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Sting founder Isaiah Laing hails Merciless as an iconic clash figure

Published:Friday | July 22, 2022 | 12:06 AMSade Gardner/Staff Reporter
Sting founder Isaiah Laing.
Sting founder Isaiah Laing.

There’s no debate; Merciless is synonymous with Sting.

News of his passing in St Andrew on Tuesday saw several fans flocking to YouTube to revisit the deejay’s historic victory at Sting in 2000 against “the men in black” – Ninjaman, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man. Camouflaged for lyrical war, Merciless ultimately silenced “Deadman Ballentine” with relentless lyrics about who and what the original front tooth-gold tooth deejay was digging into while behind bars, something Ninjaman couldn’t recover from which worsened with the choired boos.

Wanting more of a contender than a “junkie”, Merciless called up Bounty Killer to save his elder. The ‘Warlord’ and the ‘Warhead’ had clashed in 1997, but this time, it was Merciless who conquered. Beenie Man entered in the last round, but even as the three men shadowed Merciless onstage, he did not back down, and kept the lyrical ammunition firing, emerging victorious in the end.

It’s a moment Sting founder and executive chairman at Supreme Promotions Limited Isaiah Laing is hailing as a hallmark of Sting’s history.

“Merciless is one of the iconic figures in dancehall, especially when it comes to clashing,” Laing told The Gleaner. “He has the record at Sting and right now in the clash world. He’s the only person that has killed three top people at Sting. It’s only after that did people see Merciless as really somebody when he could defeat a Bounty Killer, a Beenie Man and a Ninjaman who create that, then you have to look at him on a different level.”

Like several across the industry, Laing was saddened to hear of the 51-year-old’s death, but is choosing to remember the entertainer as a model that younger acts can learn from.

“His lyrical dexterity and command of the stage, he went very deep and that is lacking in the dancehall. We want to remember Merciless as that creative genius who could spit the lyrics spontaneously and command the respect of the audience and you can only show that you are king of the dancehall if you can do that on the spot and that is what Merciless did and the only place to do that is at Sting. It nuh matter how much rhythms yuh deh pon, how much tunes yuh voicing, if you don’t come to Sting and cement your presence, then your presence doesn’t add up much to a legacy. Merciless has left a legacy because of Sting.”

Named Leonard Bartley, Merciless first performed at the longstanding dancehall event in 1994 as a way to earn respect in the industry by challenging the top men of the day. He even clashed Bounty Killer overseas when Laing brought them together in Miami, a six-round battle which Merciless nabbed in the final round. Though he would go on to lose his clash with Kiprich at the 2011 Sting, Laing reiterated the impact of Merciless on the brand. For that reason, a tribute is being planned by the show that “never left”.

Laing added, “My heart goes out to the family of Merciless because Supreme Promotions and Sting is really about family living. It is about returning to the artiste, giving something back to the artiste, but giving something back to the people. It is the show of the people.”