Sometimes going under the name Gaza Slim, dancehall singer Vanessa Bling rose to enormous success in the early 2010s, collaborating on hits with Vybz Kartel and receiving accolades for her promising position in Jamaican culture.
Poised for celebrity, things became complicated in 2011 when she and Vybz Kartel were both arrested in connection to a murder. Kartel was later sentenced to life imprisonment and Bling did some time in jail for her involvement with the case, putting her career on hold for a short time. After some time out of the spotlight to deal with legal troubles, Bling's fame got a revival in 2017 when American hip-hop superstar Cardi B played her 2012 track "Everything Fi Hold Him" in the background of an Instagram video showing off her engagement ring. While this gesture was fairly understated, the song reached over ten million of Cardi's followers and acted as an endorsement for Bling's music to legions of fans who were previously unfamiliar. She rode this wave of activity into new music, releasing the six-song EP Still Standing in September of 2018.
Vanessa Bling was born Vanessa Saddler in 1991 and grew up in St. Andrew, Jamaica. She sang in high school and church choirs, and shortly after completing school she entered the music industry in 2007 when she added backing vocals to the song "Only God Knows" by Twin of Twins. In 2010 she was introduced to dancehall superstar Vybz Kartel, and the two collaborated on several songs. By this time Saddler had switched stage names from Va-ness to Gaza Slim, and used this moniker for hits such as "Can't Do Without Me," "Stop Gwaan Like Yuh Tough," "Mama Said," "Realest Girl," and many others. Legal problems began for Saddler in 2011 when she was involved in a murder case that ultimately found her friend Vybz Kartel serving a life sentence. Saddler was connected to the case for falsely claiming that the murder victim had attempted to rob her and Kartel. She served some brief time in prison and a lengthy stint on parole, with new music coming at a slower pace. Sometimes releasing music as Gaza Slim, sometimes as Vanessa Bling, she issued new singles, EPs, and mixtape projects -- like 2014's Vybz Kartel collaboration Duet -- on and off for several years. A string of new songs in 2017 made with producer Marcus Myrie for his Markus Records imprint led to the 2018 EP Still Standing, which gained traction for the artist with the "10 Bags" single and video. ~ Fred Thomas