We’re So Special : UPDATED!

Had a conversation today where an old friend of mine from Jamaican schooldays made a point that if Usain Bolt had been caught smoking a bong — a la Michael Phelps — then the media in America would be bemoaning and lamenting his fall from the top; wondering how long his sponsors have before they’re forced to drop him, and generally be bashing Usain Bolt seven ways from Sunday.

In this conversation I was defending the American  media with the idea that firstly weed should be legal; and secondly that Bolt as a Jamaican may already be presumed to smoke weed by some people. Maybe even many people.

I am interested to hear your opinions on how the American media would treat Bolt if he were in Phelps’s position.

Update: CBS’s morning show did a segment called “No Outrage Over Phelps

I bring this up as I was just watching the Behind the Scenes/Making of for Mavado’s I’m So Special. And while I must confess I’m secretly a Mavado fan, I am not biased by my fandom in not seeing anything obscene or egregious about the portrayal of women in the I’m So Special video. {{Posted below}}

In fact my view that it’s not an offensive video is further complicated by the fact that Mavado’s producer ion this video is a woman who specifies that they did rigorous casting and “went through a lot of girls” to whittle down to the actual video’s cast. The producer seems professional and intelligent, yet she obviously wasn’t offended by the video’s execution.

Behind the scenes mini-doc.

The Director’s Cut of I’m So Special.

In response to the controversy swirling around this video since it was rejected by BET due to “writhing women as careless set dressing” and “excessive depictions of alcohol consumption;”I can concede that the video is mediocre in many ways content-wise and stylistically. Yet my major concern is the “disparate standard” being applied to the Jamaican artiste’s video versus American produced videos.

For example see Britney Spears’ Womanizer and Snoop Dogg’s Sensual Seduction.

Update: A reader, JoJo, also points out stunning similarities between Chercez La Ghost and Mavado’s video.


Womanizer Official Video

Sensual Seduction Official Video

There is nothing fundamentally different in Mavado’s video from their videos. Thematically Snoop uses the same harem motif and Britney cannot be said to be avoiding exploitation of sex and the female form.

Thus I find it ironic that Mavado’s lyrics for I’m So Special say:

“I’m on the go, I’m on the go; but,

Bad mind a try fi stop mi though”

In this case it is a highly prophetic pronouncement. The standard being applied here doesn’t seem to generally apply to rap videos on BET.

One of the best videos I have seen recently, thematically, was Kanye West’s Flashing Lights {{cannot be embedded}} in which a central part of the plot is the buxom actress in the video disrobing. BET plays that video — so I guess it’s not careless.

Mavado is a genuine cross-over artiste and is able to reach a constituency that is not normally associated with dancehall. When his song The Real McCoy was chosen to be the background music for the trailer Grand Theft Auto IV: Liberty City he was taking dancehall to a new platform and different level of royalty income. This video game cost $100 million USD to create and was hotly anticipated by many avid fans. Thus the trailer was greeted with great enthusiasm and did much to bolster Mavado’s reach as an artiste. I think then that for BET’s hugely influential 106 and Park show to invite him onto the show, publicize his appearance, and then pull the plug at the last minute is sabotage. They didn’t see the video before they booked him? It was supposed to premiere on their show — they should have seen it prior to booking him since it was the point of his appearance. So my highly skeptical mind tells me that they intended to embarrass him or someone really screwed up their job. So based on the fact I rarely see American artistes treated so shabbily I dislike the treatment meted out to Mavado. The disparate treatment is my main interest in posting on this, I am concerned I may dilute the focus of the blog if I start down the road to music criticism.

Secondly I am loathe to criticise a Jamaican music video with actual high production values given what dancehall stars usually call a music video. Sean Paul is the undoubted master of the American format of high production values music videos, most others simply don’t get it.

See Elephant Man for example. Working with American producers and professionals he is part of a video like Whine Up with Kat Deluna.

Left to his own devices he is back to amateur hour with this Nuh Linga video from VP Records. WTF?!?

For my money the best video out of JA recently with great production values and congruent plotline to the lyrics, good choreography and nice videography was Tanya Stephen’s It’s Such a Pity. (Which looks like it was made in Jamaica.)

As I say this I am aware of several friends who would strongly disagree — so it is highly subjective; there is no right answer. But central to my esteem of the It’s Such a Pity video is a political choice made in the kind of beauty to showcase — note that the stunningly gorgeous actress in Stephen’s video has afro-centric features; meaning she could never win a Jamaican beauty contest.

