Popular promoter Heavy D believes entertainment shows produced locally are suffering from poor turnouts because the current crop of Jamaican acts are burnt out, and is, therefore, suggesting that the Jamaican music industry increase its support for young artist development.
Heavy D, who also dabbles in artist management, said the ongoing trend for young artists to resort to shock-value methods to gain attention is related to the difficult task of getting their music played and acquiring investment in their talent.
He also brought under the microscope Beenie Man and Bounty Killer’s 20-year run atop the local music food chain, questioning which other music industry would sit back and allow the same artists to dominate shows and radio for two decades.
Beenie Man & Bounty Killer
Annual shows like Sting served as a launching pad for several of the veterans in the music industry. However, even the very veterans who rocked the show during its formative years were unable to pull a full house during its recent staging in 2015. Heavy D claims local fans are yearning to see new talent.
“Only in Jamaica you have the same artists headlining shows for 20 years. In Europe, America, UK, you don’t see that. Here, it’s always Beenie, Bounty, and Sizzla, and the people just want a new thing. If you are somebody who loves ackee and saltfish and I feed that to you for three months straight, you will not want to eat it again,” he said.
The promoter/manager describes some contemporary recording artists as being selfish and warned that the music cannot be sustainable without fresh faces. Radio stations, journalists, producers, and managers were also drawn into the mix, since they all are usually expected to contribute to artist development in some way.
“Everybody ah look out for themselves and they are not following in the footsteps of people like Sugar Minott, Bounty Killer, and even Kartel and buss some youths. I am trying, but I can’t manage everybody, and for years, Sting has brought out new talents. We complain that shows are dying, but how can we be doing the same thing and expect different results? Mek some space for the youth dem, man. The crab inna barrel can’t work either because reggae or dancehall does not belong to only one person,” he said.
Heavy D is responsible for the break of dancehall artists Tommy Lee Sparta and Don Andre, both noted as artists who employed shock-value tactics to gain attention in the media. While he believes the quality of music should speak for itself, he said he honestly could not blame young acts for employing extreme tactics to pull attention to their products.
The manager also took the opportunity to warn up-and-coming artists about their tendency to be unprofessional. He believes ignorance, ego, and greed combined have helped to harden the hearts of persons in the music industry. Heavy D suggested that up-and-coming artists who benefit from the investment of others, only to switch allegiance when their careers have seen growth, should desist from the practice.
“The sad thing is that some of these artists who have managers invest money in them, only use the money to their own benefit, then they fire the day-one manager and hire their family. Unnu fi stop it, man! Always remember the man who spend him last dollar to buy gas to take you from place to place in your early days and who invest in you. A unnu mek it bad for young artists,” he said.
He also urged his peers to take risks.
“Managers should not be afraid fi buss a youth either. Just make sure your paperwork right. Look on OMI, nobody knew him before Specialist took him and invested in him. If we continue to depend on Beenie and Bounty, the business is going to crash,” he said.
Heavy D believes the nostalgia surrounding several popular Jamaican acts locally has disappeared due to their regular appearances on the party scene as well as repeat performances at free events such as Uptown Mondays, Weddy Weddy Wednesdays and Integration Thursdays – hosted at UWI, among others.
However, culture minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, is of the view that veteran artists still have a lot to offer locally. She believes the alleged burnout of local acts can be fixed with dynamic marketing.
“Yes, we do need new faces, but old or young, they have their market. There are people who will go to events for reggae, rock-steady, and dancehall. I think the issue has to do with how we promote and market our artists. Sometimes, with only a little fame, some of our artists think they are superstars, and so we have to be more organized. That was the difference in Shabba Ranks’ campaign, there was strategy to how he was marketed and even what he wore,” she said.