Reggae Music and Drug Crime – Seemingly Inseparable

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As we cover the news of drug addiction and arrests, we have noticed an inordinate amount of those arrests having to do with Reggae artists.

What is it about the music of Jamaica that tends to appeal to a rough and lawless crowd?

Particularly dancehall reggae artists themselves seem to be getting arrested in high profile criminal cases.

A Seemingly Troubled Nation and Culture

Some might associate with the loving soft reggae and ‘one love’ ideals of Bob Marley with Jamaica.  The reality is that Bob Marley (and fellow Wailer Peter Tosh)  also penned other more confrontational songs like “Get Up Stand Up” and “War.” A lot of the music Bob Marley created was about the inequities and social injustice in both Jamaica and around the globe.

Another reality is that the reggae music scene has grown in many different directions from the traditional sound of Bob Marley and has been an amazingly influential on a global scale.  Many of the stars below that have had trouble with the law come from the dancehall genre which might remind listeners more of hip hop than traditional reggae.

Kingston – The Roughest City

Kingston is the capital of Jamaica and is considered to be the worlds’ 3rd most violent city.  There is high unemployment and a lot of gang violence.  Someone is murdered in Kingston every 6 hours. Almost all of the artists mentioned in this article spent part of their youths in Kingston.  Much of the criminal activity in this article (particularly the violent crime) happened in Kingston.

Buju Banton
Few reggae artist legal problems are as high profile as Buju Banton.  We have reported here about Buju’s 10 year prison sentence for conspiracy to distribute 5 kilos of cocaine. Amazingly, Buju won a grammy for best reggae album while he was on trial.

Buju Banton has also faced criticism (as have many other dancehall reggae artists) for his anti-gay lyrics that advocate violence towards homosexuals.  He has been boycotted by many cities and this has led to the cancellation of countless concerts and even entire tours.

Adidjah “Vybz Kartel” Palmer

We have covered Vybz Kartel’s arrest for the murder of a Jamaican promoter. At the same time Vybz was also charged with marijuana possession  – a charge that his female companion took responsibility for.

Sizzla Kalonjisizzla kalonji (pictured, right)
Sizzla Kalonji (born Miguel Orlando Collins) has spread the message of the Rastafarian movement including the use of cannabis as a spiritual and medicinal herb.

Despite Sizzla’s rise to prominence and worldwide fame as a reggae superstar, he has run afoul of the law for allegedly firing guns near his “Judgement Yard” compound in Kingston, Jamaica.

Sizzla has also been censored globally for his violently homophic lyrics. Persecution for guns homophic lyrics is relatively common for dancehall reggae artists.  What is much less common the controversy he earned in support of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  Sizzla performed at the 86th birthday of the controversial despot.  There was near rioting during his performance and alleged beatings of attendees by police.  Sizzla’s payment for the performance was a farm in the Zimbabwe countryside where he stated he would permanently settle (he has since recanted this commitment and returned to Jamaica).

Ninjaman was another “rude” boy who made it big and then his life fell apart due to drugs and criminal tendencies.  We wrote about Ninjaman’s legal and addiction troubles on addiction reporter.  We believe Ninjaman to still be incarcerated on a murder charge.

L.A. Lewis (pictured, left)
L.A. Lewis (real name Horace Lewis) is a Jamaican “personality” that has graffiti (artwork?) attributed to him and is also considered a DJ.  L.A. Lewis has also created at least one mp3 that we know of (and probably many more).

L.A. Lewis was arrested for some of the graffiti that he is “responsible” for.  Much of his graffiti is of the garden variety and his recent prosecution comes as a result of graffiti in Kingston that urged people to (in so many words) “Vote L.A. Lewis for Member of Parliament in 2012.”

Denroy Morgan
Denroy Morgan is a well known reggae singer and also is the patriarch of famous Jamaican band Morgan Heritage.  Denroy has fathered 30 children – including the founders of Morgan Heritage.  In September, Denroy was making a pickup of 25 pounds of ganja in New York when he ran a stop light and was pulled over.  We coverred Denroy’s arrest for marijuana possession here on Addiction Reporter.