The major problem seems to be that artistes are often seeking to do the video on the cheap and on those few occasions they actually spend real money they simply throw money at the video as if a higher pricetag will confer greater creativity. See: Beenie Man paying Janet Jackson big bucks to appear in his video Feel It Boy so she could diss him afterwards.

But it’s not a money issue, it’s a matter of creativity and execution. Look at the impact Peter Dean Richards had with some pigs and an abbatoir.


I feel a fundamental part of the problem is culture — MTV has been a part of American music consumption for as long as Hip Hop has been popular. So Hip Hop artistes have been competing for a strong visual representation of their music for at least two decades. Whereas in Jamaica an artiste knew they had made it when their song was being used widely in dub-plates; a strictly aural accolade with no visual component.

It takes time for that audio/aural component to change. As long as Jamaican artistes stop making videos like the following Pan Yu we should be fine.

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15 thoughts on “We’re So Special : UPDATED!

  1. Generally, the views, perspectives and opinions of the American media is/are very differentiated with respect to various and sundry issues. Notwithstanding, in some instances or circumstances involving certain celebrities or extremely high profile(d) individuals, a consensus of opinion can be easily obtained or reflected by the media. Regarding the recent brou-ha-ha or hubbub ala olympic swimmer Mr. Michael Phelps of the United States being compromisingly pictured hitting a ganga/marijuana pipe/bong. One is of the perspective, that if Jamaican olympian and superstar, Mr. Usain Bolt, were compromised in this, or, a somewhat similar manner, the treatment that would be meted out to Mr. Bolt via the American media would be comparatively different, in its/their intensity(ies) and inordinately excessive critiques vis-a-vis Mr. Phelps. Indeed, the American media would not play with kid gloves —- tactfully and cautiously —- regarding Mr. Bolt as they are now doing in terms of Mr. Phelps. Most assuredly, hardball tactics, —- ruthless means to obtain an objective —- would certainly be employed or utilized re Mr. Bolt. Certainly, Mr. Bolt would be denounced, castigated, assailed and villified, with the main stream media in particular, questioning his legal behaviour and moral legitimacy regarding corporate endorsements. And, of course, the notion, or fact, that he is supposedly not an appropriate or “the correct role model” for American kids would be assiduously promulgated, much more than what is presently being advanced in terms of Mr.Phelps.

    Admittedly, many American athletes —- both blacks and whites —- in sundry sports have been compromised over the years, with respect to drug possession, utilization and consumption and in many instances, the media have taken them to task, depending on who they are and what they have accomplished in their respective fields and the general society. But what makes Mr. Bolt so uniquely different, is the fact that he —- Mr. Bolt—- is not the typical next door —- preferably white —- all American boy, who becomes a superstar and record breaking olympian, specifically, in the major or pre-eminent events that are/were historically dominated by American athletes in an hegemonic manner. Mr. Bolt, instead, is the proud Jamaican, —- a remarkable son of the BLACK, GREEN and GOLD, as opposed to the red white and blue —- who displayed a sense of hubris/arrogance by pounding on his chest and easing up before the end of the one hundred metres finals —- in his stellar performances at the Beijing Games, by denying his American counter parts gold medals and in so doing shocked the world—-wurl. Also, Mr. Bolt’s post race performances, the infamous or famous Gully Creeper dances, irked, annoyed, aggravated and rubbed many in the American media the wrong way, because of cultural ignorance regarding Jamaica and Mr. Bolt. Consequently, if Mr. Bolt were to experience what happened to Mr. Phelps in terms of the disclosure of compromising images or pictures, the American media would have a field day in excoriating and flaying Mr. Bolt ad hominen. Undoubtedly, in certain quarters of the media, latent racism, zenophobia, and stereotypes would manifest or rear their ugly heads. Also, certain media would be extremely supportive by advocating the decriminalization and legalization of ganga/marijuana.

    A caveat for Mr. Bolt!! Please walk good.

