Dear Sweet Trinbago,
It is with deep remorse and in abject rejection of hate that I write to humbly ask your forgiveness.
Recently, as many of you may know, a video circulated virally on social media, in which I can be heard chanting hate-stained and violent lyrics that hold no place in the modern world of music. While there is no excuse for injecting even an iota of animosity into an atmosphere oversaturated with intolerance, I can only speak to my own misguided truth in order to illuminate why I chose to engage in this act.
As a maturing artiste, the sun is slowly setting on my renown in this industry, as it dawns on the new, fresh-blooded talent hoping to claim their space in this landscape. Though I hold no malice towards the youthful voices of tomorrow, I battle with a need to maintain a degree of relevance and dominance in an industry in which I was once a legacy. To do so requires creativity and dexterity of purpose that will see me transition from one stage of my career to another with seamless ease. However, it is in boldly forging new paths that I must remain ever-cognizant of the true impact my decisions will have. Yet, it is in this very domain where I have fallen tremendously short.
My most recent decision to augment my portfolio with homophobia is not one that can ever be justified or excused. For that, I am truly sorry. The use of derogatory slurs as social capital in an era where violence and hate are no longer the go-to cultural tropes is unacceptable. While I will admit that the lyrics were not my intellectual property, I cannot admit that I as much as winced when I saw them, or even that I felt a sense of guilt after having sung them. I even laughed as I stepped back from the mic. For that, I am ashamed. Failing to recognise the deleterious effect that my endorsement of these vile lyrics would have on my fans and to my wider contribution of cultural artefacts is a misstep that should never have occurred.
It is my honest hope that I remain forever committed to developing a legacy that is not tarnished by phobic attitudes, discrimination, violence, or intolerance. This blemish on my track record is one that may never be excised, but that I sincerely hope is one from which I can learn and grow.
I pray that for each of you whose favour I have lost, I can offer you recompense in my promise to do better. For those of you who have been personally affected by the pervasive culture of violence that takes lyrics like these and turns them into news stories, I hope that you are afforded justice.
To my Sweet Trinbago, I am truly sorry, and I hope that no dollar or cheque is ever worth more than my morality again.
––––– * * * –––––
Sigh! In 2019, one would hope that, in a nation where streets are glazed red with blood and homes are incubators of trauma, people are able to engage in more genuine introspection and less defensiveness when it comes to cries against violence. But considering this has not been a cultural norm, perhaps this expectation is too great. Hope nonetheless springs eternal. Despite Denise’s saucy refusal to come to an empowered and forthright recognition of her mistake, LGBTI activists have penned this letter which she can feel free to copy and paste to her own platforms, since issuing an apology seems to be too grandiose a task for her or her team to fulfil.
Denise may somehow have forgotten over two decades of protests against similar lyrics in dancehall music, the demonstrations outside venues, the cancelled concerts, the newspaper editorials, the revoked visas. She may not even have noticed the rekindling of robust conversations about this issue with Buju Banton’s release from prison. She has repeatedly justified her recording of Hold a b*ller and kill him, kill him, kill him as legitimate speech within Jamaican “soundclash culture.” But there is another culture that every Trinbagonian of Denise’s generation is much more deeply familiar with. It is the tradition of pelting the stage with a roll of paper when a performer who sings something deserving of the toiletry comes on.
So if you in a fete this Carnival season, and you see Saucy come on the stage, and you done pay your money and can’t get it back, feel free to extend her some real Trinbagonian culture, nah.
She can’t vex: is culture.
—with Élysse Marcellin