Not everyone feels that way, however. Following the appeal denial, a release from Mr. Williams' family stated, "We are pleased with the outcome of the verdict from the Court."
Billboard's interview with Vybz Kartel was coordinated by Zoe Espitia, co-founder with Aaron Mahlfeldt of Zojak World Wide, distributors of Of Dons and Divas and the world's largest digital distributor of Jamaican music. The interview questions were emailed to Espitia who sent them to Kartel; Kartel's responses were sent to Espitia who emailed them to Billboard. Of Dons and Divas, which drops on June 26, was produced by Vybz Kartel Muzik and Short Boss Muzik, the labels owned, respectively, by Kartel and his common law wife, Tanesha "Shorty" Johnson.
"Being in prison for the last nine years definitely took a toll on my family, my parents and especially my kids, early on. It caused me and my woman's (Shorty) relationship to be destroyed as far as intimate love is concerned but we're very cool and have never been in a better place," Kartel commented; two of Kartel and Shorty's three children, Jaheim (Likkle Vybz) 17 and Akheel (Likkle Addi) 15, are pursuing music careers and make appearances on Of Dons and Divas. "I deffo think they'll do extremely well in the game, or they can't say 'Addi a me daddy,'" offers Kartel, who has seven children, noting, "they're all happy so I consider myself a real G that handles his business."
Incarcerated since Sept. 29, 2011, following his arrest at a Kingston hotel for possession of marijuana, Kartel was charged within days with the July 2011 killing of promoter Barrington "Bossie" Burton. Acquitted in that case, Kartel was implicated in the August 2011 murder of Lizard, whose body has never been found. Following a 65-day trial, he was handed a life sentence.
With TV, newspapers, radio talk shows and social media debating each gritty detail, Kartel says he cannot get a fair trial in Jamaica. "Since I got arrested, over 11,000 people have been murdered in Jamaica; the general public couldn't care less because Vybz Kartel or another star's name isn't mentioned," Kartel stated. "Everyone is concerned with where Lizard is. Kids have been murdered but, whatever, they're just kids...elderly have been murdered but that's nothing...they were gonna die anyway. 'WE WANT JUSTICE FOR LIZARD!!!' is their cry. F--king idiots. Over 11,000 people and no national outcry. I don't even blame government as much anymore because as the Jamaican saying goes, 'if patient don't care, what doctor must do?' So, there is no fair trial."
When asked how he's endured nine years behind bars, he offered, "I'm a very stubborn person, that's where I get my strength from. If you're gonna say Kartel being in prison will end his career, I'mma do everything to show you're an idiot."
In a recent interview on CVM TV's On Stage, Buju Banton said when he went to jail in 2010, Vybz Kartel was dancehall's most popular artist and when he was released in December 2018, "a Kartel me see run the place same way." How has Kartel maintained his dominance from behind bars? "It's a secret like the Colonel's recipe. The true secret to success is commitment, hard work, smart work, self-analysis and most important, humility," he responded. "Once I face a riddim (rhythm track), I'm not worldboss, just a man with a pen, paper and a track. Other artists are working hard, so I think it's just the formula."
Of Dons and Divas continues Kartel's proven blueprint, juxtaposing the sacred ("Say A Prayer"), the profane ("Bad Gyal") or combining both ("Jump On The Beat"). "No Prison" is, surprisingly, a love song; "Militant Coup" depicts a sexual takeover and he'll likely strike gold again with the pop/dancehall/reggaeton flavored "Cute Rider," produced by JonFX.
"A winning formula never really changes, it just gets wider, more 'depthy' so it's Kartel in his usual vybz," he says. "This album has more features than the new S Class Benz, a new generation of dons and divas."
Exactly how Kartel recorded Of Dons and Divas' 18 tracks remains a mystery, since recording isn't allowed in prison; the World Boss' cryptic response didn't provide an explanation. "Many people say YES! VYBZ IS RECORDING IN PRISON!! But where's the proof? But this is Jamaica where you don't need proof to imprison someone. For the record, I'm not authorized to answer such 'above pay grade' questions so I'll say, 'a tree fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it.'"
Despite the headline generating explicitness heard on some of his biggest hits, Kartel's vast catalog contains many songs addressing inequalities faced by poor Black Jamaicans (issues he explores in great depth throughout his 2012 book The Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto, co-authored with Michael Dawson). Yet, even with current movements calling for societal reforms, don't expect a rush of commentaries in Kartel's music. "Reggae and dancehall music have always brought awareness to the plight of the poor, but the truth is, how much more awareness do we need?" he asks. "Music has shed as much light as it can on social injustices. Evil doesn't sleep so the good messenger cannot rest, either. The message must be broadcasted but I think music is overrated in the amount of change it can bring; we gotta get up and go do if we want som'n tangible."