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Bad boy Killer is unlikely mentor

Bounty Killer is the dancehall maestro known not just for his amazing lyrical ability and ability to work his audiences into a frenzy, he is also renowned for nurturing talent.

The 45-year-old Jamaican was last month honoured at the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association Awards for his extraordinary impact on the reggae industry through mentorship. Those he has helped become stars include Mavado, Vybz Kartel, Busy Signal, Wayne Marshall, and Baby Cham.

Killer told the audience gathered at the Courtleigh Auditorium in Kingston that he was humbled by the recognition.

He said: "This is something different for me", adding that it was never his aim to become a mentor. "This award is bigger than my Grammy to me because this is for helping my peers, not my own career. This is a togetherness award, and this is for all of us - all of who I have helped over the years from the Scare Dem to the Alliance to the ANG."

Killer was born Rodney Basil Price on June 12, 1972. A career in music was inevitable as he grew up in Kingston hearing music on the Black Scorpio sound system his father owned.

At the age of 14, he was shot by a stray bullet during a gunfight between rival political factions, and while convalescing in hospital he decided on the name Bounty Killer.

Before his entry into the dancehall industry, Killer was in the retail industry as an entrepreneur selling figurines. He was encouraged to record at King Jammy's studio in Kingston. One of his first tunes was the ‘Coppershot’ which Jammy was unwilling to release due to how it glorified gun culture. Jammy's brother Uncle T disagreed and released the single himself.

In 1993, Price performed at Sting, held in Portmore, Jamaica every Boxing Day, where he had a high-profile clash with fellow deejay Beenie Man. The rivalry continued for years with both accusing the other of various slights. They eventually settled their differences after both realised the negative effect their feud was having on the industry. He has also had heated rivalries throughout his career with several stellar deejays, including Merciless and Vybz Kartel.

Killer increased control over his career in 1995 by leaving Jammy and setting up his own Scare Dem Productions company and Priceless Records label.

During the 1990s, Killer voiced for several producers and labels in Jamaica, releasing songs such as ‘Defend the Poor’, ‘Mama’, ‘Book, Book, Book’, ‘Babylon System’ and ‘Down in the Ghetto’. Killer’s fame spread internationally through recording with artists like Busta Rhymes, No Doubt, The Fugees, Wyclef Jean, Mobb Deep, Capone-N-Noreaga, Swizz Beatz and AZ.

Killer began releasing albums, with four released in 1994. His 1996 album My Xperience was hugely successful, spending six months on the Billboard reggae chart.

In 1997, Bounty Killer made a cover version of the Rose Royce hit single ‘Love Don't Live Here Anymore’ with Swedish singer Robyn which was a success in the Caribbean. It was featured in the Sean Penn film She's So Lovely.

Killer has scorned popular rap, which he’s called "embarrassing to reggae," even when collaborating with Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and others he considers hardcore.

In 2002, a collaboration with No Doubt, ‘Hey Baby’, won Bounty Killer his first Grammy Award, for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a duo or group. The win made Killer one of the few hardcore dancehall artists to win a Grammy. ‘Hey Baby’ also sold over a million copies making it Killer's first single to go platinum.

In 2003, Killer cancelled two of his concerts after the gay rights magazine Outrage! petitioned Scotland Yard for his arrest, claiming songs about assaulting gays would incite harassment against the gay community. He returned in 2006 after a three-year hiatus, performing uncensored lyrics at several venues without recrimination. He has since directed his focus to social commentary and party lyrics, admitting that he will not pay attention to nor attack the gay community in his music.

In 2014 Bounty Killer and long-term rival Beenie Man put aside their differences and recorded a single together, ‘Legendary’. A huge deal was made of this in the Jamaican media because their bitter rivalry had been such an issue for so long.

Killer’s bad boy image has been enhanced by brushes with the law including being arrested in June 2006 and charged with assaulting the mother of his child. According to the Jamaica Star: "The complainant was allegedly punched in the face several times, dragged some distance away and her head slammed into a wall."

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