Katt Williams certainly set the tone for 2024. Less than a week after the Emmy-winning comedian fired shots at peers such as Rickey Smiley and Tyler Perry on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast, two of contemporary dancehall’s leading ladies launched their own lyrical battle.
Funnily enough, the two major January dancehall clashes — Jada Kingdom v. Stefflon Don and Teejay v. Valiant — center around the two biggest dancehall crossover smashes of 2023: Teejay & DJ Mac’s “Drift” and Byron Messia & Burna Boy‘s “Talibans II.” Thankfully, both clashes were kept on wax, as all artists involved participated in the battles for fans’ entertainment and the greater dancehall culture over anything else.
“This is dancehall music, and once it is [a] lyrical battle, I am down for it,” Teejay told DancehallMag. “Nothing violent; nothing out of the studio, nothing outrageous… just music, and if it seems like it’s getting too far, I will definitely wrap this up, because you know we have to get back to the money at times— that’s the bigger picture… for now, we have to just entertain people but nothing serious. I don’t know about the next side, but on my side I am positively sure that it is just music.”
While the hip-hop world is frenzied with haphazard rap beefs peppered with days of spiraling in lieu of actual good music, dancehall’s clash culture is still going strong and further emphasizing the global reach of this iteration of the genre — especially considering how much these battles dominated online conversations in January. If you’re not already familiar with the details, here’s a primer on both of them.
Jada Kingdom v. Stefflon Don
As the old saying goes: Think of the messiest person you know. It’s a man, ain’t it?
At the eye of the hurricane that was Jada Kingdom and Stefflon Don’s five-song clash lies Grammy-winning Afrobeats crossover star Burna Boy. The “Last Last” singer is an ex of Stefflon Don’s, and once pictures of Jada and him started making the rounds on social media, tensions began to rise. Before the ladies took it to the booth, Steff threw some vague Instagram Story shade that she later clarified as directed towards her former managers. The “Hurtin Me” singer would soon throw more shade that eventually sparked the first track in her clash with Kingdom.
Before that moment, however, Burna’s remix of Byron Messia’s breakout hit, “Talibans,” hit the airwaves. In verse three of the song — which hit No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 — Burna croons, “All of the best pumpum deh yah Kingston/ So me buy a Birkin fi Jada Kingdom.” Burna wasn’t just bragging about his new fling; the line is also a play on the “You gon need a Birkin if you wanna show me off” lyric from Jada’s “Turn Me On” (with The 9ine).
By autumn, Jada — also known as Twinkle — was seen with Pardison Fontaine, Grammy-winning songwriter and former beau of Megan Thee Stallion. But with the rumor mill swirling about a December reconciliation between Steff and Burna, the timeline between the two flings started to look a bit funky.
Naturally, months of tension gave way to Steff putting her feelings to wax. At the top of the new year, the award-winning Brit shared a teaser of a new song on Rvssian’s “Dutty Money” riddim, in which she threatens to “box” an unspecified woman who messed with her man. In total bad gyal realness, Jada not only confirmed a casual fling with Burna Boy, but she also pressed Steff to clarify just who was going to get boxed. After a bit more back and forth, Steff’s “Dat a Dat” arrived and the clash ensued, eventually ending after two tracks from Jada and three from Steff.
“For everyone who’s saying ‘war start’, war jus done! Well, for me that is,” Jada Kingdom wrote in an Instagram Story (Jan. 9). “I’m in a happy and healthy relationship now, I won’t be prolonging this nonsense.”
Teejay v. Valiant
Teejay & DJ Mac’s “Drift” was one of the defining global hits of 2023 — and debate over which artist is more responsible for the song’s success is the basis of this clash. During an Instagram Live a few months ago, Teejay blasted Mac for allegedly trying to swindle Panda out of production credits on the hit song.
On his October DJ Mac-produced “Beer & Salt” single — which was featured on that month’s Reggae/Dancehall Fresh Picks column — Valiant jabbed, “Mac them a link when them can’t find a hit song,” a clear hit at Teejay, who recently repped dancehall on one of Billboard‘s five Genre Now cover stories this month (Jan. 10). In a Jan. 14 interview on the Let’s Be Honest podcast hosted by Jaii Frais, Teejay acknowledged the shade, and soon enough, Valiant responded to the acknowledgement via Instagram, spurring Teejay to preview a diss track shortly thereafter.
Nonetheless, the clash stayed on social media for a bit longer. Valiant responded to Teejay’s preview with a message on his Instagram Story that read, “Me naah give you no strength for you EP sir, go work and promote it.” I Am Chippy — Teejay’s first project since signing to Warner Records last year — is slated for a Feb. 2 release. Right after the IG Story jab, Valiant then went live with DJ Mac himself as the “Drift” riddim played in the background. After one more Instagram Live from Teejay’s side, in which he doubled down on his DJ Mac’s disses, the musical phase of the clash began.
After two tracks each from both Teejay and Valiant, the two artists put their beef to bed. While all four songs are currently available on their respective official YouTube pages, both dancehall stars have since removed the songs from their respective official Instagram pages out of respect for one another.
