Rude Boy Culture in Dancehall

From the emergence of the rude boy culture and way of life in Jamaica in the 1960’s, the bad boy motif has never escaped the musical landscape and was in fact propelled to new heights with the of entrance of dancehall onto the main stage. The badman image and behaviour was sustained with the rise of musical giants such as Ninjaman and Super Cat, who were in fact “ghetto youths” who had began to make an earning off of the ills of their poverty stricken childhood and the hard knock life which made them who they are.

The lyrical themes in dancehall were for the most part a stunning departure from the context of Ska and Reggae and the likes of Toots & the Maytals and The Wailers who dealt with social consciousness by using witty and at times charming or even rebellious lyrics in a a poetically multidimensional way. Dancehall was raw, undiluted and geared specifically towards Jamaica’s underprivileged classes.

Out of the sound of the poor a champion emerged the rude boy or don, who would protect them from the sicknesses of the stratified society. They were the ones who would protect them from abuse by police, protect them from robbers and extortionist and be their collective voice when dealing with corrupt members of parliament (MP). The love and admiration for the area leader who often was a ‘badman’ manifested itself in dancehall when artiste and patrons alike celebrated dons and badmans and threw the politicians who divide and rule under the bus.

However everything has its goods and bads, and for Jamaica the bad is we currently have the masses having no trust or tolerance for police, politicians or even civil servants at large. The many who reside in the “ghetto” see the local don/dadz as their only true friend, the only one they can trust, and the only one they can feel safe around. Ironically the area leader rules his turf with an iron fist and anyone from the community who crosses him will most likely be killed and his family driven out because of fear.

Jamaica we are at 50 years of “self rule” (with the descendent of the ones who facilitated slavery as the head of state) we cannot let our children and grand children grow and live in such circumstances.


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