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Vybz Kartel's Biography: Early life, music, prison, life-threatening illness & 7 kids

Vybz Kartel's journey has been marred by controversy and legal troubles, most notably his arrest and subsequent conviction for murder in 2014

Vybz Kartel

In the world of dancehall music, one name has consistently echoed through the streets of Kingston Jamaica and beyond, leaving an indelible mark on the genre.

Vybz Kartel, born Adidja Azim Palmer on January 7, 1976, in Kingston, Jamaica, is a figure shrouded in as much controversy as he is celebrated for his musical genius.

From the vibrant dancehalls to a cell's confines, Kartel's journey is a complex tale of fame, family, and legal battles that have captivated fans and critics alike.

Among his various nicknames, he is referred to as Worl' Boss or Teacha


Kartel's musical journey began in his teenage years, with his first recording 'Love Fat Woman' released in 1993 under the moniker Adi Banton.

Inspired by the legendary Buju Banton, Kartel's early foray into music was a stepping stone that would lead him to become one of dancehall's most influential figures.

His education in music and literature at Calabar High School and later at a technical college provided him with a foundation that he would use to craft some of dancehall's most poignant and provocative lyrics.


By the early 2000s, Vybz Kartel had emerged as a prominent voice in dancehall, known for his lyrical dexterity and fearless commentary on social issues.

Hits like 'Clarks,' 'Ramping Shop,' and 'Summer Time' became anthems, cementing his status as the genre's king. His ability to traverse themes from love to socio-political commentary with unmatched skill made him a revered and controversial figure in equal measure.

A public feud between Kartel and former collaborator Mavado arose towards the end of 2006.

The feud resulted in numerous diss tracks released, in which each artist dissed the other and their associates over popular dancehall rhythms.


In a police-overseen press conference in March 2007, both Mavado and Vybz Kartel publicly announced an end to hostilities and apologized to fans.

However, by the summer of 2008, tensions flared with a renewal of "diss tracks" from each artist, and a lyrical clash between the two at Sting 2008 left mixed views as to the "winner".

Most of 2009 saw a continuation of the public feud, which dominated Jamaican media and, to a certain extent, Jamaican culture, with the two artists' factions, Gaza (Kartel) and Gully (Mavado), being adopted by Jamaican youth, in some cases leading to street violence.

On 8 December 2009, Kartel and Mavado met with the then Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding in an attempt to end the feud, which had by that time fueled mob attacks in some of the inner-city neighbourhoods of Kingston


Kartel's career took a dramatic turn in 2011 when he was arrested and charged with the murder of Clive "Lizard" Williams, an associate.

The case gripped the nation, with Kartel's trial becoming one of Jamaica's most high-profile legal battles. In 2014, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 35 years.

The allegations and subsequent conviction sparked widespread debate, with Kartel's fans rallying for his release, citing flaws in the legal process.


Throughout his incarceration, Kartel has maintained his innocence, and his legal team has made several attempts to appeal the conviction, albeit unsuccessfully.

However, in 2024, a successful appeal, heard by the Privy Council in London, argued that a juror accused of trying to bribe others should have been thrown off his trial.

The council therefore overturned Kartel's conviction of murder charges and it is not left to the Jamaican authorities to know whether the case will be retried.

The Privy Council serves as the highest court of appeal for Commonwealth countries.


According to reports, Kartel is suffering from an autoimmune disorder known as Graves’ disease which, coupled with two alleged heart conditions has been said to be life-threatening.

The condition has left his neck and face swollen with his legal team arguing that he should get proper treatment.

Even behind bars, Kartel's influence on dancehall has not waned. He has continued to release music from prison, including hits like "Fever" and "Any Weather," which have dominated the airwaves. His albums, released post-incarceration, have been critical and commercial successes, proving that not even prison walls can contain his musical genius.


Kartel's ability to remain relevant and influential despite his circumstances is a testament to his artistry. He has shaped the sound and direction of dancehall music, mentoring a new generation of artists and leaving an indelible mark on the genre.

Behind the scenes, Kartel's personal life has been as complex as his lyrics. A father to several children, he has tried to keep his family out of the spotlight, shielding them from the controversies that have marred his career.

Despite his tough exterior, those close to him have spoken about a man who is deeply committed to his family, showing a side of Kartel that seldom makes headlines.


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