Sound Bwoy Burial: The Buju Banton Story (Retro-Edition)

Buju

Buju Banton (born Mark Anthony Myrie; 15 July 1973), is a Jamaican dancehall, ragga, and reggae musician. He has recorded pop and dance songs, as well as songs dealing with Socio-Political topics.

Banton released early dancehall singles in 1988 but came to prominence in 1992 with two albums, Stamina Daddy and Mr. Mention, which became the best-selling album in Jamaican history upon its release. He signed with major label Mercury Records and released Voice of Jamaica the following year. By the mid-1990s, Banton had converted to the Rastafari faith, and his music undertook a more spiritual tone. His 2010 album Before the Dawn won Best Reggae Album at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards.

Buju Banton was born in Kingston, Jamaica in a poor neighborhood called Salt Lane. Buju is a nickname given to chubby children that means breadfruit in the language of the Maroons in Jamaican and was given to him by his mother as a child. Banton is a Jamaican word that refers to someone who is a respected storyteller, and it was adopted by Myrie in tribute to the deejay Burro Banton, whom Buju admired as a child.

It was Burro’s rough gravelly vocals that Buju emulated and ultimately made his own. Buju’s mother was a higgler, or street vendor, while his father worked as a labourer at a tile factory. He was the youngest of fifteen children born into a family that was directly descended from the Maroons of Jamaica.

Early career

As a youngster, Buju would often watch his favorite artists perform at outdoor shows and local dancehalls in Denham Town. At the age of 12, he picked up the microphone for himself and began toasting under the moniker of Gargamel, working with the Sweet Love and Rambo Mango sound systems.

In 1991, Buju joined Donovan Germain’s Penthouse Records label and began a fruitful partnership with producer Dave Kelly who later launched his own Madhouse Records label. Buju is one of the most popular musicians in Jamaican history, having major chart success in 1992, with “Bogle” and “Love me Browning”, both massive hits in Jamaica.

Controversy erupted over “Love Me Browning” which spoke of Banton’s penchant for light-skinned women: “I love my car I love my bike I love my money and ting, but most of all I love my browning.” Some accused Banton of promoting a colonialist mindset and denigrating the beauty of dark skinned black women.

In response, he released “Love Black Woman” which spoke of his love for dark-skinned beauties: “Mi nuh Stop cry, fi all black women, respect all the girls dem with dark complexion”.

mR mENTION
Cover For The Explosive Mr Mention Album
The Buju Explosion

1992 was an explosive year for Buju as he broke Bob Marley’s record for the greatest number of number one singles in a year. Beginning with “Woman fi Sex”, Buju’s gruff voice dominated the Jamaican airwaves for the duration of the year. Banton’s debut album, Mr. Mention, includes his greatest hits from that year.
1992 saw the unsanctioned re-release of “Boom Bye Bye”, a song he had recorded a few years earlier aged 15 in the early phase of his career. It almost destroyed his career.The song was the subject of outrage in the United States and Europe, leading to Banton being dropped from the line-up of the WOMAD festival that year. Banton subsequently issued a public apology.

Now on the major Mercury/PolyGram Records label, Banton released the hard-hitting Voice of Jamaica in 1993. The album included a number of conscious tracks. These tracks included “Deportees”, a song which criticized those Jamaicans who went abroad but never sent money home; a remix of Little Roy’s “Tribal War”, a sharp condemnation of political violence; and “Willy, Don’t Be Silly”, which promoted safe sex and the use of contraceptives, particularly the condom, profits from which were donated to a charity supporting children with AIDS.

He was invited to meet Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, and won several awards that year at the Caribbean Music Awards, the Canadian Music Awards, and the Topeka ceremony.

Banton’s lyrics often dealt with violence, which he explained as reflecting the images that young Jamaicans were presented with by the news media, but the reality of Kingston’s violence was brought home in 1993 by the murders in separate incidents of three of his friends and fellow recording artists, the deejays Pan Head and Dirtsman and singer Mickey Simpson.

His response was the single “Murderer”, which condemned gun violence, going against the flow of the prevailing lyrical content in dancehall. The song inspired several clubs to stop playing songs with excessively violent subject matter. Late in 1994, Buju was also affected by the death of his friend Garnett Silk. Buju’s transformation continued, embracing the Rastafari movement and growing dreadlocks. He joined “conscious” deejay Tony Rebel, Papa San, and General Degree in the Yardcore Collective. His performances and musical releases took on a more spiritual tone. Banton toured Europe and Japan, playing sold out shows.

