Wednesday 26 June, 2019

A view from the outside: Spice’s behaviour leaves a lot to be desired

Spice

Spice

                                                                  With Karyl Walker

There is something about the modern dancehall industry that smacks of indecency, crassness and the apparent desire of its leading lights to cater to the lowest common denominator and the base instinct of those who call themselves fans.

This untoward behavior seems to have become the norm, especially among the younger age cohort in Jamaica and, sadly, it is fuelled by those who make a living by selling the contraband of lewdness, debauchery and downright disrespectful behavior to their audience who willingly gobble up the cultural filth which tears at the very fabric of society.

At the risk of being threatened with death or injury, or being called ‘badminded’, I point to an incident which underlined that type of unacceptable behavior from an artiste and public figure. It was during a fiasco of an interview conducted by Naro Hart of online entertainment programme, Nightly Fix with dancehall entertainer Grace Hamilton, popularly known as Spice.

The botched interview occurred at Spice’s launch of her mixtape, 'Captured', featuring the much talked about single, 'Black Hypocrisy' at 100 Hope Road on the night of November 7. Hart was reportedly issued an invite for the event by the organisers and turned up to interview the woman of the moment.

Spice and Naro Hart at the dancehall artiste's mixtape launch on Wednesday.

Spice seemed to have a lot on her chest and let Hart know that she was not appreciative of the way he dealt with her on his programme. She launched into a vitriol-laced, expletive-filled rant as she berated the young man about what she thought was his unfair treatment of her.

Claiming that it was because of the hue of her skin why she was singled out for bad treatment on air, Spice let it all out.

She was totally within her rights to do so and, while the use of expletives were not the best way to express herself on that occasion, it would not have been too disgusting if only she had refrained from using a popular curse phrase that degraded the interviewer’s mother. Many Jamaicans use the curse words Spice used as she let off her steam and, in the context of dancehall, it may have been excused. But the mother argument is a different level of impertinence.

The use of the phrase probably showed up Spice’s lack of ability to express herself.

Miss Hamilton is a mother of more than one child. My research tells me she is a very good mother to her children and takes an active part in their education and other aspects of their development. As a mother and as one who has a mother, that should not have been said. It was a low blow, one which put another scar on the already mangled face of dancehall.

One wonders how Miss Hamilton would react if her children came home from school to report that other children had spewed the same words at them and told them to boot, that “Is your mother me hear say so.”

Maybe then the magnitude of her deed would hit home. As a female who has children and who has a mother, that was not acceptable and instead of riveting her point, made her look cheap and classless.

What Miss Hamilton and many of the dancehall artistes seem to conveniently forget is that they are public figures. Once they have chosen entertainment as a career and are successful at it, whatever they say, do wear or how they act on and off stage, is fodder for public consumption. It goes with the territory. As a public figure, you are not allowed to be like everyone else. Your every move is monitored. Like it or not, the public believes you belong to them. There will be no escape.

Spice seems to have a dislike for those who have a critical opinion of her actions and this was evident in the way she blasted fellow female entertainer Bella Blair, who had made unflattering comments about a tiff Spice was involved in during her appearance on 'Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta'. Her reply is not fit to repeat in this forum as she made sordid claims about Bella Blair’s sexual exploits.

Miss Hamilton also took to social media and blasted popular radio disc jockey Nikki Z, who had earlier posted on Instagram that Spice should have been the ‘bigger person’ in her row with Hart.

In retort, Spice decided to make public aspects of Nikki Z’s sex life and dared her to smile at her after she harried her publicly for a week.

On both occasions, social media users claiming to be Spice fans egged her on for the most part and wagged their tongues at her downgrading behavior.

Miss Hamilton needs to perhaps surround herself with more persons who will call a spade a spade and berate her when she has fallen off the rails and not read too much into the praise she is now getting from certain quarters. The same mouth that praises you today, will be the same mouth that curses, mocks and belittles you tomorrow when things are not going well.

Her handlers may also need to educate her about the baton she carries as a female in Jamaican popular music history.

Spice is carrying on a tradition set by the 'Queen of Reggae', Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, Cynthia Schloss, Pam Hall, Dawn Penn and other pioneers who made it possible for her to be where she is now. None of them would behave the way she did. But, true to the dancehall mentality, it seems she has no awareness of the history of struggle women had to endure to carve out a niche in Jamaica’s popular music and the heavy responsibility she bears.

Most disappointing in all of this, is that a careful listen to that 11-minute fiasco reveals that Spice seems to have a command of the English language and could have expressed herself more effectively and with a bit more eloquence if she so desired. Instead, she chose to behave like a virago, or a ‘teggereg’ as Jamaicans describe it.

A word of advice should also go out to young Mr Hart. You are the interviewer, control your interview. If the interviewee is behaving out of control, turn your microphone and camera off and politely excuse yourself. There is no way you should have sat there and endured such abuse. If Spice’s claims are true that you have been unfair to her, then I suggest you do some self-examination into the formatting of your growing programme and practice fair and balanced journalism, free and free from fear. It is the only way to succeed in the business and maintain your professional integrity.

That is my view from the outside.

Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.

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