On the latest Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times has a feature on Vybz Kartel covering his unique position in dancehall, his new album on Mixpak and the growth of the Vybz Kartel brand.
SHORTLY before 10 p.m. on the final night of Best of the Best, a reggae and hip-hop concert held over the Memorial Day weekend in Veterans Park in Miami, DJ Nuffy, the master of ceremonies, began to introduce the dancehall reggae artist Vybz Kartel. But Vybz Kartel wasn’t actually in the park, in Miami, or even in the United States. He was more than 500 miles away at Jamaica Jamaica, a fancy nightclub just outside Ocho Rios, because he has been denied a United States visa.
“And now for your feature presentation, the biggest thing in Jamaica,” DJ Nuffy roared, adding “him look like Michael Jackson.” The sly remark — referring both to the artist’s enormous celebrity in the Caribbean diaspora and to his controversial practice of lightening his skin — drew laughter and mischievous cheers from the crowd of some 10,000 who stared intently at a screen on the stage where artists including DJ Khaled, Busta Rhymes and I-Octane had performed just moments before. “Let’s welcome via satellite, live to you, Vybz. Vybz. Vybz.”
The crowd shouted “Kartel” in unison as his image filled the screen. He wore a purple suit with a loosely knotted silk tie and button-down shirt, his pale brown tattooed face framed by aviator glasses and a mane of black hair extensions. “Yo, Miami, you know what time now?” he asked, checking his wristwatch as the stuttering digital beat for “Touch a Button,” his chest-thumping challenge to rivals, started to play. Before long Vybz Kartel’s rapid-fire flow had the audience spellbound.
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The audio below (and above) is from New York Times Music Popcast with Jeremy Egner which features a 15 minute interview with journalist Rob Kenner who just wrote a feature on Vybz Kartel. This is a big look for Kartel, NY Times doesn’t just write talk about or give just anybody a feature. it’s crazy because Kartel hasn’t been able to leave Jamaica for more than 6 years now.