SIX weeks after he and his son were granted bail on a murder charge, deejay Ninjaman says it is time he finally takes stock of his life.
The 46-year-old, who had been in custody for nearly three years, is arguably the most controversial dancehall act ever, and that takes some doing. This week, in an interview with Splash, Ninjaman addressed several issues including his controversial life and the state of dancehall music.
“Reggae/dancehall music is dead. As a matter of fact it is holding on to a tiny string,” he declared.
“The persons who are responsible for the downfall of it are the artistes and producers who are shortchanging it.” According to Ninjaman, producers are no longer spending time on nurturing an artiste’s career. They are more interested in building ‘riddims’ in order to earn quick cash.
Splash caught up with the “Grandad Don Gorgon” at Q 45 recording studio in Kingston. Ninjaman, whose real name is Desmond Ballentine, was granted bail on March 23. The entertainer and his son Janiel were charged along with Dennis Clayton and Seymour Samuels for the 2009 murder of Ricardo ‘Rickey Trooper’ Johnson.
How much has Ninjaman changed since his incarnation?
He says being away from society has not only affected him and his family, but provided him with an opportunity for introspection.
“It gives me time to reflect on the obstacles that I have to face in life, and think of a solution to improve, not only the life of myself and family, but that of the entire society,” he said.
During the interview with Splash, Ninjaman appeared calm, his head tied with a Japanese headband — Hachimaki — revealing his processed hair. He says he is often misunderstood and has been a victim of unwarranted criticism.
“The Almighty is a great God and he makes me into who I am today. He doesn’t find any fault with me or else I would be dead already,” he reasoned. “I am just not the type of person who does things because someone tells me… I refuse to be pushed around, therefore some people will always misjudge me.”
Since his release, Ninjaman has released three songs. Deh Ah Road Again, a collaboration with Kiprich, Grill Fly with General B and a solo effort Ninja. He said his aim is to record positive music and lead a movement of awareness among contemporary dancehall acts.
“A hip-hop or R&B artiste can release one single and earn millions. We on the other hand make numerous albums and barely earn a cent,” he said. “We are doing something wrong. We can’t expect to do the same things and get different results. No longer are artistes concentrating on carrying on the legacy that Bob Marley left.”
The St Mary-born Ninjaman emerged on the entertainment scene almost 30 years ago. His controversial pro-gun lyrics earned him the label ‘Gold Teeth Don Gorgon’ of dancehall. His hit songs such as Murder Dem, Permit to Bury and Above the Law reinforced his image as ‘dancehall’s rudeboy’.
In the early 1990s, he became notorious for his lyrical clashes at the annual Sting show with Super cat and Flourgon, and later Merciless and Vybz Kartel.
In 1997, he changed his moniker to ‘Brother Desmond’, got baptised and started performing reggae gospel songs. He also attempted to fight his well-publicised addiction to crack/cocaine. If found guilty of murder, ninjaman faces a lengthy prison sentence. It would be his second sentence, having served a one-year term for unlawfull possession for firearm and ammunition in late 1999.
Despite facing another obstacle in what has been a challenging life, ninjaman is undaunted.
“They will not break my spirit as I still have lots more to offer to the world,” he said.
By Simone Morgan