‘Til Shiloh (1995) was a very influential album, using a studio band instead of synthesized music, and marking a slight shift away from dancehall towards roots reggae for Banton. Buju claimed to have sighted Rastafari and his new album reflected these beliefs. Til Shiloh successfully blended conscious lyrics with a hard-hitting dancehall vibe. The album included earlier singles such as “Murderer”, and “Untold Stories”. “Untold Stories” revealed an entirely different Buju Banton from the one that had stormed to dancehall stardom.

It is regarded by many as some of his best work, and is a staple in the Banton performance repertoire. Reminiscent in mood and delivery to “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley, “Untold Stories” won Buju Banton many favorable comparisons to the late singer. This album had a large impact on dancehall music and proved that dancehall audiences had not forgotten the message that Roots Reggae expounded with the use of “conscious lyrics”. Dancehall music did not move away from slack and violent lyrics, but the album did pave the way for a greater spirituality within the music. In the wake of Buju’s transformation to Rastafari, many artists, such as Capleton, converted to the faith and began to denounce violence.

A slew of albums followed with, Inna Heights (1997), Unchained Spirit (2000), Too Bad (2006), an album more dancehall-orientated in style. Rasta Got Soul was released on 21 April 2009, a date which marked the 43rd anniversary of Emperor Haile Selassie’s visit to Jamaica in 1966. It went on to become his fourth Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album in 2010.

On 13 February 2011, one day before the scheduled start of his second court trial in Tampa, Florida, Buju Banton’s Before the Dawn album was announced as the winner of Best Reggae Album at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards.

Career Controversies

Banton attracted criticism over his perceived anti-gay lyrics in his hit “Boom Bye Bye”, written when he was 15 years old and released in 1992, contains lyrics allegedly supporting the murder of gay men.In 2009 gay rights’ groups appealed to venues around the United States not to host Buju Banton.

This has been alleged as the cause of the financial woes that befell Buju and probably contributed to his decision to get involved in Drug Trafficking in order to make up for the loss in performance earnings.

This has strongly denied by Gay Rights Activists and Organisations, so we included links telling the stories of both camps involved in this Buju controversy.

U.S. Drug Charges Conviction

On 22 February 2011, Banton was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense and using communication wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense. He was found not guilty on the charge of attempted possession of five kilograms or more of cocaine.
Banton is scheduled to be released in December 2018.

Legacy

Buju Banton will remain forever etched in History and in our memories not only as one of Reggae or Dancehall Music’s greatest Artists, but one of the greatest Artists to ever grace the world with his music.

The Passion and Truth in his music is undeniable. The delivery echoes an eternal conviction which perhaps could only have been rivaled by Tupac.

One can only imagine how fiery a Tupac and Buju collabo would have been, and although we couldnt find an official release, we found this rare 90s version of Tupac & The Outlawz’s ‘Runnin’ From Tha Police’ featuring Buju Banton.

Can’t vouch for it, but if it is in-fact an unreleased Buju & ‘Pac collabo then the fans at least deserve to know about it instead only of the 2003, ‘Runnin’ (Dying to Live)’, remix of this song which was Produced by Eminem, and was made a single from the Tupac Resurrection soundtrack.

The 2003 version vastly differs from the original, using the 2Pac verse from the Thug Life version, different melody, and not including the performances by Dramacydal, Buju or Stretch at all, instead having a sample of Edgar Winter’s Dying to Live as the chorus.

The remix is now more known than the original. As a retrospect, we’ve also included links to both the 90s original and the 2003 Em Produced version at the end.

In the final analysis, we wish Buju well as he nears release and thank him for the Legacy of timeless music….Perhaps his life illustrates another tragic case of the “Stereotypes of a young Black male misunderstood”….But its not all good.

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Peep the links below to the Buju story, including some hard but necessary lessons that can be learnt, as well as Playlists of some of Buju’s and the 90s Dancehall scene’s best tunes, the Documentary ‘Struggles & Woes of Buju Banton’ which we’ve placed on our YouTube Channel in the ‘Music, Sports & Culture’ Playlist….One!!

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