The clash of the islands was won by the spice island, Grenada, at the 2019 International Soca Monarch which began Friday night and ended yesterday morning. Led by Mr Killa – Hollice Mapp – the victor in the power soca battle, three Grenadians placed among the top six acts of the competition, versus two for Trinidad. A St Lucian, also in the fray, got a top spot.
As far as the eye could see, Grenada flags were waved by the crowd, at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, either in hands or attached to PVC pipes, and even worn, draped as a cape for some, or as head ties and scarves. Trinidadian fans too, proud of their red white and black, set it aside for the red, yellow and green.
The supporters came for warriors, Mr Killa, V’ghn, Thunda, Lil Natty, Mr Legz and Mandella. In the end, Mr Killa emerged victorious with the $1 million Power Soca Monarch crown for his monstrous hit, Run Wid It. Third place in the power battle went to Hector “Mr Legz” Thomas with Wining Challenge. Mr Killa was rivalled by local “water lord”, Neil “Iwer” George, whose Blessings earned him second place in the power category.
While duo Lil Natty (Dingaan Henry) and Thunda (Nyelon Williams), who sang Get in Your Section, did not place in the top three, they received a crowd response sure to be envied by their competitors. The other Grenadian to make it to the podium was V’ghn (Jevaughn John) who placed third place with Trouble In the Morning in the groovy category – won by Sea Lots, Port of Spain star, Marvin “Swappi” Davis singing a season favourite, Party Start. St Lucia’s Teddyson John came second with Vent.
Although he was not in the groovy soca winner’s circle, Mandella (Mandella Mc Donald), for his song Tombstone got the support of Grenada’s king of jab jab, Tallpree (Wilt Cambridge), who from the time he uttered, “Yuh mad owa”, riled up the already frenzied crowd. Like Lil Natty and Thunda, Mandella did not place but his presence was felt. This year’s competition marked the return of the groovy and power soca categories. The last time there was a two in one competition, was in 2015 which Machel Montano won the power category, and Olantunji Yearwood earned the groovy title. The two categories began in 2005 with the introduction of the groovy segment, until it returned to the original format of one which Aaron “Voice” St Louis, dominated winning in 2016, 2017 and 2018 before bowing out of competition this year.
After he was crowned Power Soca Monarch, the first non-national to ever sit on the throne, a tearful Mr Killa thanked local DJs who played his song and allowed it to gain popularity. “I want to thank Grenada for growing me into the man that I am today. My mother my friends my family. All the Grenadian artistes that performed, we made history. I want to tell TT that I will represent soca all over the planet,” he said. Mr Killa is also the second non-national to win any soca monarch competition, after Barbadian Biggie Irie (Carlton Cordle), who was born in the UK, won the groovy soca monarch title in 2007 with Nah Going Home.
Asked if he was concerned about reactions to him being a foreigner, Mr Killa dismissed this saying he was not a foreigner and his Grenadian birth paper could never undermine his Trini roots. He said his great-grandfather came to Trinidad and had several children and he has been visiting the country since he was a boy.
“I am not a foreigner, someone born in the US, or some faraway place, his great grandfather came to Trinidad and had lots of children here. If you inhale properly, on a cool day, you will smell spice, that is the Grenada right next door. I was coming here since I was a young boy, this is home for me (and I) will represent TT and Grenada,” he said.
During his energetic performance, Mr Killa called for an end to fighting and for people to embrace feteing, but still brought out a coffin as a prop to show that all his competitors were dead. His second prop sealed his dominance on the night, as he told the crowd he would take the crown and carry it home, not by plane but by boat before stepping into a makeshift ship. Fans surged forward and, as his song commands, carried him through the crowd before returning him to the stage.
When host Sunny Bling announced Iwer had placed second, Mr Killa’s supporters backstage knew he had won and began chanting his name. When the results became official, he was ushered onto the stage, a dazed look on his face.
A dream come true
“It is emotionally challenging right now. I am trying to keep back the tears but I am extremely happy, my mother is here and I just want to thank all my fans. This is my dream. This feel like a dream, literally feels like a dream, there is no words to express this feeling. I want to say to all the youths never give up. I came from nothing to something and now I am the soca monarch king. This is joy beyond joy. This is my dream. I dreamt about this as a child. I never gave up, your dreams are possible,” said Mr Killa, as his song played in the background and the crowd chanted his name.
He said his aim now was to take soca to greater heights so the world may feel the power of the music. His celebration? A mixture of TT and Grenadian rum, more performances and a special hug for his mother. “First thing I might do is take a one shot, thank mamma for having this boy, go on my knees and thank the Father, then go celebrate.”
His mother, Ann Plenty hugged him as he cried after being told he won. He spent a few minutes in her embrace before he was whisked away to receive his cheque and to be interviewed by the media.
As he spoke to reporters, Plenty, who sat a short distance away, told Sunday Newsday she was proud of her son.
“I always tell him to do the best he could and respect his elders. Do the greatest he could do. I taught him, ‘no matter what you doing son, always pray before you enter that stage.’ Faith is a supernatural gift from God and it can move mountains. I also want to thank the people who helped him become the winner,” she said.
Mr Killa thanked his fans who made his song a hit, and described the response as “monstrous” and appreciated his supporters for their continued faith in him.
His next aim, he said, will be to “buss a wine on the Grammy stage”.