Wifeys vs. Mateys

One Jamaican diva's confused quest for gender equality, flat-screen TVs

Macka Diamond's biggest hit, "Done Already," berates a disappointing one-minute man, but the dancehall diva formerly known as Lady Mackerel has recently retaken residence at the top of the Jamaican charts with "Bun Him," a slightly more serious track from Money-O. Though she usually plays the clever tough girl, this time Diamond does something most puffed up MCs, male or female, rarely do: She admits being vulnerable, insecure, afraid, and reluctant to leave her husband, even though "him have woman here/woman there/woman everywhere." Diamond even adds a few sobs—a humorous display of crocodile tears, maybe, but they acknowledge the real pain felt by the wifeys she champions.

When a Jamaican man has an outside woman, he'll ironically describe her as his wife or girlfriend's "mate" or "matey." Of course, wifey rightly sees her as the enemy. But in Jamaica, not only do men in committed relationships have mistresses, they don't try very hard to conceal it. And it isn't uncommon for matey to brag about the affair all over town, and even confront Wifey about it. On Money-O's "No Fren Mate"—also a steady chart climber—Diamond confronts one such interloper: "Me an you was fren/But from you try tek mi man me an you is friends no more!" The chorus instructs women: "Don't fren your mate, gal/Don't fren your mate/Don't let no gal take your man and chat up in your face."

Still other songs here show that Diamond doesn't hold any real grudges against mates, because this lady flexes either way. For her signature "Chase Money," she chants over Dave Kelly's Bad Gal riddim for the chorus: "If a gal a tek me man she can't face me/And anuff a dem husband a taste me." She also gets caught red-handed on the sidesplitting, self-explanatory "Wifey Kech Mi." But another song makes you wonder if we're discussing cheating or an "understanding." A duet of sorts, "Washing Money Machine" finds Diamond calling DJ Mad Cobra "money machine," and Cobra calling Diamond "washing machine." He says, "Mi no fraid to be money machine/But make sure you give mi back mi clothes them clean." When Macka defiantly retorts, "Mi no wash nothing," Cobra boldly warns, "You want me to give your matey the flat-screen?"

Do not ask this woman to do your laundry
photo: Andrew Cotterill
Do not ask this woman to do your laundry

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Macka Diamond
Money-O
Greensleeves

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Open and rampant displays of male cheating concern many Jamaican women. Money-O connects because of its ability to present both matey and wifey in nonjudgmental, sympathetic ways, revealing both of these male-conceived titles as two sides of the same chauvinist coin.

 
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