Dancehall is notorious for many things. Among them, the glorifications of violence and sexual immorality have for long emanated from dancehall. The genre is blamed for many societal ills due to the negative impact it is purported to have on impressionable youth. With this taint of this bad press, can dancehall really handle further negativity?
The Threat of Tommy Lee
Many say Tommy Lee is the new Dancehall man of the moment, others disagree. Either way, Tommy Lee certainly has tremendous influence at the moment. Following the incardination of Vybz Kartel, the task of leading the Dancehall scene fell to Tommy Lee. A former protégé of Vybz Kartel, Tommy Lee’s popularity skyrocketed particularly among younger fans under 20 years old. His methods however, have proven even more controversial than those of the ‘werl boss’. Tommy Lee has crafted his appearance, persona and musical catalogue on a demonic theme.
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Herein lies a threat to the already tarnished name of Dancehall. With the slew of criticisms from all quarters, adding another area for disapproval is certainly not the best thing to do.
Is Tommy Lee Demonic?
Tommy Lee’s music videos and his music in general present demonic possession and murder. Some say he, along with the entire Gaza community is being influenced by demons. I certainly cannot substantiate nor refute that claim. What I can say, however is that a man referring himself as demons (even with the simplest of intentions) can be a serious thing. Even prophecy fulfilling maybe.
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Indeed, Tommy Lee may be innocent of any demonic influence. The demonic persona may simply be a method of differentiating himself from other artistes. According to the artiste, “The people dem run wid the song because dem did hungry fi a difference, mi just hope the big people dem understand because the youth dem understand.” Tommy Lee also mentioned he is not a devil worshipper and that man is more dangerous to each other than spirits.
How Far Is Too Far
Ok, so let’s say Tommy Lee is simply trying something new, to bring more variety to dancehall, to establish his own unique persona. You can understand that since no one has ever really explored the Goth culture in Jamaican music, his approach is certainly novel. Moreover, why not? Controversial entertainment usually sells faster.
I’ll tell you why not…
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What you need to ask yourself is how far is too far? I’ll have you know that a song like Uncle Daemon (a single in which the artiste proclaims himself to be a demonic character) is definitely taking it too far.
What Tommy Lee needs to realise is that as innocent as his intentions may be, the further he delves into the realm of the demonic, the more sinister things may become. Opening oneself up to such things may prove beyond your own powers of discernment and controlling capability. This demonic theme is dangerous; Tommy Lee’s young fans may end up being a part of something he himself isn’t a part of. They may be led into something far more ominous, something far more real.
The deejay got much backlash from fans and industry personality alike. TVJ recently touched on the controversial topic in an episode of Entertainment Report — allowing industry commentators and fans weighing in. One elder fan said:
“He is doing a wonderful job for the devil Lucifer and the children are gravitating towards it and it is not a good sign for the nation.
According to Bounty Killer, while supporting Tommy Lee’s relative success, he will not embrace the artiste’s continuous reference to demons and devil. “Every man know a me say youths fi run the place, but nuh come chat nuh bout freak and devil or demon…" Bounty Killer tweeted. Other players in the industry such as manager Cross Cris and producer Skatta Burrell have also noted their discontent with Tommy Lee’s lyrical content.
I cannot say I am one of those who will generically class dancehall music as completely outlandish and absolutely immoral. However, the problem I have with Tommy Lee and many other Dancehall artistes is their absolute abdication of responsibility for the content of the music produced and sold.
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Music is one of the most powerful forms of communication, and ultimately, indoctrination. These impressionable minds aren’t always able to distinguish between whether the music is purely for entertainment, or (in this case) whether Tommy Lee may really support and/or worship demons. It is a very dangerous gamble to take. These artistes need to recognise the extensive influence of their music and do the best they can to produce music free from any threat to the safety, mentality or indeed spirituality of fans and onlookers.
By Norvan Martin