One of the most influential deejays of the 90s, who went from Trenchtown to the Superbowl, being one of the most successful influential dancehall deejays of all time and bringing into dancehall some of today’s most influential names, introducing the world to Vybz Kartel and Mavado.
Born Rodney Price in the Kingston ghetto of Trenchtown on the 12th of June 1972, Bounty was one of nine children and spent much of his childhood in Riverton City, another ghetto in Kingston, before moving to Seaview Gardens later in his childhood.
Bounty’s father owned a sound system in Kingston and Bounty first tried his hand at deejaying at age nine.
At 14, Bounty also fell victim to the gun violence which would later become the focus of much of his music, Bounty was hit by a stray bullet on his way home from school. Whilst in hospital recovering from his injuries it is said he came up with his original name Bounty Hunter.
Upon release from hospital, Bounty increased his performances with sound systems across Kingston, performing with sound systems like Metromedia, Bodyguard and Stereo Two. At this time, he began hanging around King Jammy’s recording studio. Eventually, he met Jammy’s brother Uncle T, who produced his first recordings in 1990 .
Bounty had his first hit whilst still working under the name Bounty Hunter with his track ‘Dub Fi Dub’ becoming a huge dancehall hit as a soundsytem dubplate, which introduced the world to the aggressive style that would soon become his trademark.
Soon after the release of ‘Dub Fi Dub’, Bounty changed his name to Bounty Killer and began to start increasing the confrontational and violent nature of his lyrics.
1992, was Bounty’s breakout year, with the release of several hit singles from the deejay including ‘Copper Shot’, which became an underground hit in New York, and ‘Spy Fi Die’.
‘Copper Shot’ was a controversial single due to the nature of the lyrics, as they were seen to be glorifying gun culture, something which initially put off King Jammy from releasing the song, however, Uncle T disagreed and released the single himself.
1992 also saw the release of ‘Guns Out’, ‘New Gun’, ‘Kill Fi Fun’, ‘Gunshot Fi Informer’ and ‘Lodge’, many of which would later appear on Bounty’s debut album ‘Jamaica’s Most Wanted’ which was released in 1993.
‘Jamaica’s Most Wanted’ went on to be released internationally under the name ‘Roots, Reality and Culture’, after a socially conscious hit Bounty had in 1994.
1993, also saw the birth of the legendary feud between Bounty and Beenie Man, with the two clashing at Sting, which has since become one of the most iconic moments to have ever happened at the festival. Both claimed the other as an imitator, and would take their battle to the 1994 clash album ‘Guns Out’. This rivalry would continue throughout the 90s.
With the Jamaican government beginning to crack down on violent lyrics in live performances, Bounty began to include more elements into his music adding more streetwise social commentary, which spawned the legendary ‘Down in the Ghetto’.
1995, saw Bounty Killer have great success as a hitmaker in Jamaica, releasing hit record after hit record, first came a smash duet ‘Searching’ with Sanchez, the hip-hop flavoured ‘Cellular Phone’, ‘Smoke the Herb’, ‘Not Another Word, which spoke out about increasing censorship in dancehall, ‘Mama’, ‘Miss Ivy Last Son’, ‘Action Speak Louder Than Words’, ‘Book, Book, Book’ and ‘No Argument’, Bounty was becoming one of the most talked about names in dancehall. 1995 also saw a true between Bounty Killer and Beenie Man coming into force, although it this feud would often flare up at concerts or on records it would remain relatively calm.
In 1996, Bounty Killer released what many see as his career defining album, the 20 track double album ‘My Xperience’, which featured several of his past hits, but also saw the deejay feature American hip hop stars on the album, with the Fugees, Raekwon, Busta Rhymes and Jeru the Damaja, all featuring, as well as veteran reggae stars Barrington Levy and Dennis Brown.
The single ‘Hip Hopera’ made the American charts peaking at 81 and the album sold well amid strong reviews reaching the Top 30 of the R&B chart and ranking as one of the best selling reggae albums of the year.
Bounty followed this with the British release ‘Ghetto Gramma’ in 1997 and spent time working with producer Jazzwad. ‘Ghetto Gramma’ focused more on his Jamaican audience opposed to ‘My Xperience’ which had given him a name in US Hip Hop circles, with tracks like ‘Ancient Day Killing’ really showing the deejays return to more traditionally Jamaican elements of dancehall.
1998 saw the release of another high profile, guest laden album from Bounty, titled ‘Next Millennium’ featuring yet another generation of hardcore New York based rappers, including Noreaga, Mobb Deep, Killah Priest, and the Cocoa Brovaz. The single ‘Deadly Zone’ off the album was featured on the soundtrack of Blade and made the top ten on the rap singles chart in America.
Bounty’s follow up album the 5th Element which came out in 1999, saw a return again to a more traditional dancehall style, with standouts such as the Dave Kelly produced ‘Anytime’ being quite far removed from his work on ‘Next Millennium’ and ‘My Xperience’.
In late 2001, Bounty made a prominent guest appearance on No Doubt’s smash hit ‘Hey Baby’ appearing in the video and performing with the group during their Superbowl pregame performance. In 2002, this single went on to win the Grammy for ‘Best Pop Performance by a duo or group’, making Bounty one of very few hardcore dancehall artists to win a Grammy. ‘Hey Baby’ was also Bounty’s only single to ever go platinum.
Bounty was heavily criticised by his peers in Jamaica for appearing in the single, so in early 2002, Bounty geared up his two volume ‘Ghetto Dictionary’, which was issued separately and simultaneously with ‘Ghetto Dictionary: The Art of War’ and ‘Ghetto Dictionary: The Mystery’, these albums mixed previously released singles with new firm, raw and hardcore dancehall that had originally defined the deejay. ‘The Mystery’ went on to be nominated for a Grammy for best Reggae album.
Later in 2002, Bounty returned to working with the hip hop community and guested on hip hop producer Swizz Beatz’ solo debut album, ‘G.H.E.T.T.O Stories’ featuring on the single ‘Guilty’.
2006 saw Bounty release the compilation ‘Nah No Mercy- The Warlord Scrolls’. Since 2006, Bounty has remained active in the dancehall scene leading the Alliance, which helped to introduce artists like Vybz Kartel, Mavado and Elephant Man. Bounty’s feud with Beenie Man has also resurfaced several times over the years, with the most notable clash happening over the ‘Show Off Riddim’ in 2006, with Beenie and Bounty exchanging legendary diss tracks ‘Bulletproof Vest’ and ‘Bulletproof Skin’.
In 2014, Bounty and Beenie called quits on their over 20 year old feud, recording the single ‘Legendary’ together.
Bounty Killer is one of the most influential artists of the 90s and really changed the direction of dancehall and helped to expose the genre to a much audience. Although, Bounty Killer’s lyrics surrounding both gun culture and homophobia, can not be condoned, Bounty Killer’s lyricism has always stood out throughout his career and really placed him as a leader in dancehall, who has had such an influence on the careers of so many deejay’s, most notably the influence he has had on both Mavado and Vybz Kartel, his former protégés. Bounty Killer’s career helped to cement dancehall’s position in popular culture today and the whole genre can only be thankful to the work he put in to create links with hip hop community and introduce new fans to dancehall.
Check out some of the highlights of Bounty’s career on the Spotify playlist below.