Despite his many demons, Adidjah Palmer, more popularly known as Vybz Kartel, has selling power. In a 2011 New York Times article, Kartel’s marketability was compared to Lady Gaga’s, Madonna’s, and Jay Z’s.
In 2010, the deejay released two songs about English shoe brand Clarks (one, Clarks, featured Vanessa Bling and Popcaan). There was a surge in demand and the ‘Clarks Fever’ spread to the Caribbean and its diaspora across the United States.
Straight Jeans and Fitted sent sales of straight jeans, white V-neck T-shirts, and fitted caps soaring. It is on the album Dancehall Hero, as is the 2011 release Cake Soap, about its skin lightening abilities, which caused the product to become a hotter seller.
Fast-forward to 2017 when, even from behind bars, the entertainer’s grip on the market has not loosened. His recent Mhm Hmm has been tearing up the local airwaves and inspired the sale of Mhm Hmm beverages (a mix including oats, Supligen, and peanut) as well as Mhm Hmm packages, which pair Supligen with Dragon Stout, oats, and peanuts. The latter has been a hot product at local shops and small supermarkets islandwide.
Dancehall and marketing experts attribute the deejay’s persuasive abilities to him being a magnetic, one-of-a-kind talent.
Tara Playfair-Scott, marketing and PR consultant, said: “I don’t think a lot of people realise that it wasn’t something that happened overnight. He has a strange and unusual combination of things, which is why I refer to him as an anomaly. He is a prolific writer, he writes amazingly well, so the way he puts together his lyrics is superb. He delivers his music in such a way that it becomes infectious and catchy. That’s one thing you can always count on from him; a catchphrase, a chorus, a hook. Something in his music is always catchy, so you find yourself saying it over and over, whether you want to or not. It sticks with you, and that is a gift.”
She pointed out that the deejay is an intellect and is very aware of his influence and what he’s doing.
“He has not been on the road for a few years now, yet, he has the same impact as if he was here, so you can’t attribute it to people seeing him all the time on X amount of shows and him riling up a crowd,” she explained.
“His influence is almost reminiscent of a Biggie Smalls, because he isn’t here, yet his music is still impactful in that sense. Vybz injects a lot of relatable things into his songs and things happening in people’s lives … . He’s very intelligent and his lyrics and his delivery click for the listener.”
Michael Dawson, co-author of Vybz Kartel’s book Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto, said: “I don’t think people understand the level of intellect and the genius that Kartel is. He really studies, he reads a lot, and he scopes topics and issues more than the average dancehall artiste. He is someone who will read an economics book to understand how societal factors influence the economy and then translate that knowledge into a well-written song.
“He understands his lyrical ability, but he doesn’t just leave things up to his natural talent. He does his research on a topic before writing about it to ensure that what he’s putting out is superior to everything else. The words that he uses cause the songs about the simplest things to become a hit. The man sing a song about lighter, voice notes, and dem hit, and that’s because him ‘meds’ on these things, him never just get up and say him ago sing about this and just do it.”
Like Playfair-Scott, Dawson believes Kartel’s combination of intellect and natural talent makes him a phenomenon no one else will come close to in this lifetime. “I know Kartel is a man who can tell a Shakespeare sonnet different from a regular poem. How many artistes can say that?” Dawson questioned. “The little things that we take for granted, he pays attention to. He understands alliteration, rhymes, literary devices. He’s not just an artiste or a musician; he’s a rare talent that understands why words work the way they do, and that has allowed his influence to be unwavering over the years.”