Words by Jesse Serwer and DJ Gravy—
Founded by “Jamaican bad man police” Isaiah Laing 30 years ago, Sting is Jamaica’s longest-running annual stage show. While the island’s other marquee festivals, Reggae Sumfest and Jazz and Blues, cater to tourist and uptown crowds, Sting speaks to the core dancehall audience
Held annually on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, Sting is most renowned for its theatrical deejay clashes. Not sound clashes or battles between no-name lyricists trying to make a name for themselves, but one-on-one lyrical wars between dancehall’s biggest names. Legends have been made at Sting, and skyrocketing careers have combusted in mid air, too.
This year’s 30th anniversary edition promises to be the biggest Sting yet, with performances slated from Sizzla, Mavado, 2 Chainz, Wyclef, Beenie Man, Lady Saw, Gyptian, Ninjaman, Aidonia, Elephant Man and—most notably— the return of Super Cat, making his first Jamaica appearance in too many years to count.
With the big event just a day away—find out how you can catch it here— here’s a look at some of the most classic clashes at Sting, with input from 2013 performers and clash scholars Wyclef and Lady Saw.