At Sting 2011, before paying respects to some of those deejays who had come to prominence before him and identifying those he had helped bring to prominence, Bounty Killer made a definitive statement. He said, “a my dancehall da one ya now!” That was seven years before being formally recognised for mentorship at the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association’s (JaRIA) Honour Awards in February.
Bounty Killer has never been shy about his role in propelling the careers of other deejays (termed ‘bussing’ or ‘giving a buss’, in dancehall), and the early-morning crowd’s approval at Sting 2011 was a forerunner to what was formalised with the Honour Award.
On stage or off, Bounty Killer is never short of words, and a comparison between his proclamation speech at Jam World, Portmore, seven years ago and his acceptance speech at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, on Sunday, February 25, makes for some interesting similarities. At Sting 2011 he said:
“Yu see nex’ year, a me a de lord a de grung. A my dancehall da one yah. Big up Shabba. Big up Ninja. Big up Super Cat. Big up Josey Wales. Big up Charlie Chaplin, Brigadier Jerry, Nicodemus, Faada U-Roy, all de legend whe come before me and Buju. But yuh see from after Buju, a Bounty. Beenie pirate mi style fe buss too! Merciless pirate mi style fe buss too! A me bring Ele, a me bring Kartel, a me bring Mavado, a me bring Baby Cham, a me bring Bling Dawg! Hol on, how much more me fe bring?” Holding one arm in the air as the crowd cheered, he said, “Hol on, gimme some love, gimme some love, gimme some love, gimme some love.”
With this context, it is understandable that in accepting the JaRIA Award for mentorship, Bounty Killer was especially pleased, as it was a formalisation of an acknowledgement already widely given in dancehall for a role that he is not at all shy about claiming. Neither is he reticent about declaring the success of his musical progeny; at previous stagings of Reggae Sumfest, I have heard him say, “welcome to stardom” to Elephant Man after the Energy God made the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre, Montego Bay, his dance studio.
In accepting the JaRIA Honour Award, Bounty Killer said, in part:
“Mi leave the door open and pass the baton on…. Over the years, people in the music industry don’t show patience and they have no time for growth… they are looking for ready stars. It is not every star that is ready to shine at the moment. …I started to like the vibes of people saying: ‘Yuh buss yuh bredren dem’. But I don’t really think I’m a mentor because these men are my peers. I don’t know how to mentor people, I just know how to look out for my brother. I never had a mentor, never had anyone to tell me what to do when I went into the studio. I just have had to figure it out. I was just a good amateur who had it raw.”
And that is Bounty Killer – raw and unfiltered and true to himself and dancehall, like him or not. The JaRIA award is a confirmation of what had already been established in dancehall. hence, it is true and appropriate. Also, let us not forget that when Guinness did its Greatest Dancehall Icons project in 2012, he was the man who came out on top.