Review: ‘King Of The Dancehall’ Interpolates The Worlds Of Caribbean Dance And Real Life


A report by Richy Rosario for Vibe.

In King of the Dancehall, its executive producer, producer, screenwriter and main character Nick Cannon, has proven once again he’s a jack of all trades. The film, which was released on Aug. 2 through YouTube Red, aims to highlight Jamaica’s ubiquitous dancehall culture.

During the filming process, Cannon’s effort to showcase the island’s dance community was his main goal. “I felt like it’s a sub culture that hasn’t really been shared with mainstream media,” he explains over the phone to VIBE from Los Angeles. “It’s something the people have been borrowing for so long but no one has ever heard the true story of dancehall culture.”

Through a coming of age tale he excels at exposing the essence of Caribbean culture. The 36 year-old stars in the film as Tarzan, a Brooklyn drug dealer who recently completed a five-year bid in prison. His ill bed ridden mother (played by Whoppi Goldberg) struggles to make ends meet, and simultaneously attempts to coax her son to stop the street life.

But as Tarzan sees his world defined by the struggle, he comes up with a scheme in Kingston to make some much-needed cash. Once he gets there, viewers get introduced to his cousin, Allestar, aka Toasta—magnificently played by a patois speaking Busta Rhymes. Cannon says Busta, who is of Jamaican descent, was already a brother figure to him before their time on set. Toasta, who recently gets kicked out of his house by his wife, is also trying to jump over some hurdles himself.

He’s found in a territorial clash with Donovan “Dada” Davidson (played by dancehall artist, Collie Budz).The movie, which was shot in Jamaica has beautiful sceneries with the sun bathed picturesque views the island has to offer. There’s also outstanding footage of the gritty club scene. The dancing is phenomenal, and will easily make you dance all over your living room.

Thematically, the film is reminiscent of a young Cannon on 2003’s Love Don’t Cost a Thing and 2002’s Drumline. While the plots of each these films are totally different, there’s something about Tarzan’s character that reminds you the other ones.

The Wild n’ Out host says he was inspired in creating the film, since the first time he went to Jamaica. Additionally, the script was based on a series of interviews he did with members of the dancehall community, which then led to him creating a fictitious account of all those real life vignettes.

Besides all the trouble, there are moments of laughter especially when it comes to Rhymes’ Jamaican accent. You can tell as he switches on and off in between Jamaican and American linguistics, he’s fighting against dissolving into a fit of giggles. King of the Dancehall has a tragic ending, but its creator aims to leave viewers with knowing, “the power of dancehall, and the history it has created.”

Watch the film on YouTube Red below.

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