Bounty Killer
 
June 12, 1972. Kingston, Jamaica. Trenchtown rocks once more, as Miss Ivy bears her last son into its surrounds. Jamaica balances on the edge of another bloody chapter, as war is about to be waged on its streets in the name of politics. Rodney Basil Price - the last son in a family of nine children; a child whose destiny would be irrevocably shaped by the landscapes of inner-city Kingston, where tribalism and poverty battle for the morals of the hungry and the desperate. Leaving Trenchtown soon after, Miss Ivy relocates her family to Riverton City, a community founded on the Kingston City dump. Once known as ‘Dungle,’ the sprawling rubbish heap is a vital resource to many of its inhabitants. Clothed just by ‘tear-up-batty’ pants, Rodney would sneak out late at night to hear the music thundering from speaker boxes strung up in the community, belonging to his Father’s sound system. “I used to just grab the mic and vibe up the place with my arguments and slangs!” remembers Bounty of the beginning. “I never had any lyrics of my own. Once I went to take the microphone at a talent show in Riverton. I intended to DJ, but I just opened my mouth and began to sing Junior Reid’s ‘Woman Make Your Waistline Roll!’ Even though it didn’t work out how I planned it, the crowd were hyped by it so I decided to build my own lyrics.” Rodney’s first lyrics strained over a raw, monotone melody, but the topic mapped out the conscious vein that would pulse through his music in the years ahead; a map that would lead his people to crown him Poor People’s Governor. “When I was a yute I lived down in the gully, inna mi tear-up pants people used to laugh after me” he chanted. Young Rodney had become the Bounty Hunter.

Rodney’s preteen years saw another family relocation, a little further along Kingston’s Spanish Town Rd, to the housing scheme of Seaview Gardens, where neighbourhoods are designated into areas such as ‘Shotgun’ and ‘Vietnam.’ Jamaica’s recent history has been littered by politically-motivated gunplay, and in the mid-80’s gunshot regularly cracked across the political divide between warring factions operating in the locale. One scorchingly-hot afternoon, whilst walking home from school with friends, a hail of those careless bullets suddenly crisscrossed through the air, ripping through Rodney’s young flesh. He had become a victim of tribal war, aged 12. “All I was thinking about in the hospital was vengeance,” he relays intensely. “All I wanted to do was kill who tried to kill me. I was meditating pure revenge.” In the days he spent in hospital recovering, the aspiring Bounty Hunter came to a forceful conclusion: “Since mi get shot it was time to let them do the hunting and time for me do the killing.” And so the Bounty Killer was born.

Hard time stylee would not go away, harsh ghetto economics ruling out the completion of a school education. Rodney often had to utilise the hustlin’ abilities instilled in him by his elder brother Ballie Ballie, to help provide food for the family table. “Mama had the opportunity to go a foreign (abroad) many many times, but she decided to stay here with her children,” he says with fondness. “Not everybody would do that, considering the difficulties we faced back then.” Bounty has always held his mother, Miss Ivy, in the highest esteem - maintaining “Mama” has been the most positive influence in his life. His one true role model. ‘Livlicating’ musical odes to “Mama” has been a constant element throughout Bounty’s career - the current crowd-pleaser “Pot of Gold,” done in collaboration with Richie Stephens, exemplifying this. Whilst continuing to hustle wall plates and figurines with Ballie Ballie, Rodney and fellow Seaview-ites (and future Scare Dem Crew members) Nitty Kutchie and Boom Dandemite increased their efforts to break into the world of Reggae. The friends began venturing further afield, to dances and shows staged in the cool interior and rolling verdancy of the Jamaican countryside, where positive response further encouraged their burgeoning talents.

