there’s something about the gaza: deconstructing the appeal of Jamaica’s newest empire

i recently finally listened to a Tommy Lee song

I avoided them for some time because i had already accepted one bleached out murder-singing gaza-ite in the form of Vybz Kartel and i didn’t see why I should accept his second <–of course in a world weh we nuh play numbah 2.
However, my brother, who hails from portmore, has mandatory recitals daily  and will not stop singing about gaza man crazy, so me decide fi gi Tommy a likkle listen. My first response was…ok, dem song yah a go sell. The next…well if dem seh kartel a satanist da man yah a mus di devil himself caw all him a  talk bout a  shot people in front a pickney and pastor. The third….him and kartel cudda be brothers inna crawniness, why yu hair cyaan comb and why we haffi bleach Tommy, why?

After watching enough of the videos i began pondering what was so great about the gaza. you can’t deny it. Even with the worl’ boss in prison and the empire seemingly disbanded (poppy’s allegiance had dwindled to a cursory “free worl’ boss”at the start of his songs)people still a scream gaza. The graffiti is plastered all over the Caribbean  to the point that heads of government don’t want gaza artists in the country because they have too much influence. Every likkle uptown yute trying to look a buss is fabricating stories about him gaza linky dem. A night time dem a  buy crates of liquor to cement their position in the empire. Bolt go London go have di likkle girl dem a mek W in fronta dem face and dem still nuh know wah it mean. So what is it about the gaza, especially for women, that makes them want to pledge allegiance?

Its very simple. Power.

Think about it, you are walking with a crew of thirty men all of whom are familiar and willing (even if under duress) to (in theory) kill a man because them dare dis. That’s power. And especially in a setting (Jamaican middle/lower class) where the typical trappings of power are hard to come by, the ability to drive fear into those around you and demand their respect by force attains a certain cultural currency, and the gaza has it. Add to that the reflected popularity brought in by Kartel’s lyrical prowess, and high profile partnerships, the fact that some members do have some talent,  and what you have is an unstoppable ghetto monarchy

The power is complemented by control. Check Tommy’s lyrics, its all about which ends him lock, which girls he can send to do what, who he can send to kill yu in broad day light. He doesn’t necessarily talk about what he will do, its what he can have done. He is in control of people who can control the outcome of your life. If you’re young and in a setting where you control NOTHING, simply reciting these words is like a new mantra of freedom for you. And its all about the gaza, the unit, power doubles and redoubles in a setting like that. and the link is strong, a  nuh di link pon di chain.

The gaza is hypermasculine which, despite what feminists would prefer, is still attractive to people, especially young women. Despite the fact that these young women are window dressing or semi-hookers. They’re with the top men, and while they can’t guarantee protection from the men within the crew- in fact they may be forced to do certain things within the crew or be expelled- they are protected from the outside. which for some women, is necessary. and if you can’t access power for yourself you can be the tool through which someone else accesses it, and jump up side a dem while dem celebrate.
a space such as this is a space that offers access to power. The line between the music business and the kind of extra legal dealings that allegedly got kartel into his present position is blurred. you’re not sure whether they metaphorically lock the ends or they’re engaged in more than lyrical warfare. but the fact that either way the gaza seems to be winning creates a potent mix that young people have a hard time ignoring. And its Jamaican. Over time hot headedness has become equated with Jamaican-ness. Our soaring crime rate has become a matter of pride in certain circles- who hasn’t used their Jamaican accent to bully people in farrin, or threatened them by bussing out in patois? Jamaican and violent are somewhat synonymous and Tommy has taken the sugar coating off of it. This is the new Jamaican distilled down to its most potent form.

The gaza is a brand and continues branding itself. tommy has managed to do it the best since Kartel….the W, the other hand movements, the MMMHMMM, the high pitches voice. Similar to kartel arms crossed over the chest and distinctive laugh. Young people like branding. Brand name clothes, ipod and not just MP3 player, something that readily identifies them as a part of a special group. the gaza has clearly marked practices that you can easily use to join. user friendly and it works.
And finally, the gaza, especially the tommy lee driven spartan contingent, is a little bit foreign. He deliberately plays around with illuminati and lodge-esque symbols (check di meaning behind the hands), they’ve embraced tattoo culture with Lil’ Wayne like zeal, and the videos can be a bit dark and even emo. Which is all the rage in Jamaica right now. So while the gaza is a home grown product it reflects certain trends that are popular in a world market place, and yu know if a egg jamaica inna di red so a little bit farrin is right where we want to be

Now I’m not going to use this space to discuss whether the gaza take over is a good thing or a bad thing, that is a whole other blog. But i do think there’s something interesting happening there that we should pay attention to. Dancehall has always had crews at its core or periphery- monster shack, scare dem, topless, alliance and etc, but none have garnered as much support, despite public outcry, as the gaza. you wonder if they stumbled upon it or its planned or its simply a matter of them being a product of their environment and acting as their pure unadulterated selves and resonating with the young people

i’m not sure. but there’s something about the gaza.



About the author


Carla Moore is a Jamaican geek, mongrel dawg lover, and general mout-a-massey from the Jamaican countryside. When she nuh inna dance a faas inna people business she can be found trying to do di people dem school work, bigging up Jamaica all over, or pon smaddy stage sumweh a nuff up harself. She fight fi wah fi fight fah and love all.