  2. Phelps might have made alienated a few people with that pot-smoking picture, but i think he might have gained the support of another huge group of people to take their place

  3. Concerning the truncated or abridged Mavado Video, admittedly, I have seen worse content in terms of violence and misogynistic behaviour and psychology being promoted and peddled in the United States and Jamaica, over the years. Not having viewed the original and unabridged Mavado Video, it is difficult to speak or comment authoritatively, much more critically of this video. Nonetheless, with respect to the version or copy posted on your site, one finds the production and the message rather mediocre and lacking in many regards. In all honesty, Mavado appears to be promoting a HAREM and he is the SHEIK(H) consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Certainly, such a video does not have any socially redeeming value or quality, it is in essence vacuous. Apparently, Mavado is totally lost in this video, spiritually and otherwise, in his hedonistic fantasy of pleasure-seeking, self indulgence and sensualism. Hopefully, in the future he will be a purveyor of more socially redeeming values in his video. This is so 90’s and not forward thinking, especially, for an artist who is supposedly on the cutting edge. Interestingly, it will be consumed, because, there is a market which demands this type of production and considers mediocrity positive and excellent. Of course, Mavado will definitely go to the bank smiling, and such productions will definitely keep certain people gainfully employed. But, it is definitely appalling and disheartening that the content of such videos cannot transcend the mediocrity which constrains them.Indeed, this is a brilliant piece of nonsense and it is full time that we see these videos for what they are!!

  4. i’ve yet to see the offending video but actually friends of mine here were making negative comments about it long before the BET veto…and these are also music vid makers…apparently its not one of Ras Kassa’s best–

  5. Annie, trust me and your friends, the video totally sucks on every level. I couldn’t even be offended. It was more a question of: what is the point of the writhing women again?

    EAR – “a brilliant piece of nonsense” indeed; you are right on point.

    D – that it was a woman who directed it does not really have relevance. Except if this was her first time, she really bombed; she couldn’t even figure out how to make the “writhing women” thing work!

  6. Diatribalist, If Mavado was treated in the manner you described by 106 and PARK , such treatment can be considered unprofessional. Also, they —- 106 and PARK —- should have vetted the video before they booked him, since it was supposed to debut or premiere on the scheduled appearance of Mavado, as opposed to pulling the plug at the last moment. Then, again, there is always the strong possibility, that someone could/may have messed up, big time, resulting in disparate treatments of Mavado vis-a-vis American artistes, as opposed to a conspiracy re sabotage.

    Yes sir, as you rightly contend,it is not really about money, it is indeed about creativity and execution. By the way, the Tanya Stevens video is okay with me. Also, I concur regarding Sean Paul mastering the American format. Nuff respect, Star!!

  7. There’s something else going on at BET that we don’t know. I suspect someone – a junior person who was vetting the video – didn’t pass it by a key set of eyes. Mavado, like the rest of them, will come through. They always do, unless they choose to self-destruct like BM. Tanya is on a whole nedda level, so me would really like fi ear whe’h she affi seh bout di Mavado/BET thing, and the video itself.

  8. hey you’ve added a lot to this post since i wrote my earlier comment. and i agree with you, this thing is wierd because as bad as Mavado’s video may be in what way does it really differ from many otehr BET videos which are equally guilty of “the careless use of writhing women as set dressings”?

    but the video was directed by Ras Kassa as far as i know and not a female director. incidentally there is a new female director on the scene whose production values are excellent…Kimala or ‘Lala’ Bennett–Mikie Bennett’s daughter.

    the music vid for Kingston Logic is going to debut on ER tomorrow DD so catch that if you can. 9 pm our time. its going to sweep you away, talk about creativity…you get a double or triple dose because the song is great, and then its a really creative showcasing of the creativity of the people of Waterhouse.

    We’re all going to watch it together at my place and then have a party to celebrate. wish you all could come!

  9. oh forgot to say that you did a very good profile of Mavado in this post. even if the video doesn’t really indicate how special he is your write-up certainly does!

    Thank God Ja knows how special he is even if BET doesn’t. i hear the video is tearing it up on MTV.

  10. Thanks for writing this.While i am no fan of the mavado video, I find it very mild in comparison to the loads of crap BET has played for YEARS .
    “Writhing women as careless set dressing” and “excessive depictions of alcohol consumption;”?
    Are they serious?While this may be true.. How many videos have they played with rappers pouring out bottles of liquor on the floor and spraying it everywhere, including on women? Ironically,Mavado’s video is obviously copying and inspired by BET’s videos.
    Here is proof of the double standard….BET had no problem playing this video..matter of fact it was on heavy rotation..See if it looks familiar..

