Billboard’s Top Reggae Artist a Women: Screams of Economic Exploitation, Misogyny & Homophobia

A blond blue eye women just won Billboard Reggae Music Artist of the year award, and in Jamaica, there was mixed reaction. On one side, were those who say the West and Asia music infrastructure industry, as always, is exploiting black music. On the other there were those such as Dr Franklin. There has been much written and talk, on the exploitation of black culture & in fact, most agree, that there is the exploitation and that the exploitation is a serious problem.

But Dr Franklin presents a new angle on the argument & so I will focus on this angle.

Dr Franklin Johnston , a strategist, project manager and advisor to the Jamaica’s Minister of Education says misogyny, homophobia, prejudice is why Jamaica’s reggae music scene is lagging in success.

The same point, on homophobia, is expressed by Fox’s Empire, a program, that askes why Can’t We Talk About Homophobia in the Black Community? (see full story here)

Fox’s Empire is at the forefront of a significant year for representations of black and LGBT stories in media. The show, which unabashedly confronts homophobia in hip-hop, has become a ratings (and music sales) sensation. Its success is more than monetary. The musical drama has broken barriers on network television by showing one of its central characters, the gay musician Jamal Lyon (played by out actor Jussie Smollett), kiss and make love to other men of color.

The opposite of a stereotype, Jamal is talented, brave, and arguably the most virtuous member of his family. But in addition to love, Empire also shows the ugliness of homophobia. Jamal’s father, Lucious Lyon, is blinded to his son’s talents by deep-seated bias. This is underscored throughout the season by a heart-wrenching flashback, where Lucious throws a young Jamal into a trashcan after the child walks down the stairs in a pair of heels.

Joss Stone, racism and reggae (for full report)

by Franklin Johnston

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advisor to the minister of education.


The recent Billboard announcement of Joss Stone as top reggae artiste for 2015 brought out the worst in Jamaicans. We are a black nation; blacks run things yet blacks underachieve, despite 95 per cent enrolled in school, lots of opportunity via HEART, community college and the high school diploma equivalency. Many fail, but still feel entitled.

The local media screams ‘outrage’ at Joss. She is the youngest person to sell more in 2015 than seven top Jamaican artistes combined. If you can’t beat her, cuss her. So, did colour help her? We know “white artistes are routinely outselling black artistes in virtually every genre”, yet there are more black people than white globally, so why don’t they buy black music? Is this Joss’s problem? They say, “Billboard only counts sales”; Duuuh, this is business, stupid! You think Sean Paul puts up with a hectic global schedule for his health?

As a Sussex girl, Joss grew with Jamaican music in the mix. We grew with American music and copied them for decades, so why can’t she sing reggae? Last week our media pandered to xenophobia, and racism — “Joss is white, how could she have won the reggae prize?” Writers had opportunity to bruit the cancer of racism, instead they fed the monster. We once had Elvis’s hairlick; aped Dave Brubeck; had jazz clubs and cabaret singers. We sung Matt Munro, Mario Lanza, yodelled like Roy Rogers, and gospel divas weaned on Jim Reeves. At the Glass Bucket we owned Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Bing ‘White Christmas’ Crosby, and Jackie Edwards, Prince Buster, Bob Marley, Derrick Morgan, et al sang foreign. Are entertainers stupid?

We need a pro-active Equalities Commission as racism is excused as culture. Most reggae does not cross over but is stuck in depressing, rag-tag of misogyny, homophobia, prejudice, and ganja stupor — it does not sell. Whites like our music at a dance, but not in apartments, with family or an elegant venue. Why don’t 30 million black Americans or one billion black Africans buy our music? To be world-class is as Usain Bolt does — take on all comers and win. Is reggae a minority acquired taste?


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