Every few years, some know-it-all music writer (ahem) makes the bold proclamation that dancehall is on the verge of blowing up in the States, but if I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath for the day that Ruth from Duluth bawls out "A here forward!" at her local soundclash.
On the other hand, the contra flux has flowed steadily for years now: Hip-hop is massively popular in Jamaica. According to Vybz Kartel, easily one of the island's biggest stars, "Jamaicans appreciate all genres of music-good music-and hip-hop is black urban music, so it's natural."
Vybz is no stranger to hip-hop. In addition to being a fan of the music, he appeared alongside M.I.A. on Missy Elliot's "Bad Man" from her 2005 album The Cookbook and starred on the gunshot-laden "Double Down" with The Clipse that same year. With his inventive, rapid-fire delivery, ability to lyrically slay any and all comers, and, of course, his "up to di time" catchphrase, he's now ready to take on the task of "bringing the business of Vybz Kartel to America."
To that end, he just released an album of his own, JMT (which stands for Jamaican Mean Time). We recently caught up with the jet-setting trendsetter via phone in Kingston, Jamaica, where he listed his top five rappers of all time.
Vybz Kartel's Personal Top Five U.S. Rappers
1. Tupac Shakur
"To me, Tupac is my number one. Not only for music but for his lifestyle and what he represents, how his music focused on the culture of black America. Who do you think got people here doin' all kinda tattoos and shit? And he sang "Dear Mama"... Jamaican DJs always have tribute songs to mama."
2. Notorious B.I.G.
"You know say a Biggie! And you know his mom is from Jamaica."
"To me, Jay-Z is the man that really filled the gap for the East Coast after Biggie. He brought back the focus to New York."
4. 50 Cent
"They call me 'the 50 Cent of Jamaica' sometimes. We have a lot in common lyrically. When I came out, I came out with five mixtapes; he did the same thing. And we both say things that people are scared to say."
5. Snoop Dogg:
"I like his style; it's somethin' different. He's always biggin' up the chronic, so you know he's popular here in Jamaica."