Americans unfamiliar with the island's institutionalized and often virulent homophobia may be puzzled by this kind of back-and-forth, but in Jamaica, it makes headlines.
"I think Jamaica is not a world dat open to the rest of the world, it's enclosed. It's not like me that go out in the world and know that, okay, gay people are born to be gay. . . . This is their ways; you cannot change it. There's nothing they can do to help themselves, yunno. Just like a man love woman, you got man love man," he says.
"But Jamaica is a spiritual country, like I explain it to you how my grandfather explain it to me. My grandfather said, 'If a man make love to a man, the life that we know cease to exist because man cannot have kids. And if a woman make love to a woman, a woman cannot get a woman pregnant, so life as we know cease to exist. There'd be no life."
Perhaps this emphasis on the creation of life is an outgrowth of the extreme poverty endured by so many Jamaicans. "So many people are dying, too," says Beenie. "I think that's a big part of it."
Slightly more than a month after the car accident, Paul Tyrell, Beenie Man's longtime road manager and executive director of his Shocking Vibes production company, was murdered in a drive-by shooting. According to newspaper accounts, Beenie Man was so deeply shaken by the news that he was readmitted to the hospital.
Asked about it now, Beenie Man has little to say. "Nuttin' I can tell you about it, yunno, more than people try to bring you down, so they try to kill people around you. That's how Jamaica stay at times," he says quietly.
Is he worried about his own safety?
"In Jamaica, it's not good to fear, to have fear. When you think about fear, things happen to you."
Calm Amid the Storm
Beenie Man may embroil himself in controversies big and small, but he's also earned a measure of respectability. In Kingston, he was painted alongside Bob Marley on a sidewalk mural. He has received a doctorate from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, hence the title of his 1999 album, "The Doctor." "I had a whole little cap and gown, everything," he says. "It was great. Then we had a show after."
In Craig Town, he has built schools and organized football competitions. "We fix up the community," he says. "We have everything to keep the community going."
Last December, just a few weeks before Beenie Man's accident, the annual Sting concert collapsed into violence. As the audience hurled bottles at the performers, Vibz Kartel, an up-and-coming artist, physically assaulted dancehall veteran Ninjaman onstage. According to published reports, more than 20 people were injured in the melee that ensued both on and off stage.
Amid the chaos, Beenie Man took the stage and calmed the crowd.
"I just walk on the stage and stop everyt'ing. But I know I can do that because Jamaica love me. Yeah, it's like I'm getting the same love that they used to give Dennis Brown or Bob Marley in Jamaica," says Beenie Man. "So when the people love you, you have to show your powers."
By stepping on the stage that night, Beenie Man may have been taking his life in his hands. But he was willing to take that risk.
"This is dancehall music," he says. "You have to save the music. It's not save the show, it's save the music."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Songs about touchy subjects have brought Beenie Man attention -- and record sales. "Controversies always work," he says. "Trust me."
(Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)