Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor gets some things off his chest after a fresh round of music getting banned on Jamaican airwaves.
The Broadcasting Commission on Tuesday issued a directive that all broadcasters in Jamaica cease transmission of “recorded material that promotes and/or glorifies illegal activity.” A release from the Broadcasting Commission singled out specifically music with lyrics that spoke about drugs like “molly,” which features in several songs of prominent artist Skeng, and gun tunes that will be banned from radio, television, and other public medium covered by the Television and Sound Broadcasting Regulations.
The latest ban supports what appears to be the government of Jamaica ramping up its anti-crime mandate with amendments to the island’s gun laws that will bring harsher penalties for illegal possession of guns and other gun offenses and a list of other offenses that have been promulgated in dancehall music mainly.
“Audio or video recording, live song, or speech which promotes and/or glorifies scamming, illegal use or abuse of drugs (e.g. ‘Molly’), illegal or harmful use of guns or other offensive weapons, “jungle justice” or any other form of illegal or criminal activity,” the statement read.
Songs that promote sexual activity, drugs, and even gun lyrics would often have “raw” and “clean” versions for fans to enjoy. However, the BCJ made it clear that “clean versions” of songs are also banned.
“Any edited song which directly or indirectly promotes scamming, illegal drugs, illegal or harmful use of guns or other offensive weapons, jungle justice, or any form of illegal or criminal activity. This includes live editing and original edits (e.g. edits by producer/label) as well as the use of near-sounding words as substitutes for offensive lyrics, expletives, or profanities,” which are not allowed to be transmitted.
Sampling is also targeted for the same offending material, whether audio or video. The BCJ also explained the rationale behind the measure, which has drawn criticism from certain sections of society.
“The use of the public airwaves to broadcast songs that promote/glorify illegal activity could give the wrong impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society. It could also unwittingly lend support to moral disengagement and further normalise criminality among vulnerable and impressionable youth, and the young adult demographic,” the statement said.
The Executive Director of the BCJ, Cordel Green, said the move comes after various studies and consultations with Industry. He used the example of how slang and terms used in music can eventually be normalized and accepted, thereby promoting a new culture.
“Part of the difficulty in dealing with music, especially that which emerges from a subculture, is that it takes time to identify, understand and verify the slangs and colloquial language used. Understandably, new street lingua may take some time before they are normalised, or their meanings become well entrenched. The Commission also has to be circumspect in its actions, knowing that regulatory attention can have the unintended consequence of giving exposure to and popularising subcultural phenomenon,” Green said.
The move by the BSJ, while welcomed by a few, saw some pushback, especially from fans of dancehall music which traditionally is raunchy and brings much shock value.
While dancehall music has traditionally covered sex topics like “Ramping Shop,” there has been a proliferation of gun tunes which the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, says causes undue influence on the youth. Songs like Skeng’s “Protocol,” with lyrics that speaks about him popping a Molly and the place “get hot,” which is a metaphoric way of saying that people will get shot, have been called out. Skeng has also repped the “ratty gang,” which has caused some to criticize his music especially given Jamaica’s rampant gang violence.
Among those who reacted to Tuesday’s directive was music producer Di Genius who shared a sarcastic response.
“Yay!! Crime and violence gonna magically stop now. Jamaica the most sample place on earth,” he wrote in a tweet.
He also shared a critical stance on the ban.
“No one from the younger generation voluntarily listens to the radio in 2022. So imo the move is more of a “look we’re doing something” more than actually trying to do something. & as far as I can remember music has always been the “reason” for everything in Jamaica,” he said in another tweet.
There were other mixed reactions to the directive.
“Fully endorsed and supported,” Cabinet Minister Robert Nesta Morgan wrote.
“This includes live edit or original edit…’ is the EXTREMELY DANGEROUS line. Artiste records songs that says ‘Pop molly like we pop tags’ he then records an edit ‘Top dolly she a pop tags’. Will this line be treated as an edit or an alternative recording?” another person asked.
“This will be interesting as many “hardcore artistes” will be affected. Let’s see their next move,” another said.
Others have expressed concerns about the ban, with some even questioning whether the ban affects an artist’s freedom of speech provisions in Chapter 13 of the Bill of Rights.
“If this is to work, then it is the @JamaicaConstab which has to engage artists to explain their lyrics – since ‘art imitates life.’ As the gun/murder tune drop on any platform, they get an invitation to the station to clarify their ‘artistry’” another wrote.
Meanwhile, some shared support for the ban and even had recommendations for the government.
“Took long enough. I would take it a step further, restrict Government entities from sponsoring events with artist and music that promote violence,” one person wrote.
“They must tell all social media including YouTube and Spotify to ban all those song. Am so excited Jamaica will get back to its real culture,” another said.
The latest ban by the BCJ reminds of an earlier attempt in 2009 where the Commission instituted a ban on “daggering” songs or lyrics which promoted the raunchy local dance called daggering that simulated a sex act.
It’s unclear what effect, if any, that ban had on music culture, as the same type of music can be played at parties and events across the island, and the same music can be accessed on social media and streaming platforms.