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Saturday 31 March 2018

Protoje’s Powerful New Single - Blood Money

“Come take a look inna Jamaica, injustice in the place. If what you see nuh really faze you, then you ah di problem weh we face too.”- Protoje

Video Source: Protoje’s YouTube Channel |

If you are Jamaican or have any ties to the country, you’ll know that it has been a harrowing time for the nation recently. Despite its reputation, Jamaica has been anything but paradise in the past months as the tropical isle is once again being choked by the vice-like grip of crime and violence. Now, high levels of crime and violence are hardly a new phenomenon for the country. According to the United Nations, Jamaica had the highest murder rate globally in 2005 and it remains one of the highest today[1]

Violent elements of the nation’s history are seen in “Blood Money” with references to the Tivoli Incursion of 2010[2] and the long-standing institutionalized nature of corruption through patronage politics[3]. Historically, such political corruption has cost Jamaica approximately US$18 billion[4]. However, although high levels crime and violence are not new, this does not make them acceptable. Furthermore, crime and violence should not be allowed to spiral out of control unchallenged. As Protoje states, “If you build it pon crime then crime will haffi find you, and that’s how it’s been always. That nuh frustrate you like it do to me?”

It should be said that while violent crime levels in Jamaica were higher than others with a similar per capita profile, they were on the decline nationally until recently. Now, there is a different atmosphere in the air. The general lawlessness, not to mention the elevated abduction and murder of women and girls has struck a chord with the populace. The volatile situation has inspired small scale protests and widespread fear throughout the island. 

Moreover, while the situation in Jamaica is alarming; violence, political corruption and socioeconomic stratification are not solely Jamaican issues. As such, Protoje’s single “Blood Money” could not have come at a more appropriate time. Its articulate depiction of the current state of affairs in the country and its call for change are sure to resonate with concerned Jamaicans, reggae aficionados and contemporary viewers of global politics alike.

“Mi nah watch no face, beg no more pardon. A nuff drugs money deh ah Cherry Gardens”. From the song’s inception Protoje forces the listener to sit up and pay attention with this reference to the affluent St. Andrew suburb just outside the capital. The lyric demonstrates that appearances are not always as they seem and that people from privileged areas of Jamaican society are rarely held accountable for their crimes; while those from lower socioeconomic classes are often made the scapegoats. After all, “no real bad man a go [police] station.” It is one of the uncomfortable truths that we must challenge and change if we are to move forward and progress as a nation. 

While lyrically, "Blood Money" explores complex themes of corruption, social stratification and violence; the composition and artistry displayed in the song's production must also be recognised. Taj Francis provides exquisite imagery in the Official Audio Video for the single, seen below. As beautiful as they are haunting; the detailed illustrations of gun-wielding children, melting monuments and landmarks ablaze, set against a stark red background will stay with you long after the final refrain. Furthermore, the chilling staccato nature of the piano notes during the chorus was an inspired musical choice. “A blood money run the nation” rings out against this musical backdrop, subtly differentiating chorus from verse while subconsciously capturing the fear and frustration presently felt in Jamaican society.

An honest and powerful social commentary, Protoje’s “Blood Money” is a searing indictment of the hypocrisy and corruption that plagues Jamaican politics and the deeply classist society at large. A pivotal song for our time.

[1] "Crime, violence and development: trends, costs, and policy options in the Caribbean". United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. p. 37 

[2] Since Jamaica’s independence in 1962, governance has been dominated by two political parties: the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). In the late 1960s both parties began to create “garrison communities” to secure political votes and seats in parliament. Garrison communities were towns and neighborhoods controlled by gang leaders or “dons” who ensured the community’s loyalty to a specific political party through extortion and violence towards its residents. In return, these “dons” received financial rewards from the political party with which they were affiliated, and thus maintained a profound level of power within the community. Tivoli Gardens is one such garrison community. According to Rupert Lewis in “Party Politics in Jamaica and the Extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke”, “Some 20 per cent of all constituencies and approximately 60 per cent of all urban constituencies have already been fully or partially garrisoned. Within a political constituency, a garrison is an area controlled by a leader or don who dispenses scarce benefits and violence in order to keep the constituents aligned to a particular party. This control enables an electoral candidate to win the seat by a large majority and become the Member of Parliament. Garrisons are therefore a central part of the political system because they provide “safe” political seats. Moreover, garrison constituents may assist in the task of political mobilization in other constituencies. Tivoli Gardens has been the main symbol of a garrison, but it is one of several and was deemed special, largely because it was well-armed and organized, had its own mechanisms for dispensing justice, and was informally outside the purview of the state until May 2010. The extradition of Coke and the subordination of Tivoli Gardens to the rule of law are the first major assaults on garrison politics and the power of dons whose financial and gun power give them influence, putting them in a position to significantly determine the outcomes of both local and national politics.” (p.41). However, with over 70 civilians and 3 military personnel killed within a matter of days during The Tivoli Incursion, the country remains divided. Some argue that it was a regrettable but necessary cost to begin to promote rule of law in Jamaica and relinquish ties with drug lords. Others argue that rule of law cannot come at the expense of the civilian population, particularly a population that has been historically alienated and excluded from the wider Jamaican society due to classism and racial prejudice. 

[3] “Another parallel development in this process was the normalization of contracts to dons connected with both political parties. Under this structuring of politics, the Jamaican people saw their material, social, personal, and human life freedoms eroded as there was anemic economic growth, the rise of inequality, the escalation of the debt to GDP ratio of just under 140%, and the rise of the homicide rate to a high of 1,680 murders in 2009 (in a population of 2.7 million people. Rupert Lewis. “Party Politics in Jamaica and the Extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke”. The Global South p.43; 

[4] National Integrity Action. The Cost of Corruption: Jamaica’s Barrier to Prosperity