Kartel started his career as a teenager in 1993 with his first recording “Love Fat Woman”, released on Alvin Reid’s label “One Heart”, using the moniker “Adi Banton”, an homage to Buju Banton. Palmer was later part of the three-member group “Vybez Kartel”, keeping the slightly altered name after the group split up, and became a protege of Bounty Killer, for whom he claims to have written nearly 30 songs, including “Gal Clown”.
Vybz Kartel rose to prominence in 2003 after a string of hits in Jamaica. The year culminated in a pre-planned on-stage clash with Ninjaman at the annual dancehall festival Sting in Kartel’s hometown of Portmore. The clash turned violent when Kartel’s crewmembers, as well as Kartel himself, threw punches and assaulted Ninjaman onstage. While Kartel’s manager initially blamed Ninjaman for the fracas, Kartel himself quickly apologised to Ninjaman and Sting organizers for the fracas. Four days after the incident, the two artists appeared before the press to announce a settlement of their differences and to end any animosity.
He established his own label Adidjahiem/Notnice Records with his business partner and producer Ainsley “Notnice” Morris. In 2010, he released his album Pon Di Gaza 2.0 on Adidjahiem/Notnice Records in collaboration with Tads Record Inc. In Spring 2011, Vybz Kartel released an album on Mixpak Records entitled ‘Kingston Story’ with Brooklyn hip hop/electro producer Dre Skull.
Kartel has worked on collaborations and remixes with hip hop and R&B musicians Jay-Z, Rihanna, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, M.I.A, Pharrell Williams, Kardinal Offishall, Akon, Jim Jones, Lil Wayne and Eminem.
In 2009 his song featuring female Jamaican deejay Spice, “Ramping Shop”, debuted on the Billboard Top 100 Singles charts, and “Dollar Sign” being in regular rotation on urban radio stations in the US. His 2010 single “Clarks” was one of his biggest international successes, remaining in the top 3 Reggae Singles gaining the most radio plays in North America for 40 weeks. “Clarks” was also featured on the TV series So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and on a CNN segment on dancehall dance. MTV’s Vice Guide to Dancehall featured Kartel at his weekly dance party, Street Vybz Thursday.
After splitting with Bounty Killer-led Alliance in 2006, Kartel founded the Portmore Empire, a group of dancehall DJ’s and singers from his Portmore neighborhood that he signed to his newly founded Adidjahiem/Notnice Records. Members of the group as of 2011 were: Popcaan, Gaza Slim, Shawn Storm, Sheba, Gaza Indu, Tommy Lee, Singing Maxwell, Singa Blinga, Lenny Mattic. Former members include Lisa Hype, Gaza Kim, Blak Ryno, Jah Vinci, Dosa Medicine and Merital Family.