By Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
Ninja Man (back turned) and Vybz Kartel during their fight on stage. - File
Yesterday, we left off the Sting story with Isaiah Laing at 1994, when Garnet Silk was advertised but died before the concert. In 1995, Beres Hammond did Sting for the last time, the same year a clash anticipated between Beenie and Bounty did not materialise but Ninja and Cobra tangled. In January, 1996, there was a Sting, Part Two, show in MoBay, where the two put down nearly 15 minutes that Laing says "was something for everyone to see" and he calls a draw. There were skirmishes between Merciless and Bounty Killer in 1997 (on a night when Busta Rhymes made an impact). Then, in 2000, Merciless took on Ninja Man, Bounty and Beenie and won but lost the rematch the next year. In 2002, the Sting format was changed to the '10 Giants' and then came the 20th anniversary show.
Isaiah Laing: 2003 was our 20th anniversary now and there comes the 'passa passa' with Vybz Kartel bruck fight with Ninja Man, mash up me life, worst I have ever felt.
L: Yeah. Worst I have ever felt in my entire life.
L: Because we didn't expect something like this to happen on the stage, a real fight on the stage an him know me deh deh. Kartel is a man me bring (Laing points to a poster with a young Vybz Kartel's progress up the Sting poster rankings to a 'young giant' along with Assassin, Spice and Chuck Fendah in 2002). And he came the next year now and fight and disgrace the music. (Laing speaks about helping to secure Kartel after the show.) After that, he came back, begged his pardon and we said 'alright, we good'. Then, all of a sudden, he just started keeping wide
2004 now, we decided that we weren't going to put down the show. Because I had decided I wasn't going to bother going any further with the show.
STAR: You really were going to give it up?
L: It had me weak man! That is not what you want from the thing. It's reggae music and dancehall. We want to have the most positive dancehall show in the world. We don't need to have a show with people a fight. If we are clashing we clash and go bout we business. But you see the audience? If they could just stay out of the thing. Just listen some lyrics, accept defeat if you get defeat. No man, they don't take it like that. So we decided to build some artistes. That's how we came with the Magnificent 7. Turbulence mash up the thing. Turbulence go on wicked over there. Somebody said Turbulence gone with a piece of Sting and they don't know where he was going to put it. We promoted the show like it was them alone on it. People did not know that Capleton and those other people were on the show. We just highlighted the young people. So we got about 7,000 people and we ended up losing. We knew we were going to lose, so we cut back on the spending. But still every dollar that was spent that year was lost, but we anticipated that.
STAR: But these are people who would eventually rise.
L: Mmm hmm. (He goes through more Sting memories, with the early performances of Beenie Man, then Buju Banton and, last year, Mavado.) There comes the big one now, 2006, Buju Banton, the driver. That really bring back the spring inna de ting.
S: Buju was the one who really turn things.
L: Yeah, Buju. Bounty was hot, Beenie was hot, so we would always get a good show. Like in 1991, we had so many artistes that were big on their own. We had the Admiral, the Tiger, the Papa San, Ninja Man, Supercat. Almost everybody then on the show would pull a crowd, last year we had big names y'nuh, but we never really had a big song. We lost money last year. Mavado was there, but not big enough. Jah Cure too, but still didn't have the cutting edge we were looking for, like when Buju come with the one song, 'Driver'. Everybody wanted to come hear 'Driver'. When Buju's time came to work at 1:00 a.m., people run left them car, car light on, door open, just to see Buju's performance. We had to have guards go out and man people's car. The gate, is like they wanted to tear it down. People went on the rooftop to get tickets. Everybody wanted to go in one time. So what I had to do was hold back Buju for 20 minutes, let somebody else work, to ease off the pressure.
S: You think Sting lose it's sting last year?
L: I wouldn't say it lost its sting y'nuh. We tried our best to let the people come clean. And the more we try to let them come clean it's the dirtier it becomes. I got stung last year. (Laing speaks about matters of sponsorship.)
S: So, you think Sting get softer over the years?
L: Things kind of change and because of how things in the society stay People are getting hungrier and the angrier they become. So, some things that we normally do, we can't even do them. The clash vibes, we sort of want to cut it out. This year, the theme is back to basics. We really want to do a final clash. (There is a jolly laugh.) And what I would love to do, if I get sponsorship, I would love to bring the entrance fee back down to $999.
S: How much it was last year?
L: $2,000 at the gate, $1,500 pre-sold.
S: You still got a good crowd.
L: Yeah, we got a good crowd. But if everything is in my power this year I am going to bring it to $999 to give back to the people for 25 years of supporting me.
S: Who you want on the show this year, or it too early?
L: It sort of early, but I'm really looking to see if I could get Shabba Ranks and Supercat to come and bless back the thing. I would love to have the artistes who participated over the years to come through. Instead of having the early acts I'd rather start with them this year. Maybe a 10 or so really good young artistes, but I would rather work with Grindsman, Cutty Ranks.
S: The fight was your worst Sting moment. What was the best?
L: (laughing gleefully) Ninja Man and Supercat clash. I was at the back of the stage in the bleachers, the stage was facing the grandstand. I was watching from up the top when Ninja Man bus the crowd and you see the wave in the crowd look like the wave in the sea. You're looking at 40,000 people, everybody synchronised. Trust me, that was a very, very good feeling.
Next: We close our six-part interview with Isaiah Laing of Supreme Promotions as he gives his opinion on some prominent deejays.
( L - R ) Isaiah Laing, Buju Banton performs at Sting 2006. - Contributed