Jamaican reggae star Beenie Man, still dogged by anti-gay lyrics he performed years ago, has apologized in a video published two weeks ago on YouTube.
"I have nothing against no one. I respect each and every human being, regardless of race or creed, regardless of religious beliefs, regardless of sexual preference, including gay and lesbian people," Beenie Man says in the video. "Do not fight against me for some song I sang 20 years ago. There's no one in this world who's the same person they were 20 years ago. I'm not. ... Please, I'm begging you."
Beenie Man is scheduled to appear Aug. 20 in Spain at Rototom Sunsplash, which posted the following message on YouTube:
Rototom Sunsplash has received and is happy to publish a videomessage of Beenie Man in which he wishes to clear out any doubt about his position concerning homophobic lyrics appeared in some of his old songs.
We would like to think that his words can put an end to all the controversies that the subject has generated.
This video reaches us after a journey that Rototom has started in 2005 and which has seen us committed to bringing to the Sunsplash only those artists that respect and accept all people, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.
In 2007 this position has lead us to draw up the Reggae Compassionate Act, an agreement that was supported by reggae promoters and activists of Stop Murder Music and signed, among others, by Beenie Man. In the agreement, the artist committed himself not to sing or make public statement in Jamaica or any other country in the world, that could encourage prejudice, hatred or violence against gay or lesbian people.
Beenie Man is part of the 2012 Sunsplash line up, because we believe in his change and his detachment from homophobic positions, as demonstrated on this video.
In 2004, MTV removed Beenie Man from a downtown Miami concert, part of the Video Music Awards celebration. Here's an article I wrote on Aug. 24, 2004, including an interview with Florida gay activist Jack Nichols, who died less than a year later.
Performer bounced from show over lyrics
BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
After a threatened protest by South Florida gay activists, MTV announced late Tuesday that controversial Jamaican reggae star Beenie Man will not perform Saturday at a concert in downtown Miami.
"We removed him, " MTV spokeswoman Marnie Black said. "Beenie Man will no longer be performing Saturday night. We don't want anything to overshadow what will be a great weekend of events for South Floridians."
Tuesday morning, a London gay-rights group called for South Florida gay activists to protest at Beenie Man's planned Miami appearance.
"A pop star who wants to 'execute' gay men and lesbians will perform live in Miami, " reads an open letter from Brett Lock of Outrage!, the London-based group. "One of his song titles is: [Batty Man Fi Dead] 'Queers must be killed.' "
Jack Nichols, a longtime Florida gay activist, said Beenie Man's songs "are encouragement to murder."
"They specify ways to murder gay men and lesbians, " said Nichols, an editor at GayToday.com. He cites these Beenie Man lyrics, adapted from Jamaican patois:
* "Hang chi chi gal wit a long piece of rope." Chi chi is slang for gay.
* "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays."
LOST IN TRANSLATION?
Beenie Man's manager, Clyde McKenzie, said Nichols and other gay activists took the lyrics out of context.
"There are songs that seem to be inciting direct violence. In some instances, it is metaphorical and taken out of context, " said McKenzie, who has representedBeenie Man for 14 years.
"In dancehall, when two sounds clash, they say they'll kill each other. Heap metaphorical violence against each other. It sounds sometimes, very, very harsh if you're removed from the context, if you do a rough translation."
Beenie Man, who is on a world tour promoting his new album, Back to Basics, had been scheduled to perform in Club Row, between Northeast Second and Miamiavenues in downtown Miami, part of the Video Music Awards hoopla.
MTV had planned to keep Beenie Man on the concert roster after his label, Virgin Records UK, issued an apology on his behalf this month. The offending lyrics are at least four years old, predating his recording for Virgin, a label spokeswoman said.
McKenzie said Beenie Man "is coming to understand that people are offended by some of the things he said."
Nichols doesn't buy McKenzie's explanation. "If there were an equivalent, if a singer came in and said, 'Kill all African Americans and kill all Jews, ' I would imagine that there would be quite a bit of controversy, to say the least, " he said.
Before MTV made its announcement, Heddy Peña, executive director of SAVE Dade, Miami-Dade County's largest gay-rights group, had planned to organize a concert protest.
"The gay and lesbian community is tired of being used by artists who want to obtain publicity at the expense of our community. What these artists lack in talent, they try to make up with bravado. The problem is that their bravado puts people's lives at risk."
Lyrics preaching violence against gays and lesbians are often heard in Jamaican dancehall music. In addition to Beenie Man, other singers criticized by gay activists include Buju Banton and Shabba Ranks.
"I just smile, because I don't know what they're fussing about, " Beenie Man told The Herald on Sunday, when asked about his anti-gay lyrics. "I'm not here to cuss people. I make music. But at the same time I just want to teach people - my sons and my daughters - the right way of life."
SPONSORS BAIL OUT
Two weeks ago, sports-clothing giant Puma, a major sponsor of the Jamaican Olympic team and of reggae concerts, warned performers that the company has a "zero tolerance" policy toward the performance of songs with anti-gay lyrics.
"There is a myth that people are homophobic in Jamaican society, " McKenzie said in a telephone interview from Kingston. "There's not an inordinate amount of violence being committed on homosexual persons in Jamaica. It's a myth that fits a particular agenda and that upsets me. Jamaicans are like Americans and British people - a majority of them don't endorse a gay lifestyle, but they tolerate it."
Beenie Man has been dogged by controversy throughout his summer tour.
After the Pennsylvania Lesbian and Gay Task Force threatened to boycott an Aug. 6 concert in Philadelphia, Beenie Man dropped two potentially offensive songs from his playlist.
Two weeks ago, R.J. Reynolds axed Beenie Man from 15 concerts on its Salem "Stir Your Senses" U.S. tour. "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco does not tolerate this or any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, " the company said in a statement.
Beenie Man's world tour is scheduled to end on Nov. 8 - with a Miami concert.