Fire good, gays bad

When the Jamaican dancehall artist Capleton was set to perform at Midtown nightclub Harlow’s this past Sunday, November 28, about 50 protesters stood in the bitter cold, on the sidewalk across J Street, waving signs denouncing hate speech.

Why? One protester, Midtown resident George Raya, said that Capleton’s music is hateful against homosexuals. “Hate speech is not free speech,” Raya said.

But are Capleton’s songs really homophobic? It’s hard to tell, because they’re in patois, which is akin to gibberish. So a lyric, such as the one from “More Prophet,” from the 2000 album More Fire, that goes, “Shoulda know seh Capleton bun battyman” could mean a variety of things. But according to my online Jamaican slang translator, it means, “You should know that Capleton burns queers.”


Here’s more:

Original: “Seh mi bun everything from mi know seh dem gay.”

Translated: “Say, I burn everything as long as I know that they’re gay.”

Original: “All boogaman and sodemites fi get killed.”

Translated: “All queers and sodomites should be killed.”

Jesus Christ, Capleton, really?

In a backhanded admission of guilt, Capleton even signed an agreement in 2007 saying that he’d stop using hateful lyrics in his songs. Did that stop him?

Let’s just say that he released the album Bun Friend in 2009 with a lot more fire.

Equality Action Now’s Ken Pierce said he tried to contact Harlow’s to get them to cancel the show, but hadn’t gotten a response.

Not a single word back,” he said. “I was very upfront with them, hoping they’d reconsider.”

In a written statement, a representative for Harlow’s said they canceled a Capleton show several years ago “due to similar protests,” but they “had far more e-mail supporting the band.” So, basically, the show would go on.

And it did.

In front of Harlow’s, on the other side of the street between 27th and 28th, some concertgoers watched the protest with a bit of disappointment.

One of them, Jaime Rose, explained that Capleton’s lyrics were simply taken out of context, that he’s not talking about physically burning gays—he’s talking about cleansing them.

“They’re being too sensitive,” Rose said, as he watched the protesters. When asked if he agreed that homosexuality is unclean, Rose paused.

Sodomy? Yeah, I do,” he said. “It’s not clean.”

As we walked to the car, my wife (a much better journalist than I) wondered aloud, “But I wonder if he has anal sex with girls.”

I smacked my forehead, “Damn, that’s a good question.”

As we drove away, I watched Rose standing there on the sidewalk in front of Harlow’s with his slumped shoulders, dreadlocks, bushy beard and dirty sweater. I slowed the car, trying to determine if he was the type of person who would have anal sex with a girl.