Words by Jesse Serwer and Juss Kool
Usain Bolt is the greatest athlete in Jamaica’s history, and, with his performance at Rio 2016, he’s solidified his place as one of the great competitors of all time. Bolt’s dominance on the track is of course paralleled by his fellow Jamaicans’ dominance in the field of music. It’s no surprise, given the timely and topical nature of so much dancehall music, that he has been the topic of more than a few lyrics by some of the genre’s most notable lyricists. Here’s a look at a few key tracks.
Vybz Kartel- Lightning Bolt
It’s only right that Vybz Kartel was the first out of the gate with a Bolt tribute. Besides for being two of Jamaica’s biggest cultural icons, the two are apparently friends. (And Bolt has never been quiet about who his favorite artist is). Not long after Bolt first became a household name at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Worl’ Boss pronounced “Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the history of the world…” on this 2009 single.
Kartel’s “Last Man Standing,” a diss song aimed at Mavado following their controversial Sting clash at the height of the Gaza vs Gully feud, also packed in a few Bolt references that same year, with lyrics like: “Di bwoy run like a wounded dog, bruk Usain record don’t run, barber bwoy don’t run.”
Don Andre – Jog (Bolt Remix)
The hype around Bolt was sure to reach record levels once he announced that Rio 2016 would be his final Olympic Games. British-Jamaican deejay Don Andre, best known for comparing himself to Tom Cruise, was the first artist to capture this energy, dropping an alternate version to his latest single, “Jog,” specifically about Bolt, in June. It was a prescient move, as Bolt literally looks like he is jogging in some of the photos that have come out depicting this month’s easy wins. Don Andre’s lyrical dismissal of Bolt’s long-suffering American rival Justin Gatlin also proved timely. Listen out for the “Jog (Bolt Remix)” on Jamie Rodigan and Don Andre’s British Invasion mixtape, presented by LargeUp, out this Monday.
Vybz Kartel – Win
The latest single from the ever-prolific Vybz Kartel arrived this past Sunday, the same day as Bolt’s victory in the 100meter relay, pitched on YouTube as a tribute to Bolt. In actuality, the World Boss himself makes no direct reference to the runner in his lyrics, using only general terms to convey a sense of victory. It’s connection to the sprinter — and his Jamaican Olympic teammates, including fellow double gold medalist, Elaine Thompson — instead comes from samples of TV broadcasters announcing their races, tacked on to the beginning of the song.
Popcaan – We Still A Win (dubplate)
Unlike his former mentor Kartel, Popcaan has the freedom to bust out a proper Bolt tribute as soon as he feels like it. Hence this dubplate version of his recent single “We Still A Win,” re-framed here as a tribute to Usain, complete with the now-requisite Justin Gatlin diss. Unruly.
Mavado – On The Go
Speaking of Mavado, his “On The Go” from 2006 is sometimes mistakenly acknowledged as a tribute to Bolt. In fact, the world’s fastest man referenced in the song was Bolt’s fellow Jamaican, Asfafa Powell, then the world record holder in the 100 meters, with a speed of 9.77 seconds.
The Arch Birds feat. Vanessa Haynes – Be the Fastest
Honorable mention goes out to this video from Virgin Media’s recent ad campaign with Usain Bolt. While the song is more dancehall-inspired than actual dancehall, the video sees Bolt moving in step with some of Kingston’s most legit street dancers.