Lyrical Assault: Dancehall Versus the Cultural Imperialism of the North-West

49 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2008

See all articles by Camille A Nelson

Camille A Nelson

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: October 20, 2008


This article examines Jamaican Dancehall music's implications and international perceptions and explores a possible legal remedy for what has been dubbed "Murder Music." The impact of Jamaican Dancehall, the equivalent of American Hip-Hop, its lyrics and history upon Jamaica and the North-West are put into context and interrogated through the lens of cultural studies. Homophobic lyrics have triggered international boycotts and bans of this music and its artists. Despite the fact that Dancehall lyrics are perceived as violent, anti gay, anti-women, and very masculinist, international condemnation is based exclusively upon the homophobic lyrics. This article analyzes the implications of this ban and situates the international response within a masculinist colonial context. Specifics issues discussed include whether the colonization of Jamaica and the codification of its "Offenses against the Person Act" play a role in the propagation of homophobic lyrics, and why it is that Jamaica was criticized as one of the "most homophobic places on earth," given the anti-same sex marriage backlash in the United States and the fact of extreme instances of homophobia in many countries. While this article condemns homophobic lyrics and suggests the discontinuation of their use, it situates Jamaican homophobia as a vestige of colonial prerogatives and urges the abandonment of homophobia as the right thing to do and as a post-colonial move towards true independence.

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Camille A, Lyrical Assault: Dancehall Versus the Cultural Imperialism of the North-West (October 20, 2008). Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, Vol. 17, p. 231, 2008, Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-04, Available at SSRN:

Camille A Nelson (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States


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