The 1990s introduced the U.S. and Europe to a new style of reggae music known as dancehall. It originated from Jamaica and much like the early days of hip-hop, dancehall was instantly popular, yet very controversial. Homophobic lyrics littered many chart-topping international hits by artists like Buju Banton and Beenie Man, the reigning king of dancehall. In their songs, they boasted about committing violent acts against homosexuals including murder. To this day, Jamaica is still described by many human-rights organizations as the most homophobic place on earth.
However, back in May 2012, Beenie Man took to YouTube posting the first ever apology video by any dancehall artist to date, in which he said, “Let me make this clear…I have nothing against no one. I respect each and every human being regardless of which race or creed, regardless of which religious belief…regardless of which sexual preference you have including gay and lesbian people.”
In an exclusive interview with The Advocate, Beenie Man explains how he arrived at his current view on gay rights, whether he believes Jamaica will ever be accepting of the LGBT community and how he would respond if his son grew up to be gay.
The Advocate: What prompted you to do the YouTube apology video?
Beenie Man: What really motivated me to do something like that is the love of the music and the respect for people. I’m a Jamaican, see. I’m from a place called Waterhouse so you’re dealing with all Jamaicans there. So as a youth growing up, what them say that we have to say cause children do what they learn. When you start to learn how the world run and how the world situated right now, people is people and people do what they want to do. They live their own life. And if you want people to love your music, all you have to do is respect people for who they are. So when I go to Europe now, me have 30 shows – 10 of them canceled. People come out and they protest. In a sense, they can’t come to my show and judge me for what I did 15 years ago because nobody is the same person who they was 15 years ago. The next reason is I have done a song with Janet Jackson and it being taken off the charts, video taken off MTV. Now this song with me and Nicki (Minaj). We textin’ and everything (she says) you need to stop it and make people understand that’s not who you are right now. This is who I am, and this is where I’m going, and this is where my head space is. Want to make people understand, we are dancehall music and we sing music for the people. And if we sing music for one set of people…and the next set of people not listen to the music, it don’t make sense. That mean you’re off way in the world.
You've got to be the voice for the people, right?
That is the reason why I did it.
What effect has it had since the video was posted?
Well, I did it for Europe and the United States and Canada, I never did it for Jamaica, but it have a (positive) effect all over the world. The shows that we used to get banned from, we are now booked. You have a place like Barcelona, which they offer government [protection] for gay people so once they ease up you realize what is going on. They wanted me to explain to them why I was singing these songs and why do I expect them to support me. So I think they got the message.