The selected artist for this critical argument is Mr. Vegas and his dancehall music reinforces stereotypes. The real name of Mr. Vegas is Clifford Smith. Born in the year 1974, Mr. Vegas obtained his artist’s name while in school from his football friends thinking that he resembled a Las Vegas Dancer while kicking the ball (JEI Network, 2014). Mr. Vegas is one of the well-known Jamaican artists for his dancehall music. Coming up and hitting with tracks such as the ‘Jack It up,’ ‘Hot Gal Today’ ‘Yu Sure,’ ‘Latest News,’ ‘Who Am I,’ and ‘Nike Air,’ and ‘Heads High,’ among others. Mr. Vegas dancehall music emphasizes on the stereotypes of gender and sexuality. After listening to the different songs of Mr. Vegas, many of them talk about women and men and how they are portrayed or should be taken in the society.
A stereotype is an image or idea that is widely held by people towards others, an individual or something (Bordalo, Coffman, Gennaioli, & Sheifer, 2015). Most of the times, stereotypes are inaccurate and exaggerating the description of what is being described. Blum (2004) defines stereotype as a false and misleading generalization about groups that are held in a way that people in the society can regard them as true. They majorly cover race, political groups, gender, sexuality, demographic groups, and activities. Thinking in terms of stereotypes entails overreacting towards information that is said to confirm a stereotype or under reacting towards information that is in contradiction to that stereotype. The effect of stereotype is to change the details of the most particular characteristics of a group or person.
Mr. Vegas Dancehall Music and Stereotypes
In his dancehall music, Mr. Vegas puts more emphasis on the stereotypes of gender and sexuality. Gender refers to those connotations and values that are socially given to a person or a group of people because of being a man or a woman. It is a socially constructed meaning that changes depending on the social as well as cultural background (Walker, 2016). Men and women alike are used to portray these stereotypical characteristics in Mr. Vegas dancehall music.
One of the attributes that Mr. Vegas gives to the female gender is that of an ideal lady. Mr. Vegas describes an ‘ideal’ woman as one with a “good body girl that can dance/whine” in the “Dancehall Queen” track. In another song, the “She’s a Ho” the artist, Mr. Vegas is seen presenting women as easy to manipulate and can be used by men the way they want. In this song, Mr. Vegas listed a number of characteristics that make a woman a ‘Ho.’ This type of a lady is one who can sleep with men only once and not caring. She will engage in sexual relationships with married men and not valued in her community. The stereotypical traits of a woman who is a ‘Ho’ in “She’s a Ho” song by Mr. Vegas present women as treacherous people whose work is to make males weak. The name “dancehall queen,” in the song describes a female as a seductive person and one who utilizes her sexuality for the purpose of attracting men with the intention of weakening their masculinity.
Just like Olsen and Gould (2008) describe dancehall music as lyrics that are sexually explicit, Mr. Vegas did confirm this aspect in his dancehall music. It is homophobic that displays men and women in couplings that are contested and mirroring sexuality as a tool for obtaining socioeconomic power. For example, Mr. Vegas dancehall music, “Cocky She Want,” disturbs the moral etiquette where the counsel of love betrays gender roles that are crucial to the society. Mr. Vegas dancehall music also mirrors the cultural love maps of Jamaica whereby women were portrayed as the cause of immorality because of their influence on men to engaging in sexual activities.
According to Walker (2016), Mr. Vegas dancehall music, “Man a Gallis” song, man is stereotyped as naturally promiscuous because having many women for one man is not an issue. However, women with many sex partners are regarded as a tool for pleasing men. In this case, women are treated as commodities/goods. In this song, men are stereotypically glorified as having many female partners. The hit song gives the notion that monogamy is only a myth. In reality, men have multiple women in their lives. Here, men are portrayed as superior to women and having the authority to pursue as many females as one would like. Living a promiscuous life as a man is not a big deal in the Jamaican society, unlike women who are negatively portrayed as loose when they have multiple partners. According to Hope (2011), in Jamaica, a ‘real man’ is must have intimate relationships with multiple women as a way of displaying his masculinity as affirmed by the ability to fertilize, produce, and virility. Monogamous men are not viewed as masculine as their counterparts. They are seen as weak and old fashioned. Mr. Vegas dancehall music denounces such men and describes them as not utilizing their masculinity.
In Mr. Vegas dancehall music, women are stereotyped as commodities of achieving sexual pleasure (Walker, 2016). In lyric such as “Bounce Bout” of 1998, women are reduced to the responsibility of only remaining submissive to men. Women who want to compete with men, for example by joining activist groups are portrayed as losing their status in the society. Ladies are portrayed as people who should be below men all the time and should not challenge the male gender, not in any way. In many of his music, Mr. Vegas shows women who can “dance” as attractive. As earlier discussed, this is the ‘ideal’ woman that the artist describes in his dancehall music. Usually, Mr. Vegas songs paint women as sex crazed, deceitful, and duplicitous. When the songs describe men in these same characteristics, it is not seen as a taboo but something that a male should be praised. In fact, to men, these traits are demonstrated as positive masculine characteristics that they should have. Having many women conquests as one would like is an ideal character for a Jamaican man. In this case, men can be violent if they want to or if the need arises and for the oppression of women.
Gender and sexual stereotypes depicted in Mr. Vegas dancehall music are not always true about women. In fact, these stereotypes portray women in the Jamaican culture inaccurately. Women are not weak as the songs demonstrate. Salim (2016) call it the problem of dancehall music which emphasizes on gender stereotypes such as women only being companions for men, giving care to males, and fulfilling their demands. The attributes of women portrayed by Mr. Vegas in his music are far from reality for many of the women in the Jamaican culture. In reality, an ideal woman cannot be one that knows how to “dance” as Mr. Vegas describes her in his music. An ideal woman has quality attributes that make one valued in the society such as integrity, good personality, confident, and ambitious. In Jamaican culture, an ideal woman is not revealed by being able to “dance” but a person, who cares, listens, can keep the house, and is strong.
To stop gender and sexual stereotypes in dancehall music, there is the need for altering their representation and begin producing songs that are acceptable to all genders. Here, gender inequality should be highly contested in music and especially in Jamaican dancehall music as represented by the songs of Mr. Vegas. Women in the society are still suffering because of being degraded by men when stereotypes are created in music. It is recommended that musical artists join in advocating for gender equality that values women just as men. There is the need for becoming more gender-conscious so as to eliminate these stereotypes in dancehall music and among other ones.
In his dancehall music, Mr. Vegas portrays stereotypes of gender and sexuality. Men and women are presented as having particular characteristics that define them in the society. Women are presented as sexual objects, submissive and generally as the weaker sex. As seen in the discussion, dancehall music portrays women as not worthy respect like the male gender. Men are encouraged to remain above women and if need be, they can mistreat them. These are stereotypes that guide children as they grow in the society. It is by knowing these stereotypes that make girls grow knowing that they must subject to men and boys grow as assertive and strong men.