MAVADO IN OAKLAND .. Oakland Local by Eric Arnold
July 31st, 2013
Mavado touch di crowd @NKC
What happens, however, when a ghetto youth is able to transform his life? Look no further than Mavado, who’s been called the Tupac of Jamaica. When Mavado first emerged in the mid-00s from the Kingston slums, he was an unrepentant outlaw, whose lyrics detailed dramatic tales of shootouts, retaliation, and vengeance, contrasted by spiritually-affirming musings on the meaning of life and death in a third-world country beset by violence and the proliferation of guns.
After rising to the top of the dancehall world, Mavado’s grim lyrics became much brighter as his outlook changed, veering toward positive topics like love and romance. Recent hits, like “Caribbean Girls,” “Settle Down (Destiny),” “Luv Me Girl,” “Take It,” and “Star Bwoy” were embraced by his fans, making the “Gully God” a bonafied sex symbol and celebrity.
Last Saturday, Mavado made his triumphant second appearance at Oakland’s New Karibbean City nightclub, which has become the Bay Area’s premier dancehall club, and a home to the local Caribbean community. As DJ Uni-T pointed out, Mavado usually plays for crowds of 5,000 or more in the islands, so to see him in NKC’s relatively intimate environs was a special treat.
Mavado @ NKC, 2013.
Emerging from the upstairs VIP section to the strains of his first hit, 2006’s “What Dem a Do,” Mavado proceeded to give a command performance, anchored by a wealth of hit material and a strong stage presence. For over an hour, he relentlessly worked the energetic crowd up into an electrified frenzy, eventually stripping down to a tank top and repeatedly reaching out to touch the hands of his faithful devotees. Even though he wasn’t backed by a band, his presence was so magnetic and arresting, few noticed or cared. His set peaked with “So Special,” a classic from 2009 whose inspirational lyrics speak of striving to overcome adversity, making a plea for humanity to “help poor people with dem bed pon block,” before declaring, “If you see a dutty heart you a go dead from that.”
To some degree, the same problems beset Oakland as Kingston – though it could be argued that gun violence is far worse in Jamaica. And to a certain extent, the same solutions apply, i.e., recognizing that ghetto youth everywhere should be given the chance to reach their fullest potential.