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A weh you get da new Clarks deh dawdi,
Which colour dat? Mad enuh Pawdi,
You alone have da style deh Dawdi.
Di Queen fi England haffi Luv off Yawdi
Real badman nuh model inna shorts,
Straight Jeans cut off foot pants
Everybody haffi ask weh me get mi clarks... - Vybz Kartel Feat Popcorn - "Clarks"
The above lines are an exerpt from the lyrics of a song that has been simply tearing up the Jamaican airwaves over the past month. This song aptly named Clarks is essentially a tribute to a shoe company who's products have for decades been a favourite in Jamaica. As far as I've remembered these Clarks have been essentially a status symbol in Jamaica as they are seen as the best pair of shoes one can ever own. Clarks are so popular that really I dont have to explain what Clarks are, I only do it because I realize that Jamaicans aren't the only people who read this journal. As a matter of fact, instead of saying Clarks, I could have said any of the following - Deserts, Bankrobbers, Wallabees - and every Jamaican who was born and grew up in Jamaica will instantly know what I'm talking about. Thats just how popular Clarks are here.
Even in high school the people who would wear Clarks to school were seemingly given just a bit more respect just because they were wearing clarks, and the attention given to these shoes, if given to ones schoolwork would produce a school which would have to raise the bar for A's and A+'s because too many people would be getting them. However thats not the purpose of this article.
For years I have always defended dancehall artists stating that the majority of the blame should really be placed on parents for the behaviour of their children and if anything the subsequent crime should be blamed largely on that same bad parenting... I still do hold firm to my belief, however this clarks song recently has opened my eyes to just how much of an effect dancehall music has on people. See since the release of this song (And a subsequent song by Kartel named Clarks Again) the price of Clarks has doubled or tripled in some instances, and most stores have now sold out on the product. As a matter of fact I have began to see people search through their closets with the aim of resurrecting their old pairs of Clarks so they may once again see the light of day.
So the queen of England is really loving Jamaicans at the moment because we simply can't get enough Clarks. However this has been met with some negativity as well, as with the growing popularity of the shoes and the growing shortage of these shoes, there are a growing number of Clarks related crimes. The local news had a report just the other day of 2 stores being robbed of nearly $2 Million worth of Clarks shoes, and there have also been an increasing number of reports of people having their shoes literally stolen from their feet.
This in itself has made me realize that dancehall artists definitely shoulder a great responsibility in this country. While it can't be denied that a major portion of crime that happens in Jamaica, happens because of the corruption of the government and the police force, the lack of jobs education etc., the message that these artists portray does indeed play a role in the people who children look up to and the activities that they believe they should endorse.
People like Carolyn Cooper - lecturer at the University of the West indies and fervent supporter of dancehall - on numerous occasions write articles that defend what the artists are saying. The ones that I've read thoroughly include "is Ramping shop erotic in English", "Daggering with Cleaner Lyrics", and "Mi cant stop cry fi Buju", all of which are very intelligently written and well researched. However the main weakness that I have found with all these articles is that, while she shows very clearly how alot of the works of these artists are simply misunderstood by the public at large, she doesn't focus on the fact that whether or not we may be misunderstanding, the songs are still having the negative impact that they have come under much public fire for. When ramping shop was being attacked for its explicitness, the problem wasn't only with the lyrics of the song, but the effect wherein kids were singing and dancing in very adult ways to the song and that was quite disturbing. The Daggering era also had a similar effect where kids were on the roads following the messages of the songs. If you dont believe me go search youtube and you are bound to come upon a video of children dancing in this manner.
So you see its a two pronged effect that the music has, artists like Vybz kartel embellish the brand Clarks, while in the same breath embellishing killing somebody in broad daylight, as one will remember if they look at another song by Vybz Kartel "Broad Daylight":
We murder people inna broad daylight
sixpans we walk wid cause di AK light
A wah do dem bwoy wah inna play play fight
We a hot head, we shot up like a airplane fight
The lyrics using slang speak about a two weapons in the m16 (or sixpans), and the AK-47 (AK), and are quite an advertisement about the effectiveness of these weapons, also of note is how popular this song was.
So in the end I think one must note that, really while we can try to deny that the artists have no effect at all, they really have much more of an effect than we could possibly imagine. Especially in the current Jamaica where the access to music has become a simple matter of walking down the road. With that in mind it is time to call upon these artists to start taking reponsibility for their actions and try to sing more positive music. In the same light as Kartel sang about the Clarks shirt, how about singing about the goodness of Jamaican food? Or how about making an advertisement for Cooyah our local brand that could in turn make more jobs, all in all maybe its time to focus a little more on bettering Jamaica.