Beenie Man probably introduced himself to you in 1997, when the dancehall star came looking for his car keys. "Sim-simma!" he hollered through speakers in clubs across America, "Who got the keys to my Bimmer? Who am I?"
It might've taken you a while to figure out who he is, but everyone in Jamaica has known him since he was just a Beenie Baby. Encouraged by his uncle, a drummer for Jimmy Cliff, Beenie started toasting at age 5. He DJ'd at sound systems around Kingston, entering talent contests and winning cases of beer that he would turn around and sell to buy school uniforms. The B-man had been alive just a decade when legendary producer Bunny Lee invited him to record an album, The Invisible Beenie Man, Ten Year Old Boy Wonder. Since then, Beenie's had more than 60 number-one hits in his homeland, won a Grammy (Best Reggae Album for the Neptunes-produced Art and Life), collaborated with Janet Jackson and No Doubt, and dabbled in standup comedy and acting.
He's also known to deliver an energetic show. "If you respect your mom and love God, jump. If you're free from sins and everything you do is for your family and for yourself, jump. If you're white and don't understand shit we're saying, jump the same way, motherfuckers," he rallied during a concert that was covered by MTV.com. Not that he minds adoration from a big, varied audience. "A lot of people like my cultural side more than my dancehall side," he says, "or my girls side more than my badman image. Once you have these different people at your shows, it's great -- you're pleasin' everybody."
Everybody, that is, except one VIP (very intimidating person): Beenie's archnemesis in the soap opera-esque dancehall scene, fellow artist Bounty Killer. Ever since a 1993 concert during which Bounty jumped on-stage and berated Beenie for plagiarizing the catch phrase "people dead," the two have waged a very public battle, dissing each other in songs, shows, and interviews. Lately, however, the artists have been too successful to fight. Bounty became a dancehall superstar in his own right, and Beenie developed a new appreciation for life after recovering from a January accident in which he totaled his Hummer, broke his ribs, and punctured a lung (maybe we shouldn't have given those car keys back after all). This month, the two declared an end to their feud and scheduled a concert to celebrate their reconciliation on May 21 in Jamaica. Beenie's new album, Back to Basics, will be released stateside in July, while its single, "Dude," has been in rotation on MTV2 for months. A happy, healthy Beenie seems ready to hit the road, bury the hatchet, and, most important, jump-start the party. Whether or not you catch him live this week, you'll be meeting him in the clubs: "She waan a real man she don't waan nuh nerd ... so she seh, 'Beenie!'" -- Deirdra Funcheon