Dear people who used to love me,
Sometimes your love is misguided. Be open to that possibility! Don't use your love to hold me captive. If I drink water do not fight with me to replace it with champagne. Stop prescribing things for me because you think that's what you would want if you were me, and definitely stop trying to limit the topics I'm allowed to discuss based on a character you created in your head and ascribed to me to justify trying to rob me of my right to free speech.
These Streets: a pop/hip hop song recorded on a beat made by a Swedish man, which unconventionally promotes family values and asks men to become active participants in their home life.
What A Day: an acoustic ballad recorded on a naked guitar track made by a Jamaican in Kingston, which laments the disparity between social groups separated by race, class and economy.
It's A Pity: a roots-reggae ballad recorded on a German remake of a Jamaican classic and discusses the complexities of monogamy/lust in the mind of a mature responsible individual.
Little White Lie: a ballad, which falls in a gray space between pop and lovers' rock reggae, recorded on a beat made by a Jamaican who grew up in the US and explores the usually undiscussed aspects of the infamous 'jacket' (child given to a man who didn't contribute the sperm which created him/her).
Me And Me God: a roots-reggae rhythm remade by Jamaicans, which expounds on my right to do with my body whatever I see fit. Poetic licence was invoked, and I explained to those who judged based on belief in a deity that only the deity had the 'right' to judge. I had not yet publicly declared my atheism, but I made it clear every chance I got that I was not religious.
Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis, Goggle, Draw Fi Mi Finger, and Touch Me No More: these all discuss the inadequacies of many men in a misogynistic society in which men are dishonestly portrayed as having a comically grotesque libido and inhuman infinite sexual prowess.
No Means No: a song examining one facet of the post-rape thought process, which I find to be missing from most public conversations.
Do You Still Care: a song inviting us to take a more pragmatic approach to human differences using examples of homophobia and racism.
You Keep Looking Up: an anti-religion reggae song giving praise to the collective, the universe, and expressing acceptance of those rejected by the masses.
The Other Cheek: an acoustic song rejecting corrupt politicians and reflecting the very audible cries of the masses who are suffering.
Think It Over: a more primitive expression of anti-teenage pregnancy, which I shall revisit with more diplomacy.
Turn It Up: dancehall song speaking favourably about voyeurism and polyamory.
Take Good Care Of My Man: a song promoting polyamory (amusingly copied by one of my biggest critics).
Politics; religion; sexuality; intimacy from every perspective; relationships and the effects on family; lack of economic opportunities and its effect on opportunistic crimes; and misogyny, along with a plethora of other significant issues are discussed on beats from every musical genre.
I have never been or have ever had a desire to be loved by everyone to the detriment of my character. Anyone with half a brain can understand why.
I exist and have excelled outside the dancehall city limits. If you ever loved me like you keep insisting you do, then allow me the right to an opinion. That is the only thing you can possibly know me for. It's in my music and every other piece of writing I have ever done.
Challenge and school me with facts, and if you have none of those, please, step aside and allow someone who does to engage respectfully.
If the people we elect to govern our country put measures in place which will affect us all, I am entitled to an opinion on them.
The irony is that when I was supporting the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and criticised the People's National Party (PNP) under then Prime Minister PJ Patterson there was never any aggressive backlash from the PNP. Even avid PNP supporters applauded or criticised based on the content of the song.
Fast-forward to less than two decades later and the same members of the JLP who were cheering on my “unbiased” views are now screaming bloody murder when I apply the exact principle to Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
What is it that changed? Is it the “Brogad” he appropriated from dancehall artiste Daddy One which has people thinking he is above reproach? How can a public servant not be obligated to answer to the public? And how am I less entitled to a voice in matters of national importance?
To all the people hell-bent on turning national conversations into a monologue, I'm reclaiming my time, as should all of us.
— Tanya Stephens is an international singer/songwriter and citizen of Jamaica.