 Take the one-way-in-one-way-out road from Seaview Gardens, cut across Spanish Town Rd and you will end up in Kingston 11 - Waterhouse. Waterhouse is another area of Kingston that is rarely mentioned in the media without the disenfranchising prefix of ‘troubled inner-city community,’ but it’s a part of the planet blessed with an Almighty shower of musical talent. At the hub of the Reggae revolution in the 80’s and early 90’s was record producer King Jammy, whose 1985 timeless ‘Sleng-Teng’ riddim heralded the arrival of digital Dancehall. Boom Dandimite had already begun to garner moderate success from the Jammy’s studio and the fact that Boom had a tune playing on the radio was all the encouragement Bounty needed. Day after day, month after month, the crew would make that journey up to the St Lucia Rd recording studio, awaiting the chance to jump on the next riddim being formulated in the Jammy’s sound lab. Bounty and the crew would be constructing lyrics and practising their flow into the early hours, often having to borrow bicycles from Waterhouse allies to return safely to Seaview under cover of darkness. It was Bounty’s vocal jack-in-the-box rhyming intros that attracted attention - initially from sound system operators and then from the thousands of Dancehall fans around the world listening to the audio tapes of live sessions, intrigued by the unique voice-pattern introducing custom-built songs played by sound systems like Metromedia and Bodyguard. Bounty’s sound system clash classic - ‘Dub Fi Dub’ - changed the way in which sound system selectors approached their task, another element that has run throughout his career. When the time came to voice at Jammy’s, Bounty opted for a song that reflected his life experiences; ‘Coppershot’ was the self-explanatory title, but at that time King Jammy was trying to steer his label clear of songs that paid homage to guns, passing on the record. However, Uncle T - Jammy’s brother - realised the potential and quickly ushered Bounty under his own wing. ‘Coppershot’ was heard by New York-based Johnny Wonder, a pivotal figure in North American Dancehall Reggae, who went crazy when he heard it, instantly recognising the potential of its hardcore appeal to the urban markets Stateside. Rather ironically ‘Coppershot’ became an underground hit in New York before taking off locally, a record that ensured that Bounty is forever endeared to the Boroughs of New York. ‘Spy Fi Die,’ ‘Guns Out,’ ‘Lodge’ and more uncompromising releases followed, each increasing the velocity. They kicked off an all-out attack that’s yet to cease, with the subsequent release of hundreds of singles. Bounty left the Jammy’s camp in 1995 and formed his own Scare Dem Productions and Priceless label with Johnny Wonder as his partner. ‘Sting’ 1993 - another huge annual December stage show held in Jamaica - confirmed Bounty Killer as the heir to Ninjaman’s throne in the lyrical-clashing theatre of war. Bounty verbally assassinated fellow Jamaican recording superstar Beenie Man, who ironically hails from the Waterhouse area. In the build-up to the clash Bounty Killer was not amused by Beenie Man’s acts of lyrical piracy, at a time when they were both just taking hold of the cut-throat world of Dancehall. Countless other deejays have since attempted to turn over the Killer in a lyrical clash and as Killer puts it, “they try hard but just die hard.” Beenie Man and Bounty Killer had an on-off feud throughout the last decade - a feud that often erupted without warning. Recognising the negative impact it was having on the music and the nation’s youth, the two decided to sign a peace treaty. Their relationship today veers unsteadily along that line of peace, with Beenie Man sporadically trying to unsuccessfully goad Bounty into a clash.

That 1993 clash instigated the elevation of Bounty Killer’s status to Lord of the Warriors - of the rudeboys, the thugs, the shottas. To this day Bounty remains one of the few voices of reason they will listen to, often compelling them to put down the gun.The soundtrack to the 90’s, and now the first decade of this Millennium, is peppered with Bounty Killer anthems that have rendered him a true voice unto the voiceless of Jamaica. Songs of redemption such as ‘Defend the Poor,’ ‘Mama,’ ‘Book, Book, Book,’ ‘Babylon System’ and ‘Down in the Ghetto’ afforded him the undivided affection and attention of a nation too often governed by mis-leaders. The Leader of the Opposition, Edward Seaga, wanted to utilise Bounty’s 1996 revolutionary cry ‘Fed Up,’ as part of his election campaign theatrics, a request that was furiously squashed by Bounty’s legal team.

