Toppa Top 10: Year of the Kartel

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Honorebel Mention

Words by Rishi Bonneville, photos via Kingston Style


Over the last few years, Adidja Palmer aka Vybz Kartel emerged as the unexpected yet undisputed king of dancehall reggae, surviving 1) a vicious battle with ally-turned-rival Mavado, 2) the denial of his US visa and 3) a swirl of rumors to produce an enviable string of hits and—perhaps more importantly–a persona that had fans and media watching his every move.

In 2010 he wound the reggae scene around his finger with deft lyrics, controversy, and exquisite production. Considered by many to be one of premier lyricists in dancehall history, his recent subject matter has oscillated between recklessness–such as endorsing chemical skin bleaching in “Cake Soap”–and social critique (“Not a love song”), free market capitalism (“Clarks”, “No Robbery”), and frank sexual material (“Unfaithful,” “Virginity”).  Originally cast as a “Jamaican rapper” for his quick, layered and enunciated delivery, he has, more recently adopted a melodic, software-aided “singjay” style, that seems equal parts lovers rock and soft rock (ex: “She’s Holding On”).  However in all his various incarnations, Vybz demonstrates a knack for saying the unexpected in a way that quickly feels familiar, staying with the listener.  Love him or hate him, it was his year. Here we recap his biggest songs of 2010…


Top Ten 2010