Without any further ado, here’s a ranking of the eight songs that made up two of the biggest contemporary dancehall clashes of the young decade.But first be sure to check out our Spotify playlist highlighting January’s hottest new tracks across reggae, dancehall, soca, calypso and more.
Teejay, ‘Chapter 2’
For his sequel to “Chapter 1” — and his final entry in this clash — Teejay moves away from the “Drumline” riddim, but still gravitates toward one stacked with similar marching band-esque percussion. In all honesty, Teejay v. Valiant wasn’t nearly as entertaining as Steff vs. Jada, but at least this clash gave Teejay a chance to show off his raw skills — especially considering a whole new audience encountered him through “Drift,” an Afrobeats-tinged track that is worlds away from the more traditional dancehall of his clash tracks.
“Since a hero yuh wah fi be me a guh murda you an yuh family/ Stop call up big woman name inna song likkle bwoy, wid dat yuh wah war, Chippy,” he proclaims in the track’s opening lines. Good to address the general concept of Valiant’s last diss track at the onset, but to never truly reclaim your given name and instead choose to stay behind your nickname… that’s certainly a stumble! At the very least, “Chapter 1” smartly continues the cinematic through-line of its predecessor, thanks to Teejay’s interpolation of the “Children, gather around, no retreat, no surrender” battle cry from 300.
Best Line: “Yuh boss neva tell yuh, how Chippy dem stay, nuh diss a bad man from bay / Cyah bad me up a game yuh deh play, yuh ah big Mickey, Mac never buss a AK”
Jada Kingdom, ‘Steff Lazarus’
When it comes playing with concepts, Jada had the edge in her clash with Stefflon Don. Riffing on the Biblical story of Lazarus, Jada’s “Steff Lazarus” is a blistering response to an opponent she had presumed dead after the first round. “Yuh must name Steff Lazarus/ Rise from di dead ah give chat how dis possible/ Who put yuh inna di mid field/ Wen dem know seh yuh cyah tackle/ Weh yuh know bout war?/ P—y, come mek mi gather yuh,” she opens her first verse.
The instrumental commences with a sung interpolation of Steam’s eternal 1969 Hot 100-topper “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.” Jada then dives headfirst into a rapid-fire verse in which she employs a gruffer tone to complement her gobsmacking allegations of incest and borderline prostitution: “You are di only gyal weh me hear give free fuck/ Masicka & Tory Lanez cum inna yuh mouth/ Drake nevеr gi yuh di song but yuh give him a good suck,” she spits.
Where “Steff Lazarus” fails is that Jada relies too much on the shock value of her disses and not enough on the intricacy of her word play, let alone the redundancy of her flow. In fact, most of the disses rely on homophobia and the celebrity status of men not involved in the clash — which makes for a diss that actually doesn’t do that much damage to Steff at the end of the day.
Best Line: “Stop post fi di gram yuh look fool like/ Meet mi pon di battlefield you and di botch body dawg too badmind/ Mi can defend mi self, weh yuh feel like?”
For his first response to Teejay, Valiant also took on the “Drumline” riddim. He puts up a good fight, bringing up Teejay’s deceased homies, flipping several “Drift” allusions to try knocking the breakout star down a few pegs, and employs a flow reminiscent of both Vybz and Mavado. Of course, he does all this on a song with a title that’s a feminine play on Teejay’s real name: Timoy v. Timoya. Certainly good enough to warrant a second round.
Best Line: “A wah do batty bwoy Timoya, we nuh ‘fraid fi fire/ Catch yuh face pon a p—y have a picture/ Yuh coulda drift a likkle more but mi rich ah yuh”
Stefflon Don, ‘Dat A Dat’
Here, we have the track that started it all. Over Rvssian’s “Dutty Money” riddim, Stefflon comes in hot, firing eye-popping shots at Jada. “Yuh too begg-beggy, yuh no have ambition/ Yuh a sеll out yuh body, but a hype pon eh ‘gram/ And dat a just dat,” she spits. Her tone — which floats between nonchalance and cutting disgust — plays on the booming bass and horn accents that anchor the riddim.
Steff goes relatively easy on Twinkle here, but she still crafts a song that’s genuinely enjoyable outside of the context of the clash. The DJ Mustard-esque “heys” in the background threaten to render the track a throwaway, but Steff pulls through; she got some good licks in while maintaining the vibe.
Best Line: “Tight, tight p—y gyal nuh fight over man/ But you a get wrong bang if you play wid di Don/ Back road gyal a neva you me a chat, if di cap fit yuh fi wear it/ Dat a dat”
Stefflon Don, ‘#DeadGyalWalking’
As a response, to “London Bed,” “#DeadGyalWalking” comes up a bit short, but it’s still a fine showing. Here, Steff begins to get as vulgar and shock value-minded as Jada, albeit with a better grasp on her flow and wordplay. “Unu feel seh me afraid, yuh ah run up an ah talk bout pedophile/ And yuh mek a 17 yr old breed yuh/ And yuh did ah try f—k mi batty boy cousin/ How much p—y yuh suck bout a dozen/ Yuh madda shoulda swallow that sperm,” she snarls.