Today, whilst most other Dancehall artists chase and try to reflect the American Dream, focusing on ‘Bling Blinging,’ Bounty Killer stands steadfast in his conviction to defend what he believes is right for his people. “This is not Jamerica,” he demonstrates. “We’re sending the wrong message to our people. They’re singing about ice when poor people don’t even have a fridge.”Bounty Killer’s seminal 1996 double album, ‘My Xperience,’ took the world by storm, harvesting unprecedented success for a modern Dancehall album. ‘My XPerience’ spent 6 months at number 1 on the Reggae Billboard chart, and two months on the Billboard Top Albums chart. While Reggae artists like Bob Marley and Shabba Ranks have had their albums crossed over into Rock/Pop markets, ‘My Xperience’ has the unique distinction of being one of the only Reggae albums ever to break into and strongly influence the Hip Hop community. Bounty Killer’s collaborations with Busta Rhymes, the Fugees, Wu-Tung Clan and Jeru the Damaja set the benchmark against which all other Hip Hop/Reggae hybrid records are measured. Bounty’s 1998 effort ‘Next Millennium’ reinforced his ability to kick it with Hip-Hopsters, with joints featuring Wyclef, the Coco Bruvas, Mobb Deep and other topline rappers, though he now prefers to adhere to the roots and culture of original Reggae. Bounty Killer has navigated the globe with his musical Xperience, touring the world with his uniquely engaging and explosive stage set. Whether the listener is Japanese, Nigerian, Colombian or European, Bounty’s point-blank message truly has transcended barriers of race, culture and language.Controversy has shadowed Bounty Killer’s career since he first fired ‘Coppershot’ back in 92, and has intensified over the years. His lyrical content has often been too-close-to-the-bone for those “polluticians” trying to conceal truths and rights from those they’re supposed to serve, prompting them to ban such songs of freedom as ‘Fed Up,’ ‘Can’t Believe Mi Eyes,’ ‘Look’ and ‘Anytime.’ The last three of those songs were penned in conjunction with Dancehall producer Dave Kelly - a singer/songwriter partnership permanently etched into the annals of music history, not just Reggae. Newspapers and talkshows were flooded with debate over those song’s contents, particularly over lines that made reference to ‘nines.’ It fuelled the decisions to ban them, but only served to increase their popularity and poignancy. Renowned as a sagacious and intensely perceptive orator, Bounty Killer can just as easily hold an audience with his reasonings as he can with his musical performances. Whenever televised interviews are aired - somewhat rare as Bounty has often spurned the media - they grip the nation. One Jamaican TV station had to recently repeat an in-depth interview with him, due to unprecedented public demand.Always eager to absorb and broaden his Xperience, Bounty Killer also embarked on a career as a promoter a few years back, annually hosting two huge shows in Jamaica. Every June the party season kicks off in the island with the staging of “It’s A Party,” held to celebrate the birthday of Rodney Basil Pryce. Whilst that show regularly attracts in excess of 6,000 patrons, it’s the gargantuan December 26 bash that draws the crowd in overwhelming numbers. Over the last 5 years ‘Saddle to the East’ has grown to become the largest event in the Jamaican festive season, relegating many of the long-established shows. “After dealing with so many promoters myself,” reasons Bounty, “I wanted to know what its like from their point of view. The stress and pressure, the risks, the rewards - the whole nine yards.” Bounty does a lot of work for charitable causes and ensures that a large percentage of the profits from those shows are donated to worthy causes, especially those concerned with young people and children. Always with his beloved Jamaica’s interests at heart, Bounty sub-titled the 2000 edition of ‘Saddle to the East’ with the slogan “Bring Back the Love,” intending to unite his colleagues in the industry, plagued by rivalry and hate, thus setting an example to the nation, itself in need of solidarity.Wherever Bounty Killer sets foot, whether ‘Yard’ or abroad, he is mobbed by his legion of fans, and has always been a firm favourite with the females. Classic Dancehall ‘gal tunes’ - such as ‘Maniac,’ ‘Request,’ ‘Cellular Phone,’ ‘Living Dangerously,’ ‘Cry For Lie For,’ ‘Benz and Bimmer’ and the current hit ‘Follow Mi Arrow,’ have kept the ladies vociferously happy throughout Bounty Killer’s career. Fiercely private, Bounty Killer is a devoted Father, though he is as yet unmarried. “Some men are all about the leg and the thigh,” he illustrates. “But I’m not just looking for a beautiful woman, I want a beautiful lady. When I find someone with the qualities of Miss Ivy I might consider it, but I’m a thug youth and that ain’t gonna be easy to happen.”
With the Summer 2001 release of ‘Ghetto Dictionary,’ armed with 30 high-calibre tracks, the Warlord stands firm on his Reggae foundation, steering well clear of Hip Hop collaborations or Rap influences over his flow and lyrical content. Bounty is 100% devoted to the promotion of pure, unadulterated Reggae music. “I’m going as hard as ever,” he thunders. “When people hear this album they will hear the sun, the sand, the people, everything that is Jamaica.”
The Mighty, the Notorious, the Furious Bounty Killer..........
Too busy to die now.

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