition of rape. Our rather backward position is that rape is frontal abuse. The Joint Select Committee that was established to consider amendments to the Offences Against the Person Act decided that the definition of rape should not be changed.
This is how the chairman of the committee, A. J. Nicholson, put it in an RJR report on February 14, 2007, posted on the UNIFEM website: "Leave rape as it is, leave it as is. Man and woman and only in a certain way. The penalty or penalties for the other offences are all going to be severe, so it wouldn't matter of (sic) you call it fish and chips or bread and butter, whatever name you give to it".
A.J. Nicholson's use of innocuous food imagery to describe offences against the person is just as surprising as Potential Kidd's disturbing language of rape.
Stuck with another monopoly
Once upon a time, not so long ago, Cable and Wireless enjoyed a monopoly in the Jamaican telecommunications market. The company didn't need to resort to dancehall culture to sell its products. Potential customers were forced to beg and beseech to get telephone service. Then came the brave new world of cellphones. That market was also monopolised by Cable and Wireless. Customers had to pay an arm and a leg for cellphone service. Finally, the monopoly was broken with the arrival of Digicel.
Cable and Wireless, now rebranded as LIME, is holding on to less and less market share. And so, the company is desperately grabbing on to any wire to save itself. It tried to hitch on to Mr Clifton Brown's fleeting notoriety, but still 'canna cross it'. And now Potential Kidd's lyrics have turned out to be not so nice.
LIME's best dancehall bet is Damian Marley, the company's newest ambassador. The only potential issue with 'Junior Gong' is a chronic Rastafari preoccupation: in the words of his father, 'Got to have kaya now'. That's a small price to pay in the telecommunications war. And LIME really does need to win back some of the market. Or we'll be stuck with another monopoly. And we'll be right back to where we started: 'hold dung an tek weh'.
Carolyn Cooper is a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Visit her bilingual blog at http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.