    BTW..they would totally have put Bolt under the bus

  11. Yes JOJO, it does look extremely familiar, suggesting a lack of creatitivity on the part of Mavado’s team. I may be wrong, but is it possible that the lack of creative freshness, cleverness, imagination and no sense of originalty may, or, could have been the reason or reasons why Mavado’s video was rejected or turned down. Surely, even for BET the Harem theme, bling, expensive cars, writhing women and excessive alcohol consumption has/have been exhausted ad nauseaum? Indeed, if one were to research their video archive(s), it would inmmediately delineate that the aforementioned theme(s) have been totally overworked, worn and of course totally spent, and that they—-BET—- may be shopping around for creativity, innovation, newness, resourcefulness, and unconventionality, as opposed to the same old formula. Again, this is just a question, one is placing in the public domain and in that regard, one may be totally wrong. But, if this is indeed the case or circumstance, they—-BET—- should have still vetted the Mavado video, and apprise him accordingly, regarding any possible new requirements or expectations prior to his scheduled appearance, as opposed to pulling the plug on the premiere or scheduled night of his appearance.Nuff respect!!

  12. The video may have a lot of tasteless material, but please BET shows a lot of videos that are just the same. I just think BET is being biased against the video for some reason. I still see BET showing Jim Jones’ Pop Champagne on 106&Park and that song has a lot of girls and alcohol.

  13. Yes I, it is a question of bringing the AUDIO and the VISUAL together in a harmonious and synergistic manner, juxtaposed with CREATIVITY. SYNERGISM is the answer, Star !!

  14. Had your countryman been photographed taking deep hits from a Bong during a college party, I believe two things would have happened:

    1. Sure, he would have been criticized by the mainstream news outlets as Phelps has been, but the process would have played out differently; less hand wringing over his status as a Role Model and the ‘message that was being sent to his admirers’, as opposed to an unfortunate embrace of the stereotype that all Jamaican’s smoke weed. Other than sections of the country with dense West Indian populations, Bolt is primarily known (only) because of the Olympics, and while we’ve experienced a lot of prior success in the world of Track and Field (Jones, Gatlin and a few others notwithstanding), the US isn’t obsessed with it like Baseball, Basketball or American Football. Mind you, we have a solid tradition and a rich legacy of competition (i.e. Moses, Nehemiah, Ashford), and getting shut out of the Gold Medals in the premier events wasn’t something that went unnoticed, I just think it has to be put in context. In other words, the general US population doesn’t have the same emotional investment in Bolt than someone living in say…Trelawny or Flatbush, Brooklyn. However, having said that, I think something else would have occurred…something much more sinister and potentially damaging:

    2. If it were confirmed that Mr. Bolt willingly indulged in the smoking/inhalation of cannabis, shortly thereafter you would begin to hear speculative whispers about ‘what else’ the fleet footed Jamaican might be sniffing, absorbing, or ‘injecting’ into his body.

    And we all know where that would eventually lead – which would be unfortunate, because it would work to undermine the significance and legitimacy of a phenomenal athletic achievement, and what appears to be the result of a lot of patience and hard work on the part of Mr. Bolt, as well as the other members of Jamaica’s Men’s and Women’s teams – unfairly implying that they must have been doped up in order to achieve such spectacular results…sort of like suggesting the US finally didn’t win because they weren’t.

  15. Yankee Bwoy, the points/views posited by you, with respect to Mr. Usain Bolt being the possible one photographed —- and compromised —- hitting a bong in a similar manner to how Mr.Michael Phelps was photographed and later publicized and ventilated to the entire world. Or, if it is confirmed that Mr. Bolt willingly indulged in the utilization and consumption of marijuana is well comprehended. As a matter of fact, I concur with both perspectives proffered, especially, the latter, regarding speculative whispers about ” what else ” Mr. Bolt could or may have consumed as it relates to narcotics and sundry pharmaceuticals, possibly, resulting in the legitimacy of his awesome performances being viewed or perceived skeptically. And, indeed, the subsequent projection of Mr. Bolt’s indiscretion and injudicious behaviour being cast or assigned on the entire Jamaican national team, with their scintillating and stellar performances being questioned in relation to possible drug enhancement. Interestingly, Jamaica is so stereotyped by many outsiders/foreigners as a drug culture, that one would not be surprised, that in certain quarters this stereotype obtains with respect to Jamaica’s outstanding performances, despite the respective athletes passing all the various drug tests required of them by the International Olympic Committee. Nuff respect Yankee Bwoy!!

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