Jamaica Just Banned Music About Drugs and Crime on the Radio

“Good thing we don’t need radio anymore. I can’t remember last royalties they paid me. YouTube d ting Deh anyway,” said one musician.
Jamaican musicians Tanya Stephens and KC Jockey at an event in Radio City Music Hall in New York, United States. Stephens has questioned the ban on some types of music on the radio in Jamaica. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

Musicians in Jamaica are outraged after the country’s broadcasting regulator announced a new ban on content that glorifies drugs and crime.

The Jamaican Broadcasting Commission said in a statement released Tuesday that the ban reinforces their commitment to “keeping the airwaves free of harmful content given the important role traditional media still play as agents of socialisation.”


Jamaica regularly ranks as one of the deadliest country’s per capita in the Americas and is rife with gang violence. 

“The use of the public airwaves to broadcast songs that promote/glorify illegal activity could give the wrong impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society,” the statement said. “It could also unwittingly lend support to moral disengagement and further normalise criminality among vulnerable and impressionable youth, and the young adult demographic.”

The ban, which does not apply to digital content platforms, prompted instant backlash from many of Jamaica’s most prominent musicians.

Romeich, a Jamaican musician and entertainment executive, took to social media to question the ban.

“While I understand why people feel like this and even I don’t agree with glorifying guns or any use of any drug at all, we can’t stop the creatives (artistes) from singing about what they see around them or grew around,” Romeich wrote on Instagram. “Are you going to ban Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud and other platforms where the same people have the same access to the same songs?”

In the comments, another Jamaican musician known as Rvssian replied that “This is crazy lol. Let’s just ask them to write the songs too.”  

“Good thing we don’t need radio anymore. I can’t remember last royalties they paid me. YouTube d ting Deh anyway,” he wrote.


The broadcasting regulators defined the ban as targeting lyrics that promote or glorify crimes like “scamming, the use of illegal drugs, use of guns and other offensive weapons to perpetrate harmful/illegal actions, and jungle justice.”

“Jungle justice” is a common phrase used in Jamaica and other countries to refer to retribution or vigilante justice, often carried out by angry mobs.

This isn’t the first time Jamaica has attempted to censor its local music industry. In 2009, the broadcasting regulators banned sexually explicit lyrics, but the sanctions have rarely been enforced over the years. Other countries have also dabbled in banning controversial music. In Mexico, various cities and states have attempted bans or regulations on the popular narcocorrido genre that churns out ballads dedicated to drug traffickers, but has similarly failed to stop its widespread popularity.

Legendary Jamaican reggae artist Tanya Stephens wrote an op-ed in the local Jamaica Observer newspaper following the ban, and noted how similar attempts have failed in the past.

“Every single time there is great pressure to curb crime or antisocial behaviour some of these very same unchanging heads meet again and roll out the same archaic ban as a 'measure,’” Stephens wrote. “If banning worked, why is there so much more music designated to be banned now?”


She suggested that instead crime and antisocial behavior should be addressed with "critical thinking and honest conversation.”

Other musicians seem unphased by the ban.

Skeng, a popular rapper who recently collaborated with Nicki Minaj, has racked up tens of millions of views on YouTube with his tracks about the streets of Jamaica like “Gvnman Shift” and “Gang Bang.” After news of the ban, Skeng tweeted a yawn emoji with a 21 second clip from his track “Rain Like Hell.” 

In the video he raps while smoking a joint: “Real gunman, we run the island. Me Skeng don, me sing the gun song. And mе rеally don’t care who like mе entrance.”

The Jamaica Broadcasting Commission did not respond to requests for comment by VICE World News, or provide details about how the ban will be enforced, and what punishments offenders will receive.