Violence in Vybz Kartel’s Music: Metaphor, Musical Identity, Performance or Masculinity? by Kimberly Carr-Tobias

This paper’s objective is to contribute to the field of Cultural Studies, more specifically, Caribbean Cultural Studies. This study addresses the concern about the culture of violence in Jamaican dancehall music that has been critiqued on its promotion of gun violence, gang culture, and badmanism as an expression of hegemonic masculinity. The paper explores a sample of violent song lyrics of Adidja “Vybz Kartel” Palmer to ascertain the extent to which the words reflect a cultural discourse rather than promote violence. Also, if the identity reflected inVybz Kartel’s songs is consistent with one form of dancehallized masculine identity: gun violence (badman) as postulated by Donna Hope. A qualitative study was done using the content analysis methodology to analyze a sample of his songs with violence. The songs were retrieved from YouTube, the corresponding lyrics extracted from websites and analyzed using the following themes: ‘construction of dancehallized masculinity and identity,’ ‘gun as real or metaphorical’ and ‘space and violence.’ These themes are useful in understanding the reflection of gun violence and badmanism as standard components of dancehallized masculinity and the violent cultural discourse to which Vybz Kartel has aligned himself in his song lyrics.

Keywords: gender identity, masculinity, violence, gun violence, dancehall music, dancehall culture, Jamaica, Cultural Studies.

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