The hottest ticket in town this weekend was the Beenie Man vs. Bounty Killer Verzuz TV battle. It was the brand’s official first soundclash installment. Instead of a split-screen scenario, the two legends were in the same building (and the clash featured almost perfect sound.) The latest live-streamed bout garnered nearly half a million viewers, including drop-ins from Rihanna, Diddy, and Verzuz co-organizer, Swizz Beatz.
The battle capped off the long history the two have. Before this battle, Bounty Killer, “the Warlord,” and “King of The Dancehall” Beenie Man were two Jamaican music icons that had been engaged in a 20-year dancehall feud.
Bounty and Beenie both emerged as dancehall artists not long after the subgenre was birthed in the 1980s. The two established names for themselves by the time they were teenagers. In 1993, they came to head on stage at Sting, a festival in Jamaica. Bounty accused his rival of stealing his act, flow, and style in a serious yet friendly manner. Audiences generally credit the moment as one of the most legendary dancehall stage show clashes.
After a decade of conflict, however, the dissension eventually grew into a not-so-friendly real-life rivalry when Beenie Man married Bounty Killers’ former lover Michelle ‘D’Angel’ Downer in 2006. Then, Bounty Killer formed a DJ gang called The Alliance, which consisted of counterparts Vybz Kartel, Mavado, Aidonia, and more. (The Alliance was accused of monopolizing producers, riddims, venues, selectors, and disbarring anyone who wasn’t apart of their group.) This divided the dancehall industry and audiences, causing people to choose sides.
Clashes grew physical and prompted a lot of, let’s say, “gun-man” chunes. Potent threats were often slang in lyrical warfare. Dancehall quickly became notorious for its negative influence on the youth of Jamaica as opposed to its amazing soundclash system and influence on genres like hip-hop.
In due course, fires did extinguish, and in 2014 Beenie Man and Bounty Killer collaborated on a song called “Legendary.” In 2019, the world was excited to see Bounty Killer and Beenie Man join each other for an onstage performance at Reggae Sumfest, formally sanctioning the feud.
Saturday’s Verzuz battle was the true missing piece to the puzzle, and it was a historic moment in dancehall culture. To celebrate, here are 12 songs — six each — from Beenie Man and Bounty Killer you should know.
Bounty Killer — “Lodge” (1993)
A standout riddim in dancehall history, the Sleng Teng beat by Lloyd ‘John John’ James Jr. brought a slew of vibrant mixes to the scene, but “Lodge” caters to the emphasized chopped synth as the Killer slangs the roughest of gun-man chat while simultaneously delivering vibes.
Beenie Man — “Romie” (1997)
Dancehall sure has a unique way of entertaining folks with outright lyrics and that’s exactly what we get when we look at “Romie.” On the track, Beenie appears to be taking shots at Romie, a DJ who once dissed Beenie. The Dancehall king not only came for Romie, but he came for his sister Naomi. Beenie denied the fact he knew Romie or Naomi, yet shreds them to pieces over a downbeat.
Bounty Killer — “Benz & Bimma” (1996)
Produced by Aidan Jones, “Benz & Bimma” is one of Bounty’s early numbers that still resonate with his audience today. The song describes an attractive lady’s face and frame looking as good as a new Benz, Lexus, and Bimmer over a stripped-down 1,2 baseline. This song lands in Bounty’s top ten records of all time.
Beenie Man — “Who Am I (Sim Simma)” (1997)
Whether you are familiar with dancehall music or not, you have probably heard or repeated the words “Sim Simma, who got the keys to my Bimmer” and that’s all credit to Beenie Man’s “Who Am I.” After purchasing a new BMW, Beenie Man was inspired by Missy Elliot’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” line where she raps “beep beep who got the keys to my jeep.” And the rest is pretty much history. “Who Am I” helped propel Beenie Man into a record deal with Virgin Records which in turn gave him his Grammy for Best Reggae album of the year in 2001.
Bounty Killer & the Fugees — “Hip Hopera” (1997)
Bounty effortlessly displayed his international edge as he teamed up with Lauryn Hill, Pras, and Wyclef of the Fugees to bring you hip-hop realness over a sly, steady rap beat. Although heavy in patois, the killer delivered on his warlord moniker, promising rivals that his Askel 45 does enough talking whether it is in a soundclash or real life.
Beenie Man & Mya — “Girls Dem Sugar” (2000)
The sonic-sounding Neptune’s produced beat took Beenie Man to new heights as he so smoothly sang alongside R&B star Mya. The two made an international hit. “Girls Dem Suga” placed on Billboard’s top 100 lists at the turn of the century and Beenie Man hasn’t looked back since.
Bounty Killer — “Can’t Believe Me Eye” (1998)
Released in 1998, “Can’t Believe Me Eye” is another one of the Warlord’s signatures plays in his discography where he takes shots at politics, sexuality, and skin bleaching concerns going on in Jamaica.
Beenie Man — “King of the Dancehall” (2004)
In dancehall you have the generals, daddies, and leaders of the pack. But, be clear: there is only one king of the dancehall and that title belongs to Beenie Man. In the self-proclaimed track, Beenie Man takes on a conversation in his head roleplaying some lines with the woman he is admiring and sometimes answering himself in the genius style sequence over a steady riddim offbeat. If you ever question who reigns supreme in dancehall, return to this track.
Bounty Killer & Cocoa Brovaz — “It’s a Party” (1998)
One of the groovier tracks in the general’s vault, “It’s A Party,” featuring Cocoa Brovaz, is a song that denotes gun violence in support of pure bashment fun. The beat is full of boogie down guitar bass chords with a steady hi-hat that resurrects a boogie fever. It’s quite different from Bounty’s trademark sound but well received.
Beenie Man & Shawna — “Dude” (2004)
Sung over VP Record’s “Fiesta Riddim,” Beenie Man’s “Dude” topped charts in the UK, and US when it was remixed with a verse from Def Jam South’s first female signee, Shawna, of Disturbing tha Peace. The track stands out in Beenie Man’s catalog for synthesizing the female voice in a vocoder on the chorus. This record is one of Beenie’s most notable singles off of the Back to Basics album.
Bounty Killer— “Look” (1999)
Bounty Killer’s voice carries this slower division as he poetically details the not-so-pretty side of a day in a life of a gangster in Jamaica. On “Look,” Bounty asks listeners if they understand his pain and the current reality of what’s taking place in the streets. The song has a powerful resonance that lives on today.
Beenie Man feat. Fambo — “I’m Drinking Rum & Red Bull” (2011)
A well-known track in Beenie Man’s discography, “I’m Drinking Rum & Red Bull is the quintessential West Indian track at any summertime jam in the states. The bouncy up-tempo instrumental prompts listeners to get a drink, preferably rum and Red Bull, and have a good time.
Noel Cymone Walker is a music, beauty and lifestyle journalist in the NYC area. She has written for the likes of Marie Claire Magazine, Billboard, The Fader, Essence, Allure, Glamour and more. You can catch her on Instagram @thefurstnoel.
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