Dancehall heavyweight Vybz Kartel shows his vulnerable side in his latest EP, To Tanesha, which debuted on major platforms today. The 808-laced, 10-track set is dedicated to the mother of his children, Tanesha Johnson, and delineates the ebbs and flows of a long-term, on and off relationship.
Co-produced by Johnson’s Short Boss Muzik label and Kartel’s eponymous label, ‘the Teacha’ leaves his hardcore beats and explicit lyrics at the door, and instead taps into a softer side, as he sings primarily about the heartbreak he has experienced at the hands of love.
Far from a fairytale, this romance production starts with Neva Was Da One, a soft-pop joint which sets the tone for the listening experience ahead. Kartel, who had high hopes for a relationship, is left reflective and despondent after its demise. His love interest has moved on and he wishes her the best, adding, “I just want to be happy in my life, I just wanna have someone to love me.”
Vice President of Kartel’s Gaza Empire, Sikka Rymes appears on Delusional, which echoes the international and emotional feel of their last collaboration, Like I’m Superman, and could easily be as successful. The single bears the narrative of a woman at odds with love, wanting it today, rejecting it tomorrow, making the recipient feel like the ‘crazy one’ in this delusional disorder.
The emotional chaos ensues with the previously released Then You and Me, which details a tumultuous union hungry for revenge and wounded by deceit. Devastation is a recurring theme on the project, as evident on tracks like In Da Moment and Rocket to Da Moon. The latter is a trappy song which speaks about the slow process of healing from heartbreak. Kartel attempts to move on, getting a new boo thang whom he showers with luxury gifts, but still can’t help but watch the every move of his old flame.
“To Tanesha could be synopsized as a reflective piece from a man who has had time to bond with his thoughts and emotions”
On Makes No Sense, the partners (this features female artiste Slimatic) seem to accept the toxicity of their relationship. Slimatic wants out, but Kartel suggests rolling with the punches, using tenure and culminated experiences as reasons to give it another shot.
The idea of trying again perpetuates itself on the refreshing Jesse Royal collab, More Than You Receive. The single proposes starting a fresh page of healing and healthy love, on the condition of both parties being honest.
Never Walk Alone is another collaborative effort, which unfolds on a trappy beat (which makes sense as it features his son U.T.G and rapper Jodi Couture). It offers a Bonnie and Clyde, ride or die dynamic, which has often been said of Kartel and Johnson’s relationship.
The highly-anticipated collaborative effort with Jada Kingdom is packaged as Cast Iron Heart a conversation between disconnected lovers. The man is smitten with her, but she shrugs at the thought of being booed up, declaring that she is in the prime of her life and love isn’t on her agenda.
The song complements the last track, Fell Apart, where Kartel sings about being preoccupied with fame instead of being in love. The deejay, who broke on the scene in his late 20s, could be reflecting on how he regarded his relationship with Johnson at the time. Now 44, he offers a mature perspective, adding that he is trusting the universe, and if they are meant to be, they will be.
To Tanesha could be synopsized as a reflective piece from a man who has had time to bond with his thoughts and emotions, and recognise his wrongdoings and need for healing from a long-term relationship. It highlights the complexities of love and factors that can contribute to its ultimate ruin, but end on an upbeat note, declaring there is no love lost.
Kartel, whose given name is Adidja Palmer, is currently serving life in prison for a murder conviction. An appeal is currently before the court, and is said to be at an “advance[d] stage”.