Busy Signal And His Knight in Shining Armour

Clovis Cartoon

Busy Signal is no damsel in distress.  True, he’s in extraordinary trouble:  jailed and facing extradition.   But Busy is definitely not a damsel.  ‘Im a man’.  All the same, I’m sure the DJ is relieved that Queen’s Counsel K.D. Knight agreed to represent him in his extradition case.

Armed with the weight of his expansive legal knowledge, brightly shining Knight jousted very skillfully on behalf of his client.  The QC has insisted that even though the DJ has waived his right to contest the extradition, he should only be facing the absconding charge mentioned in the warrant.

Incidentally, when was the last time you saw QC and DJ in the same sentence?  Things are picking up for dancehall culture.  There was a time when DJs were pariah.  No self-respecting attorney-at-law would take up a DJ’s case.  But things and time do change.  Even DJs are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  They are entitled to a fair, even if expensive, hearing.

Patricia Meschino

In a Billboard.biz article posted on May 22, music journalist Patricia Meschino gives a summary of Busy Signal’s court case in the U.S.  “Minnesota District Court Case No. 0:02-cr-00054-JMR-FLN: USA v. Gordon, with a Glendale Gordon being charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, three counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine (level 4) and a third charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The ‘Level 4′ is an indicator of conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms.

“A former resident alien of the US, Gordon purportedly removed his ankle bracelet tracking device and fled to Jamaica prior to sentencing”.

“Nah Go Jail Again”

As I listened to the plaintive words of Busy Signal’s Nah Go Jail Again, I wondered what would happen if cocaine were decriminalised in the U.S. again.  Yes, again.  There was a time when cocaine was a perfectly legal recreational drug. It was not until 1914 that the Harrison Act was passed in the U.S. Congress, making it illegal for the drug to be dispensed except with a medical prescription.

  Given the widespread demand for the substance, the trade ended up in the hands of criminals.  It’s a familiar story.  Trafficking in alcohol was a crime in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933.  Criminalisation of the drug created wealth.  It is alleged that even a supposedly respectable family like the Kennedys had relatives who amassed a huge fortune selling bootleg liquor.

In his song Nah Go Jail Again Busy gives a haunting account of the trauma of incarceration.  He confesses why he had to flee the U.S. prison system:  fear of generic violence as well as the specific threat of sexual abuse:

Mi seh thugs deh pon dah side yah and di stiff deh pon di other,

Caan diss no man weh a do life inna dem yard ya,

Get beatin from the warden if yu go round di order,

Yu caan drop no soap pon di border like Shebada

Caan have a next man a plait yu hair,

Caan have a next man a spot yu rear,

Caan have so much money and food pon yu commissary

And a gwaan like you naa share”.

There are pull factors as well as push.  The prospect of making it legally in the outside world motivates Busy Signal to cut and run:

Seh wi naa go a jail again – oh no!

And wi never gonna fail again – oh no!

Like a ship wi a go sail again – oh oh!

You would a never see mi call mi friend fi bail again

 

Naa see mi a courthouse no more – oh no!

No bracelet up inna house no more – oh no!

Mi step out and hold mi own fi sure – oh oh!

Real hustlers a road a mek money galore”.

Reggae Music Again

  Since stepping out of the U.S., Busy Signal has been holding his own for sure as a very successful dancehall/reggae artist.  His latest album, Reggae Music Again, released in April, is a stellar achievement.  In a BBC review, Lloyd Bradley, author of Bass Culture:  When Reggae Was King, describes the album in this way:

“Busy Signal’s deserved reputation as a hardcore dancehall deejay often overshadows his bringing a fresh tunefulness to the genre in recent years, expanding its scope and extending songs’ longevity.  With Reggae Music Again he builds on all the clever musicality of 2010’s D.O.B. to produce an album that, appropriately for the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, immerses itself in reggae music heritage”.

Busy Signal is the cover story for the current issue of Riddim, Germany’s upscale reggae/dancehall magazine, with a bi-monthly circulation of 45, 000 copies.  Last Monday, I got an early morning call from Ellen Koehlings who co-edits the magazine with Pete Lilly. She was distraught at the news of Busy’s arrest.  Just when the artiste is riding the high wave of success, it looks as if his ship ‘naa go sail again’.

I expect that Busy Signal’s endorsement contracts will be cancelled.  Pepsi-Cola Jamaica has already pulled the Pepsi Bubbla advertisements in which he appeared.  I suppose Red Label Wine will follow suit.  As soon as an artiste gets into trouble, advertisers immediately distance themselves.  Innocent or guilty, the DJ becomes an outcast.

Busy Signal’s case raises a number of questions.  How, if at all, can the legal systems in the U.S. and Jamaica accommodate reformed criminals – whether they are DJs or not?  What purpose would be served by sending Busy Signal back to jail for the crimes of his youth?

Conventional justice demands that the guilty pay for their crimes, I know.  But in what currency?  Is incarceration the only legal tender? Is mercy nothing but counterfeit justice?  Does reformation not count at all?  It would be such a tragedy if the artiste’s musical career were to be permanently disconnected.

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2 responses to “Busy Signal And His Knight in Shining Armour

  1. Busy Signal is a very talented individual occupying a coveted place in the reggae genre. He is not without fault though because of his song ‘Nah goh a jail again’. It was obvious that he had some level of altercation with the lad enforcement agents in former year but the average person could never have detected this. I implore all well thinking individuals to try and garner some respect in the in their little world they so make their livelihoods. We must learn to accept persons with credence who are committed to the cause of other and denounce wrongdoing but we must learn to forgive. Less than a year ago in the Times Magazine I read where they featured Busy Signal as the next big thing coming from Jamaica little over 10 months or so ago. They called him rapper but they did mention Jamaica. It was during the Gary sounding song I think.
    Drug involvement is wrong and can never be right no-matter who is the person or how well can lawyer distort the facts to ensure that one is guilty. This guy Busy Signal is a very charismatic entertainer who has some dept in his mode of igniting the air with his most refreshing persona. I would like him to get back his act on the road and be a pivotal part of a new experience. I wish him well and I know he won’t be foolish. Musicians should form a new thrust where top performers formulate a system wherein persons can be role models and be a substantive part of the enjoyment of the musical pie. We need credible plans for the music to survive and be a vital part of the lives of young entertainers who are seeking better means of survival. Walk with a new dream Busy be a man of all season.

  2. Busy Signal is a very talented individual occupying a coveted place in the reggae genre. He is not without fault though because of his song ‘Nah goh a jail again’. It was obvious that he had some level of altercation with the law enforcement agents in former year but the average person could never have detected this. I implore all well thinking individuals to try and garner some respect in their little world they so make their livelihoods. We must learn to accept persons with credence who are committed to the cause of other and denounce wrongdoing but we must learn to forgive. Less than a year ago in the Times Magazine I read an article where they featured Busy Signal as the next big thing coming from Jamaica little over 10 months or so ago. They called him rapper but they did mention Jamaica. It was during the Gary sounding song I think.
    Drug involvement is wrong and can never be right no-matter who is the person or how well can lawyer distort the facts to ensure that one is not found guilty of wrongdoings. This guy Busy Signal is a very charismatic entertainer who has some dept in his mode of igniting the air with his most refreshing persona. I would like him to get back his act on the road and be a pivotal part of a new experience. I wish him well and I know he won’t be so foolish on the double. Musicians should form a new thrust where top performers formulate a system wherein persons can be role models and be a substantive part of the enjoyment of the musical pie. We need credible plans for the music to survive and be a vital part of the lives of young entertainers who are seeking better means of survival. Walk with a new dream Busy be a man of all season.

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