I love the fuck out of some dancehall reggae, but I’m not so down with exhortations to murder gay dudes, which seems to be about the fifth most common theme in dancehall lyrics. So I’m pretty happy about the news that Beenie Man, Sizzla, and Capleton–three legends in the dancehall universe–have signed the Reggae Compassion Act, which amounts to a promise that they’ll “uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender.” It probably has less to do with any sort of spiritual breakthrough vis-a-vis homophobia and more with a years-long boycott that the Guardian estimates has cost them as much as £2.5 million (almost $5 million in U.S. bucks).
While it’s all cool that these living-legend types have agreed, for whatever reason, to ditch the homophobia, the gay rights activists at OutRage! who are responsible for the deal say that major artists like Elephant Man, Vybz Kartel, and TOK have refused to sign on. And considering that artists like Vybz and TOK are barely known outside Jamaica–where violent homophobic lyrics are less of a big deal and the indigenous record industry is outrageously big for the island’s size–I don’t think they’re really sweating a foreign boycott.
If you’re interested in a decent zap of current dancehall, Vice magazine’s online TV channel VBS has a whole bunch of footage, starting here.