It’s nice to see Steff getting her hands dirty after Jada demarcated just how low this clash could go. The real star of this response, however, is the expected-but-still-lethal interpolation of the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” melody to taunt Ms. Twinkle herself.
Best Line: “How yuh neva inna blog fi yuh music/ Only time yuh inna ah blog is when yuh suck d—k/ Oh you send fi di Don and you no have hits/ Di man tell me say your love drink piss”
Teejay, ‘Chapter 1’
In the case of Teejay v. Valiant, the “Drift” emcee threw the first (musical) shot. Reaching back to 2007 to spit over Black Chiney’s “Drumline Riddim,” Teejay pairs the beat’s foreboding horns and militant snares with a mixture of direct jabs at Valiant and some stray shots at former sparring partner Byron Messia. “A long time me a buy gun/ Di aguh mek bygone be bygones/ Nuh bwoy gaah dis me and get weh / Afta me nuh big idiot like Byron,” he spits.
Lyrically, Teejay gave Valiant a real fight. Just take the through-line of film allusions, for example. “Tell dem chippy, dem a action movie p—y dem/ A comedy show like Jackie chan,” he raps, before later spitting, “Me will trail yuh car me g like/ Scarface, but me ago blast up everyman inna dat.” Not to mention, Teejay gets extra points for not only reviving such a pristine riddim, but also for pulling inspiration from collaborator Vybz Kartel’s take on it.
Best Line: “Me nuh use strength like Samson/ 4-4 magnum buss it like Charles’ grandson/ Raise up di f—g Tom Thompson/ Outta dis world bwoy, delete, life cancel”
For his final entry in his clash with Teejay, Valiant smartly picks up where his opponent stumbled. Just as he effectively made Teejay’s given name into an insult on “Timoya,” Valiant does the same to the emcee’s nickname by re-christening him as “Lippy.”
Over the same riddim as “Chapter 2,” Valiant delivers a blazing defense in which he employs an immediately arrestling flow accented with smartly placed growls and snarls to emphasize his most abrasive lines. “Step inna di war wid bloodclaat facts/ Di don from south gi yuh couple hard box/ Logiks f—k batty yuh no talk bout dat/ Celine tell Jaii say yuh tongue rougher than c—k,” he spits. Valiant has a real knack for flipping innocent pieces of information into some of the foulest jabs, and that’s what makes “Lippy” such a heater. Anything can be a target if you try hard enough, and Valiant effortlessly proves that across both rapid-fire verses.
Best Line: “Uptown, express yuh self Timoya / Me wah yuh fi tell whole Jamaica/ Yuh life fuck d—s it boosts yuh nature/ And di house you a post di loan nuh pay for”
Jada Kingdom, ‘London Bed’
Let’s be real, Jada smoked Steff here. She came in hot, slid across the track with astonishing ease, and got some wicked lashes in — and she did it all while flipping the very song that most of this clash can be traced back to. The opening notes of “Talibans” have already become a rallying cry for dancehall devotees around the world, but when Jada’s siren-esque voice uttered those opening “duh duh” vocalizations, the track morphed into a new beast.
Of course, before Jada launches into her verse, she clips Burna’s “Birkin” lyric — which you’ll remember from the third verse of his “Talibans” remix — and lets out a sinister chuckle as soon as the snippet ends. It’s that kind of personality that immediately makes Jada’s disses the most entertaining of the bunch. In the chorus, she spits, “Yuh coward like p—, yuh nuh bad from nuh way/ A likkle chump change, put a price pon yuh head/ You have a pedophile bredda and a dead dat fi dead.”
Serving as her first response to Steff, Jada definitely rose to the occasion. Her voice — which accents its honeyed quality with a healthy dose of rasp — is the vehicle through which she exquisitely delivers the most jaw-dropping barbs in a seemingly innocuous way, making for a slam dunk of a response.
Best Line: “And yuh need fi stop pimp out di likkle gyal/ Yuh too f—g careless fi a big woman/ Yuh muss a run a whorehouse up a London/ No likkle b—h cyaan press mi, dat a one”
Stefflon Don, ‘#DeadGyalTalking’
And here it is: the track that put an end to the Jada Kingdom v. Stefflon Don clash. From Kayzee’s brooding production and Steff’s sinister delivery to the versatility of the flow and her concise takedowns of Jada’s outlandish accusations, this is a verifiably great clash track.
Simply through her intonation, Steff means business. She beefs up the bass in her voice, securing a throaty foundation for delivery that shifts from commanding bellows to catty whispers at the drop of a dime. Kayzee’s production is steady — but once those drums kick in during the last half of the track, they expertly ratchet up the song’s overall sense of urgency to complement the gruff sincerity of Steff’s voice.
Nonetheless, perhaps the funniest part of “#DeadGyalTalking” is the chat session that closes the song, with Steff and her goons mocking Jada, quipping “Oh my God! I’m so scared, Jada! I’m so scared! and “I took an extra day because, you know, some people got… things to do.”
Best Line: “How yuh fi try diss Don Madda/ 16 shots sen it up inna yuh bladdеr/ An mi bring my son, never kill my son/ My p—y bring life lifе, your p—y bring none”