This week marked the start of the second murder trial of the year for Jamaican dancehall superstar Vybz Kartel, who was found not guilty in a separate case back in July. Kartel is a popular musician in Jamaica who’s managed to seep into U.S. pop music partially through collaborations with Rihanna, Pitbull, and Major Lazer. He’s also a polarizing figure, and I say “polarizing” because even as Kartel faces a potential life sentence for murder, his music has earned him respect—in an Artist on Artist interview with Jamaican musical icon Yellowman from last year, local dancehall singer MC Zulu said “Vybz Kartel is so talented it’s not funny.”
He’s clearly not the only one who thinks so. Earlier this week Red Bull Music Academy posted some commentary on the singer from Brooklyn producer and Mixpak Records honcho Dre Skull. The beatmaker produced and released an album with Kartel in 2011 called Kingston Story, and in the Red Bull piece Dre Skull praises the dancehall superstar for his unconventional approach to songwriting:
Kartel blew my mind in a number of different ways, but he would do something where—on a hook—he would often record bar one then he’ll skip bar two and write something for bar three. Then he’ll go back and write bar two and bar four, and so it’s like this weird filling in this puzzle. My take on that is that there’s something actually subtly catchy about what happens when you hear the lyric.
I’m not sure how Kartel approached today’s 12 O’Clock Track, “Yuh Love,” but whatever he did, it worked out well. The subterranean riddim is nearly skeletal and works as a great, sultry foil for Kartel’s torch-song lyrics, which he delivers so earnestly it occasionally sounds like he’s fighting back tears. Check it out below.