What Is A Shotta

Shotta is a Caribbean slang word used to describe gangsters, drug deals and other violent criminals. The word has origins in Jamaica. It is often referenced in popular culture, especially hip hop music.


In the Caribbean, a shotta refers to someone who lives a violent lifestyle and is engaged in criminal behavior such as drug-dealing, murder and racketeering. Some people of West Indian origin also use the word to demonstrate their general rejection of authority and their solidarity with other people in their ethnic and cultural group.

Murky Origins

Some sources say the word shotta comes from Jamaican patois and loosely translates as “gangsta.” Other sources say the word originates from Haiti and translates as “bad boy.”

Use in Pop Culture

Hip hop artists, especially those of Caribbean descent, often sprinkle the word “shotta” throughout their lyrics. Wyclef Jean, a popular Haitian-American hip hop artist, often uses the word in his lyrics and even refers to himself as shotta. Hip hop artists describe themselves as shotta to establish themselves as individual who reject certain cultural norms. In other words, the word is shorthand for an artist who criticizes certain aspects of society, such as institutional racism.

The Film “Shottas”

Sony Pictures recently released the film “Shottas,” written and directed by Jamaican filmmaker Cess Silvera. It starred Wyclef Jean and musician Ky-Mani Marley, son of famed reggae artist Bob Marley. It tells the story of a criminal who returns to his native Jamaica after getting out of a Florida jail, only to fall back into a criminal lifestyle.

Use Outside Caribbean Vernacular

The word “shotta” has crossed over into mainstream hip hop culture in recent years. Artists and musicians who have no cultural or ancestral connection to the Caribbean have started using it.