When I do my year in review and I reflect on the most iconic event of 2020 it will be the Verzuz battle on Saturday May 23rd, 2020 between The King of Dancehall/ The Girls’ Dem Suga Beenie Man and The War Lord/ The Poor People Governor – Bounty Killer. As the flyers made the rounds on Social media the buzz and excitement grew. If I knew one thing; I knew I would enjoy myself thoroughly and the trip down memory lane would be one for the books. I want to share five lessons I walked away with from last night’s phenomenal display of entertainment greatness and brand Jamaica.
The first lesson I walked away with was Set The Stage for Greatness. The staging of the first in-person Verzuz battle set high expectations for fans and lovers of Dancehall who would witness this moment. From the flyers on the wall, to the flags behind DJs Kurt Riley and Richie D and the sound system, to the early juggling. It couldn’t be overlooked that the early juggling paid homage to other great Dancehall and reggae acts like Shabba, Sean Paul, Lady Saw, Damion Junior Gong Marley, Shinehead, Beres Hammond, Shaggy. You felt as if you were really in Jamaica; in a Dancehall party and the juggling was helping you to build the vibes and warm up for what was to come.
To set the stage for greatness means you must be deliberate and intentional with your actions. If you want to achieve greatness, your definition of greatness should leave no room for ambiguity. All aspects of the plan should be such that the outcome leads to your end goal. This battle was the perfect opportunity for two legendary Dancehall Acts to remind the world why they are still relevant; some two decades later and how their catalogue of work is timeless. The set up in the studio was not coincidental. Dancehall and Brand Jamaica were on full display last night and one thing about us Jamaicans; when we have something to show, we will show off and show out.
This display showed fans why Dancehall is loved, it showed why brand Jamaica is powerful, it demonstrated the impact of Dancehall on the global stage.
The second lesson I took from this battle is Do Good Work and Earn Loyal Fans. Without question Beenie Man and Bounty Killer are two of the best entertainers. They have fans worldwide who showed their love and support by attending shows and events, when outside was a safe space. The pull factor of these two legends was evident last night based on the numbers. They are legendary because they consistently delivered good music to the fans for decades. They took their craft seriously; did collaborations with other great artistes, released music the fans could relate to and enjoy. If you are serious about your craft, invest in yourself and produce good work consistently; over time you will earn loyal fans. Bounty Killer and Beenie Man did not start their careers as superstars. They earned the accolades and fans by producing quality work.
The longevity of their careers is a testament to the quality of music they gave to the world.
The third lesson I learnt was A Strong Brand Knows How to Amplify the Brand. Beenie Man is Grammy winner with countless hits while Bounty Killer has numerous hits. They have headlined shows and sold out events. Their names pull crowds and numbers. Their fans measure in the millions. However after saying yes to two of world’s biggest producers Swizzbeatz and Timbaland; their brand equity increased and they have easily earned fans in the tens of millions as the joy of last night’s battle continues to be talked and written about. We witnessed them in their element last night, full star power on display. Beenie the charismatic entertainer and Bounty Killer in full form with the one liners “you sing it, or spin it, you still bring it.” If you are building a brand or are an established brand, it is important to know who your audience is and what will resonate with them. When you have determined what is relevant and what will resonate; then execute activities that will amplify the brand message. This battle has shone the spotlight on Beenie Man and Bounty Killer as seen last night when they were trending on Twitter; now their music will be streamed by die hard and new fans all over the world; searches for the two entertainers will increase and we will share memes and continue to talk about what we loved about Beenie Man verzuz Bounty Killa.
The fourth lesson I took from last night was – Say Yes. When a big opportunity knocks on your door say Yes and figure it out after. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; the Jamaican government implemented island wide curfews in a bid to keep citizens indoors and safe. To host an in person Verzuz battle live meant that the logistics had to be spot on. From coordinating the DJs, the venue, security, branded T-shirts (Beenie Man on point) and the internet. (Check Jamaican Twitter to see why the internet made the list). Often times, we let self-doubt, the imposter syndrome, and fear stand in our way. We find excuses for why we can’t instead of reasons we can. Both entertainers could have used any excuse to say no. However, they said Yes: yes to reminding the fans of their greatness, yes to showing off brand Jamaica, yes to amplifying their brands, yes to giving the world an excellent show, yes to the power of Dancehall. So when an opportunity comes knocking and you don’t know how you will make it happen. It’s ok to say yes and figure it out after. Reach out to your network and support system for help. Believe that you deserve this opportunity, believe in yourself and watch how it all unfolds beyond your wildest dream.
Trust yourself and trust that you can do it.
The fifth and final lesson from this epic moment in music history is – Music is a Unifying Force! As the King of Reggae Bob Marley sang “let’s get together and feel alright!” This is exactly what the world did last night. The King of Dancehall and the Warlord took us on a musical journey. We traveled back in time and heard stories of how our favorite hits even came to be. We had fans reminiscing on where they were when each hit made its debut. Others longed for their favorite Jamaican dishes and wished they were on the rock, because that was the place to be. It was a joy to see these two legends perform side by side. A few years ago, they were fierce and bitter rivals. Their rivalry divided the Dancehall space; while it made for good entertainment news and their clashes brought the hype, fire, and excitement into the Dancehall scene; it wasn’t good for the genre. They have set the bitter rivalry aside and are now friends; going as far as to publicly declare their respect; love and admiration for each other.
It was a joy and a privilege to be a witness to an epic moment in music history. I danced and sang to my heart’s content for two hours, taking frequent trips down memory lane. I’m proud to be Jamaican and my heart swelled with pride last night as the legends Beenie Man and Bouty Killer reminded the world that Jamaica is the home to musical greatness. We are likkle but we tallawah. We stand tall on the world stage. We are contributors, movers and shakers. Jamaicans have the Midas touch! The world needed last night! As COVID-19 continues to take from us in so many ways and we face each day with uncertainty we needed a way to release and let go. I’m proud that Jamaica and Jamaicans did that for the world last night! We used the unifying power of music to help the world dance, sing and enjoy themselves and dare I say, heal a little. I am truly grateful to all who played a role in making the Beenie Man and Bounty Killer Verzuz battle a truly delightful musical experience. I walked away with so much from last night’s battle. As we continue to relive this moment I hope that your days will feel lighter and you will be renewed with a sense of hope that we are really in this together; especially when we get together and feel alright!